Many Pakistanis feel that Kashmir is the unfinished agenda of partition. Indians on the other hand strongly disagree. The Kashmir issue is highly complicated and the roots of the conflict go very deep. In spite of India’s refusal to accept that there is a dispute, most world maps show Kashmir as a disputed territory. Kashmir is a conflict of ideologies. Both countries have a strong case for Kashmir.
The Indian Point of View
India prides itself on being a secular democracy and refuses to accept that Kashmir should be a part of Pakistan, on the basis of it having a Muslim majority. India has 140 million Muslims who are spread across just about every city, town and small village. India has never accepted the two-nation ideology. India claims that the Instrument of Accession signed by Kashmir’s erstwhile ruler Maharaja Hari Singh is final and binding. The instrument of accession was no different from those signed by the rulers of other princely states, when the British left. India maintains that the 1948 UN resolutions, calling for a plebiscite are outdated and invalidated by the Shimla Accord signed by India and Pakistan in 1972.
The Pakistani Point of View
Pakistan was created as a homeland for India’s Muslims. Kashmir has had a Muslim majority population since Mughal times. Although General Musharraf has agreed to drop the demand for UN Resolutions, Pakistan has raised the Kashmir issue at international forums for the last 55 years. Pakistan is quick to point out the Junagadh example. Junagadh was a princely state with a Muslim ruler and a Hindu-majority. The Nawab signed an instrument of accession to join Pakistan, but the Indian army forcibly took over the state, justifying the invasion on the grounds that the majority of the people wanted to accede to India. Among other factors, Kashmir’s rivers flow into Pakistan and Rawalpindi is the closest big city to Srinagar. Pakistan believes that with religion as a common ground, Kashmiris are more culturally akin to Pakistanis.
The fact remains that neither India nor Pakistan is willing to concede an inch. While India has shown a degree of willingness to accept the Line of Control as the permanent border, Pakistan will never accept this is a solution. This leaves both countries at the drawing board. Both India and Pakistan have wasted billons of dollars on Kashmir. This money could have easily been spent on poverty alleviation. It’s about time that both countries agree to give up their “principled stand” on Kashmir.
India’s proposal of a Srinagar-Muzzafarabad bus service is a step in the right direction. The next logical step would be to create an open border in Kashmir. Let Kashmiris on both sides of the LOC see how life is on the other side. The final step would lie in creating a blueprint for a plebiscite. The plebiscite would have to be conducted under UN supervision and only when there is a complete end to violence.
Pakistan can surely rope in the Jihadis and with joint patrolling of the LOC; both countries can keep a check on mercenaries. The plebiscite can be conducted in three years. This is enough time for all Kashmiris to see the situation on both sides of the LOC and decide for themselves.
Exclusively the people of Kashmir should take part in the vote. With an end to violence, Kashmiri Pandits would be able to return to the valley and play an important role in the plebiscite. This also means that Pakhtoon and Punjabi settlers in the Mirpur-Muzafarabad belt should not be allowed to take part in the plebiscite.
Let the areas, which want to be independent, be independent and the areas, which want to join India or Pakistan, go to those countries. This is the fairest solution for the diverse people of Kashmir. Under such circumstances, Buddhist Laddakh and Hindu Jammu would most likely opt for India and the Muslim Valley might choose independence or join Pakistan.
Kashmir is the final stumbling block in the Indo-Pakistan peace process. A fair solution to this conflict will ensure normalisation of relations between both countries and rapid economic development of the entire region.