'KASHMIR IS NOT A RELIGIOUS PROBLEM'

A diplomat, a parliamentarian and a humanist, Kuldip Nayar, unlike a few in India, is considered a sympathiser by political circles in Kashmir especially those who are leading the decades long resistance movement. Nayar in the Gulf News publication of March 24, 2012 offered certain suggestions for solving the vexed problem of Kashmir.
Bypassing the main stake holders, people and leadership of Kashmir,

Nayar opined that “the agreement to respect ‘line of control’ has stood the test of time for more than three decades and except for the Kargil misadventure there has been peace” and added that “the people of Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK) should be able to meet and plan jointly the development of their region”. Nayar elaborated that “Kashmir continues to be a problem.  Every now and then there is an incident in the Valley to register the people’s discontent.”  While agreeing that “the government of India has no solution and it does not know how to settle the problem”, he stressed on the point that “New Delhi has tackled the international opinion effectively and there is hardly any adverse notice abroad. But this does not solve the problem and at best it remains suppressed.”
At the outset, the solution offered by philanthropist revolves round Kashmir across the ‘line of control’ to concentrate on economic development in their respective areas but more importantly suggests India and Pakistan to transfer all subjects except defence and foreign affairs to people of Kashmir allowing two Kashmirs to plan joint development having their own air-services, trade and cultural missions abroad. Significantly the visitors, as suggested, not from the region (India, Pakistan) will seek visa to enter either Kashmir.
Secondly, while Pakistan and India giving up their entrenched positions, PaK will be part of Pakistan and Jammu & Kashmir of India. The case pending before the UN would be withdrawn. “My proposal is that the Lok Sabha’s elected members from Jammu & Kashmir should sit in Pakistan’s National Assembly and those of Pakistan-administered Kashmir in India’s Lok Sabha. This is aimed at setting a pattern for the two countries to come closer in the future.”
A dreamlike situation, tedious and complicated, portrayed as a consequence will result in something wishful, far from reality. Whatever happens as far as any solution is concerned; it must be backed by international guarantees as the history tells us that agreements in the past have been flouted and disregarded.
It is needless to mention that Kashmir is a volcano, at times live and dormant at other times. An average Kashmiri thinks that Kashmir is no religious problem but a political one and believes that their rights have been usurped.  India and Pakistan fought wars not because of Kashmir alone but have a history of animosity and hatred ingrained deep down in the hearts and minds culminating in the aftermath of the 1947 sub-continent partition.
There is hardly any area in Kashmir that does not have a graveyard with the martyrs buried and people feel that the souls of their dead stare at them with a reminder to fulfill the unfinished dream to free the nation from all problems.
Nayar’s solution is flawed as it ignores the owners of Kashmir, the people, who should be on the centre stage to accept or reject a solution. The normalisation of relations between Pakistan and India wholly depends on any solution acceptable to Kashmiris. Economic development will not change the ground reality to fulfill the aspiration of Kashmiris as the conflict has cost the inhabitants dearly in terms of men and material.
Huge sacrifices were made not for some economic benefits but for a right which the international community and UN Security Council Resolutions have guaranteed. Indo-Pak direct or back-door diplomacy will be a futile exercise and sheer waste of time unless both, on purpose, are buying time to delay, fulfilling their different political requirements.
Kashmir can have a just solution
They say where there is a will there is a way.  A wide range of people have come out with various options to solve Kashmir imbroglio providing there is sincerity of purpose and will to amend the wrongs done.
Kashmiris, generally, believe that a huge majority of people in India and Pakistan are peace loving believing in upholding human right values and feel the pain of people agonised. Kashmiri leadership is trying hard to reach out to common people from north to south of India to create awareness about the real problem of Kashmir. And in this connection, an Indo-Pak referendum conducted would be a starting point to form a basis to work on other options and facilitate the future political decisions. People in India and Pakistan through the referendum conducted by their respective Election Commissions should be asked to vote for the following option with a yes or no.
Should Kashmir be left alone as an independent country with guaranteed joint defence, for a definite time period, by India and Pakistan is a question that needs to be answered.
Armies from both countries should vacate as both nuclear powers small token presence of army should suffice. The myth of a threat argued and perceived from China can always be negotiated to include China to form a power block in the region (other SAARC countries included) on the pattern of European Union. China and India are already involved in billion dollar trade which is on the rise and Pakistan has already considered a ‘most favoured nation’ status for India. A majority vote of “Yes” from both countries will most likely be the answer and will silence the miniscule minority of both sides being an impediment in normalising the relationship between the two nuclear powers.
A solution on these lines can be a launching pad that could culminate into a lasting solution, and satisfy the three parties concerned. The normalcy will return, scars will be healed and all displaced including Kashmiri Pandits will heave a sigh of relief. The sub-continent has a very bright future and pooling the resources coupled with united economic strength will give all a reason to live a better life and more importantly a say in the world affairs on international level.
This is practical, possible and worth a try.
The writer lives in Nottingham, U.K and can be mailed at yakubsiraj@gmail.com