Kashmir: The dispute remains

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  • What could be the final solution?

My parents grew up hearing and probably believing that one day Kashmir would be a part of Pakistan. Through out my own schooling, college days and later as a journalist, nation wide anger at atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir and chants of the valley being an integral part of Pakistan continued. Now my children are also beginning to learn how India forcibly occupied Kashmir, that Pakistan and India fought two wars over it and Pakistan would never give up the cause of freeing Kashmiris from Indian rule. 70 years and three generations later, Kashmir still remains occupied by India, the issue persists as the real bone of contention between the two neighbouring countries and continues to be at the centre of Pakistan’s defence and foreign policies, with the entire country hoping for some respite so that it gets a little more and well deserved share in national resources. The respite is still nowhere to be seen.

With three quarter of Muslim population in Kashmir which has ethnic, religious, cultural and historical links, Pakistan made a rightful claim. In fact, at the time of the country’s creation, it was probably unthinkable for its founders that Pakistani territory would not include the Kashmir valley, depicted by the K in Pakistan’s name standing for Kashmir. But where more could be achieved, much was lost. The dispute over Jammu and Kashmir arose soon after the independence of India and Pakistan. Although Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir gained inclusion in Pakistan as a result of the 1948 war, the ceasefire and the United Nation’s call for a plebiscite ‘gave the Indian army time to reorganise and readjust its position and expand its armed forces’. While even India laments ‘Jawaharlal’s failure to solve it was his first foreign policy disaster, but by no means his last’, there would have been no dispute at all if the issue was swiftly overtaken by Pakistan. To this day, no plebiscite has been held and de facto boundary remains.

Pakistan and India clashed yet again in 1965 over Kashmir, but despite heroic sacrifices by Pakistani soldiers, not much was gained. In 1972, after a humiliating defeat in yet another war and tragic loss of East Pakistan, Pakistan agreed with India to ‘renounce the use of force to settle the Kashmir dispute, and both sides resolved to settle the matter between them without involving the UN’. The matter was never resolved.

What Pakistan should do is build pressure on India for itself, most importantly for its water resources. ‘Water that belongs to India cannot be allowed to go to Pakistan’ said Indian Prime Minister Narindra Modi nearly two years back

In his in-depth research article Reversing Strategic ‘Shrinkage’, Ambassador Munir Akram talks about one more occasion at which there was hope for some resolution.

The Kashmiri revolt against Indian oppression that erupted in December 1989 was a golden opportunity for Pakistan to press for a fair and durable solution for the dispute. It was lost. Pakistan, still under the heady aura of the jihadi victory over the Soviets in Afghanistan, opted to support religiously motivated groups to spearhead the Kashmiri freedom struggle. Soon, these groups assumed a life and agenda of their own, often inimical to the aspirations and culture of the Kashmiris… Nowhere is Pakistan’s strategic decline more visible than on the Kashmir dispute. Due to a series of policy mistakes, India’s palpably unjust position on Kashmir now evokes greater international understanding and sympathy than the legally and morally correct position traditionally taken by Pakistan.

From a human rights point of view, the spirited campaign for Kashmir by Pakistanis is applaudable. But if we start looking at the issue from the point of view of obsession and obstinacy, maintaining the claim to the right to Kashmir has taken more than given. It cost the lives of many brave soldiers in the wars of 1948 and 1965. It has drained many resources to uphold the hefty defence budget, deemed necessary to counter the threats to Pakistan’s sovereignty. It led to the pursue and achievement of a nuclear programme, at the cost of the country’s nutrition, health and education expenses, with these sectors still remaining underprivileged. The stubbornness to maintain claims and inability to replete diminishing water resources in the wake of India gradually taking control of head waters of Pakistan’s major rivers in Kashmir, has left the country with an alarming status and genuine worries over the future of its agriculture and power sectors.

Thus Pakistan and India continue to ‘live in a state of perpetual hostility’. And as a result, both countries suffer in some way or the other. But what could be the solution? From Pakistan, the moral support and raising awareness in international community about Indian atrocities should continue. We have stood by the Kashmiris all this time, even if there was vested interest for us in the issue, we cannot abandon them. Secondly, Pakistan apart from the Kashmiris themselves is the only source for the outside world for information about Indian activities. What we should not do, however, is carry on all these activities at the cost of ourselves. Our armed forces are amongst the best in the world, our nuclear programme is a big deterrent for India. We should, while consolidating our position and staying vigilant, start focusing on many neglected and deserving sectors of the country. The issue should not be the inclusion of Kashmir – the issue should be their right of independence, for which Kashmiris themselves have fought valiantly and shown remarkable resilience. An independent Kashmir would be expected to be pro Pakistani, which would resolve many issues linked to access and natural resources.

What Pakistan should do is build pressure on India for itself, most importantly for its water resources. ‘Water that belongs to India cannot be allowed to go to Pakistan’ said Indian Prime Minister Narindra Modi nearly two years back. ‘The Pakistani response by Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz, who said that revocation of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) by India “can be taken as an act of war,” furthered the narrative of a looming water war’. It is this looming war which should be avoided at all cost by both countries and for that, respecting the IWT signed in 1960 is crucial. Pakistan should ensure that this happens.

With honey-dewed orchards, rippling lakes and blue skies, Kashmir truly is a paradise on earth. But equally mesmerising are the northern valleys of Pakistan, overwhelming is the Gwadar coast, scorching yet soulful the Thar desert and comforting the lush green fields of Punjab. The right to Kashmir lies with the Kashmiris. We should stand with them and raise our voices for them, but not at the cost of not fulfilling our own rights. The next generation must live to hope for a free Kashmir and a developed, not battered and consumed Pakistan.

At the same time, India should respect the civil rights and sentiments of the Kashmiris and make efforts to finally resolve the dispute, which it even fails to recognise. Instead of bullying its neighbours to fulfil its own energy, power and security needs, India should aim to foster regional cooperation and mutually beneficial prospects, which would not only result in regional peace, but also progress.

So long as Pakistan continues to dispute the status of Jammu and Kashmir, and so long as India continues to deem the Kashmir problem a purely domestic issue, the integrity of neither nation can be confidently taken for granted.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Well written article. But Independent Kashmir is not solution. In-fact Kashmir-Conflict have no solution at present. Maybe with collective effort of India-Pakistan will solve problem.
    Independent Kashmir will be free to capture by Pakistan or China. Also Kashmir doesn’t have enough infrastructure to sustain as Independent nation. It has to be dependent on other countries for food.
    If it remain to be merged in Pakistan, then it will become failed state as Pakistan. Kashmir as part of Pakistan will be terrorist hub to carry out activities against India since Pakistan will take advantage of Anti-Indian elements. It will be moral victory of Pakistan and just moral victory and Pakistan will gain nothing from it.
    From Indian Government point of view, they will not let Kashmir be independent or part of Pakistan since it means they will not come in power again.

    • Well argued. However some form of autonomy or self governance should be given to Kashmir in my opinion. And most importantly, a viable solution has to be provided.

    • Failure or success of Kashmir as a state is too early to decide, for that matter calling Pakistan a failed state is also presumptuous. So is stating that Kashmir will be used for terrorist activities. These are merely rhetorics and assumptions used as a pretext to withhold independence of Kashmir.

      What Pakistan gains or not is not important, the rights of the Kashmiris is.

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