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Last Word on Kashmir!
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
Hopefully I shall succeed in restraining myself to make this my last comment on the Kashmir crisis. I wish to spare readers my repetitive chant. The all-party meeting on Kashmir has concluded. It failed to achieve a consensus. It was presumptuous of the government to imagine that a consensus could be achieved. If a crisis is grave enough to warrant a national consensus, opposition parties cannot be expected to help the government pull its chestnuts out of the fire. The government is dealing with the crisis. If it wants the opposition on board to help address the crisis a national government and not just a national consensus needs to be created.
The real problem is that the government does not know what it wants. It does not help that neither the opposition parties nor any of the Kashmiri groups know what they want. That’s why they all flutter around like headless chickens. There are three parties to the Kashmir dispute – India, Pakistan and the people of the different segments of undivided Kashmir. If the Kashmir dispute is not to be resolved by a painful event like war, civil war or calamity then a solution has to be found. A solution necessitates acceptance by all parties to the dispute.
There are two options open to the government. First, the government may accept that there are three parties to the dispute and formulate its solution accordingly. Secondly, the government may conclude that Pakistan will not participate on reasonable terms and there are only two parties to the dispute requiring an appropriate solution. Let us consider both options in that order.
Consider the maximum demand and the minimum acceptable demand of each party to the dispute. Pakistan wants all of Kashmir . It is incensed by the fact that Bangladesh broke away from it. It holds India responsible for that. It seeks retribution. Will that retribution not come if Kashmir is prized away from India? In formulating the solution Pakistan’s mindset must be considered. India would want to incorporate entire Kashmir in the Indian Union. Alternatively it would demand ironclad guarantees for preserving its national security. That could only be realized through an end to terrorism and an arrangement that precludes any war with Pakistan.
People in the different segments of undivided Kashmir want different things. The recent public opinion poll conducted in undivided J&K by Britain’s Chatham House gives us some indication of what each segment might want. Most likely both Jammu and Ladhak would want to stay in India possibly as a separate state or as a Union Territory. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir would like to remain in Pakistan. The Northern Areas of Gilgit-Baltistan might want independence. The people in the Valley want independence. Only the Kashmiri Pundits of the Valley who have been hounded out would want to remain in India.
Given these ground realities what might be the solution? The UN Resolution on plebiscite which leaders in Pakistan as well as separatists in the Valley keep demanding goes against all that either of them seeks. The preconditions to hold the plebiscite contained in the UN Resolution cannot be accepted by either of them. So the only alternative is to hold self-determination for undivided Kashmir under the auspices of a credible, mutually acceptable authority to determine whether each segment wants to stay with India, Pakistan or become independent. But to meet the requirement of security that serves the interests of both India and Pakistan and to prevent any third power encroaching into Kashmir the precondition of creating joint defence and free movement between India, Pakistan and the different Kashmiri segments, whatever be the respective status of each, would be necessary. This would satisfy in principle the aspirations of Indian Muslims who nostalgically dream of Hindustan or of Hindus who aspire for Akhand Bharat.
The government should tell the separatists that they are free to persuade Pakistan to agree to the proposal. New Delhi should deflect separatist pressure to Islamabad if the Valley wants to resume its relationship with POK. It is likely that Pakistan will not accept this arrangement. The government then must move on to the second option in which there is only two parties to the Kashmir dispute – India and the people of Kashmir. The government should stick to the same formula in principle. It should offer self-determination giving the Valley, Ladakh and Jammu the option to retain the status quo or to seek independence. Almost inevitably Jammu and Ladakh would remain in India . Each can be made into a separate state or Union Territory. The Valley would seek independence. India should accept that if the precondition of joint defence and free movement is accepted by the separatists. India would also insist of course that if through their actions the leaders of the Valley cannot bring Kashmiri Pundits on board, they would have to carve out an appropriate area near Srinagar to be inhabited by the Pundits on their own terms. It will then be left to New Delhi to decide how best to deal with Pakistan and China.
If this solution is acceptable measures to implement it can be considered. If unacceptable, one would like to know what can be an alternate peaceful solution that satisfies basically the demands of each party to the dispute. Politicians should stop talking in the air. Let there be a debate based upon concrete solutions.
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