Kashmir Solidarity Day is observed on every February 5 in Pakistan since 1990 in order to pledge Pakistan’s support to Kashmiris against the atrocities committed by Indian forces in occupied Kashmir. It surely serves as a reminder of the bitter realities and mishandlings of the partition process.
These mishandlings are aptly described by WH Auden, a twentieth-century poet, in his poem titled “Partition”. To quote from the stanza: “The maps at his disposal were out of date”, and “the census returns almost certainly incorrect”, thus the fate of the Kashmiris were decided against the will of the people of the region and the problem continues even after seventy years as a colonial legacy of the unfinished burden of the partition.
The problem of Kashmir undoubtedly goes back to the Radcliffe Award; which surely was an unjust award. Initially, it was perceived only as an interstate conflict; a piece of land both India and Pakistan wanted to conquer. However, over the past seventy years, it has grown from a matter of mere territorial annexation to a matter of exerting Kashmiri identity, gaining self-determination, employing terrorism, and exercising power politics between India and Pakistan.
Not to mention the extremist political parties (be it based on nationalism or religion) also exert a profound influence in using Kashmir issue as a political tool to establish their legitimacy on both sides of the border.
Moreover, besides Muslim majority population, Jammu Kashmir is inhabited by Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. These complex demographic realities add to the problem of finding an all-satisfying solution.
Other than the diametrically opposed views on the Kashmir Resolution by India and Pakistan, there is no uniform approach from within due to ethnic heterogeneity and divided leadership. Hard power approach including wars and soft power approach including diplomacy, bilateral and multilateral negotiations has not worked so far.
The role of the UN remains politicised and insignificant as it failed to enforce its plebiscite resolutions. The irony that the Kashmir issue is on Chapter VI agenda of the UN instead of Chapter VII elucidates the silence of international community and eliminates any prospects of “humanitarian intervention” taking place anywhere in future despite apparent human rights abuses taking place for decades.
The selective humanitarianism of international western community prevails, whereas the Muslim community represented by the OIC is an expression of nothing more than ‘oh, I see’ in this regard.
The primary responsibility to resolve the conflict ultimately lies on the shoulders of both India and Pakistan. Historically, Pakistan’s foreign policy towards Kashmir has met with setbacks.
Pakistan’s indecisiveness to triumph over Kashmir in 1962 when India was occupied in the war with China, the use of proxies to initiate 1965 war and the disaster of Kargil War has all resulted into a zero-sum game for Pakistan.
On the other hand, India’s inflexibility to completely disengage its policy of violent subjugation of Kashmiris has hindered all the peace efforts.
Many plans have been proposed in the past as a solution to the problem ranging from its complete independence to complete inclusion in either India or Pakistan and even the division of the region based on religious and ethnic demographic realities.
The solution, however, is neither in its complete independence nor in its complete inclusion in either India or Pakistan. An independent Kashmir would be a landlocked Kashmir depending for its survival and economy again on its neighbours i.e. India and Pakistan.
In such scenario, the external influence of these big powers would make it nothing more than a pariah state. On the other hand, its inclusion in either one of the states would be unacceptable to the losing party and the division of Jammu Kashmir is not acceptable to the local parties of the region.
The only ray of hope for the resolution emerged during the decade of the 2000s when remarkable efforts were done by Indian and Pakistan government through back-channel diplomacy to resolve the dispute (2004-2007).
The resolution was based on three principles, including demilitarisation, self-governance and a joint mechanism for two units controlled by India and Pakistan respectively of erstwhile Kashmir.
However, 2008 Mumbai attacks resurfaced the mistrust between India and Pakistan and the resolution was halted and each party reverted to its own claim of resolution.
Nevertheless, the experience indicates that the only plausible proposition to seek the solution lies in continuous negotiations between India and Pakistan while outlawing the militancy option.
The inclusion of local political parties of Kashmir in the negotiation process is important to agree upon a working formula for the region. Both nuclear powers have to realise that violent and military solution would not result in a victory for any one of the states.
Nonetheless, the efforts of Indian forces to violently subjugate Kashmiris in occupied Kashmir continue to exist. The case of Burhan Wani followed by Kashmiri intifada and subsequent terror tactics employed by Indian forces exhibit that the distinction between a terrorist and a freedom fighter still remains blurred.
With continued violence, the Modi government has started a new initiative aimed at forging Indian identity for Kashmiris. The idea of extending good governance through development is an effort to diversify Indian control of Kashmir through both soft and hard measures.
These new realities demand an engaging foreign policy response from Pakistan. However, Pakistan’s internal political instability speaks of Pakistan’s inability to perform at the external front.
As Edward Said said that “we cannot fight for our rights and our history as well as our future until we are armed with weapons of criticism and dedicated consciousness”: they hold significance if a solution to Kashmir issue is to be found.
The future in this regards, unfortunately, seems bleak. If a satisfying solution is not agreed upon by all the stakeholders, then the human rights abuses would continue to take place in Kashmir by India, violence would keep begetting violence, Pakistan would continue with the mere commencement of Kashmir Day in coming years, the fate of the beautiful vale of Kashmir would continue to be mirrored with blood and violence, and the continent which was divided for better or worse would continue to suffer from the legacy of colonialism.