Talking Ireland The model may offer a new inspiration

It will be to be too prophetic to say on what signature tune curtains will be drawn on the year 2013 in Kashmir. Fifty-seven days left of the current year ostensibly are too small a period to expect dramatic political changes in a state caught up in uncertainties for over sixty-six years. Nevertheless, in disputes like that of Jammu and Kashmir even a small incident can presage a big change.  

The last week of October 2013 was significant in as much as   generating a debate over landing of Indian troops on 27 October 1947 at Srinagar airport.  The debate was marked by renewed discourse on ‘date and fact’ of the “Instrument of Accession” that had ‘facilitated’ India to send its troops into Jammu and Kashmir- then an independent country. The Jammu and Kashmir having become international dispute after India, Pakistan, and comity of nations binding themselves for holding a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir after the Security Council passed resolutions of 1948 and 1949 to this effect. It retaining this status even after New Delhi and Islamabad having signed the Shimla Agreement remained also central point in the debate.   Perhaps prompted by these discussions the scion of the Abdullah family kick started yet another discourse by ‘pitching for Ireland type peace process in the state’ and suggesting Ireland model as solution to the dispute. In an interview to Telegraph, London, ruling out ‘independence’ and advocating Kashmir remaining under “Indian sovereignty”, he believed that Britain’s Northern Ireland peace process and the devolution in Scotland could inspire a “future settlement.” 

Many of his critics see his statement yet another off the cuff remark. Whether the statement was made without forethought, it did ignite some heat in political circles and  made some scribes to revisit the Belfast Agreement and see its relevance to Kashmir dispute.  The third generation Abdullah is not first person to see the Irish Agreement of 1998 as good model for resolution of the Kashmir dispute. In fact, the ball was set rolling by US President Bill Clinton in 2003.  In video talk to Indian audience, he had said: ‘Kashmir could be resolved along the lines; the problem in Northern Ireland was sorted out’. On his statement an Indian commentator had observed, “Clinton had played a big role in making Good Friday Agreement possible. Therefore, his view that Northern Ireland has much to offer in seeking a solution in Kashmir was not an unrelated comment. It was a thoughtful suggestion made by a wise statesman and a good friend of India and Pakistan too.” 

Bill Clinton’s suggestion had caused a spurt of reaction in New Delhi, Islamabad and Srinagar. The Hurriyat Conference jumped over the idea and seeing it ‘worth considering’ requested the US President to mediate. It sent a two-member team to New Delhi for meeting US Ambassador for formally sending a request for mediation to the US President. It also suggested name of former US President, Jimmy Carter, who had shown some willingness for working for the resolution of Kashmir as mediator. Leaders of the Hurriyat Conference travelled to Ireland to   understand   the model and   see how far it could be adopted for resolving the Kashmir dispute. The then governments in India and Pakistan had developed a keener interest in the model.  Many journalists from both the sides of Kashmir had visited Ireland. 

In fact, after Bill Clinton suggesting “Ireland Model” for the resolution of the Kashmir, the idea of looking for ‘alternative solutions’ became a part of Kashmir discourse. Many alternative models that included, Aland Island Model, Trieste Model, Andorra Model,   Faith-Based Reconciliation Model, South Tyrol Model, Sudan Model,  Somaliland Model, Nepalese Model  and  Conflict Transformation Model were talked about for resolution of the Kashmir problem. Kashmir Diaspora organization in many London, Brussels and Washington held international conference for identifying alternative models for resolution of the Kashmir dispute. These models, that sometime back in this column, I had classified as secondary models were in no way match to the primary model suggested by the United Nations Security Council  for resolution of Kashmir dispute- that is  democratic and based on justice and fair play. 

And for the second time, adopting of Ireland Model for resolution of Kashmir caught intense media attention after     Peter by Hain M.P, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in his speech at Chatham House, on 12 June 2007 had stated, “Other unresolved conflicts around the world, from Kashmir to Western Sahara could benefit from the experience.” This statement that was made exactly three years before the House had released its first ever opinion poll on Kashmir (The poll conducted by British researcher Robert W Bradnock had clearly proved that status quo in any form could not be resolution of Kashmir problem.)  had made many internationally recognized conflict resolution experts to look if there were any parallels between Ireland and Kashmir. In this column, it may not possible to recap reports of all and sundry but it would be worth to talk briefly about some parallels between the two as identified by John Cushnahan, Member of the European Parliament, known in Kashmir for calling Kashmir, as a “Beautiful Prison on Earth”.  The parallels that he identified were ‘Both Irish and Kashmir question are a consequences of division by the British.  Just as Ireland and Britain, neighbors, lay claim to Northern Ireland, India and Pakistan claim Kashmir.  In both the contested territories, there is a powerful and often violent movement for secession, military and paramilitary violence has taken an enormous toll on the lives of ordinary people in both Ireland and Kashmir- 3700 people have been killed in Northern land and 80000 people have been Killed in Kashmir.’  

Seen in the right perspectives the parallels identified between Ireland and Kashmir are just the consequences not fundamental. Fundamentally, the two problems are not identical. The problem of Ireland has not been that of right to self-determination but of reconciliation amongst the people of the divided Island. There have not been any UNSC resolutions or international agreement on Ireland. In contrast, there are number of UNSC resolution on Kashmir binding India and Pakistan for resolving on the fundamental principal of right to self-determination. As rightly said by A.G. Noorani, “Irish history is instructive alike on process for peace.. Provided Henry Kissinger’s warning is kept in mind: History teaches by analogy and not identity.  ’ 

Notwithstanding dynamics of Kashmir problem being altogether different from that of Ireland yet it offers   inspiration in as much recognizing keys to resolving conflict are in having greater understanding of roots of the conflict..