July Issue 2010
Would an “All Kashmir Federation” Provide Stability and Peace?
There are three major perspectives and hence approaches toward the Kashmir imbroglio: the Indian, the Pakistani and the Kashmiri. The last perspective does not have a homogeneous outlook. It again has three components: the political elite of the province, the separatists and the jihadi elements.
The political elite of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (what Pakistan calls “Indian-Occupied Kashmir) would like to perpetuate the Indian standpoint of ‘status quo’ so as to bolster its power bastion. On the other hand, the separatist elements, led by the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), have gradually softened their stance. The jihadi elements represent the extreme end of the insurgent spectrum and to a large extent harbour the Pakistani agenda of destabilising India and creating “strategic depth.”
The Indian approach to the tangle has been unmethodical, at times undiplomatic and for most of the times tactless and bare since 1989. Thus the paramilitary forces are called upon at will whenever the state police founders and the army takes over whenever the paramilitary falters in controlling mobocracy of the genre of the Palestinian Intifada.
This open impudence on the part of the Indian authorities clearly exhibits the “Pakistan factor” behind the problem. Nonetheless, the violation of democratic ethos by both the Centre as well as the Kashmiris further aggravates the malignancy.
A few months back, the Indian Home Ministry was stoutly following the ‘Quiet Diplomacy’ in dealing with the Kashmir quagmire. That in fact lent some credence to New Delhi. Furthermore, the Indo-Pak ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) was also not showing signs of fatigue and the jihadi hooliganism had subsided to a considerable degree. Diplomatic pressure on Pakistan by USA must have been a rational reason behind this downturn. Moreover, for all practical purposes, the jihadi elements had their job cut out in the Af-Pak region. In sum, the “ulcer” was not causing unbearable pangs to either the masses or to the political masters. The Shopian rape and murder case of 2009 provided the turn of events and the fireball has again engulfed the Valley. The Army has been eventually called in.
Now, territorial Kashmir has five components: the ‘core’ Kashmir valley (populated by Sunni Muslims), the Buddhist-majority district of Ladakh, and the Hindu-majority Jammu, all under the Indian jurisdiction. Azad Jammu and Kashmir (called Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, or POK, by India) has Muzaffarabad and Mirpur. The Gilgit-Baltistan territory is also under Pakistan’s control. It has recently obtained some constitutional concessions from Islamabad and is self-governing.
Yes, China comes into the picture as yet another major contender as some parts of Ladakh is under its sway since the 1962 war with India. Moreover, Pakistan has ceded parts of its Northern ‘pie’ to Beijing.
Hence, if one treads toward a solution of this problem then one is led to myriad possibilities. From the Indian perspective, this author feels the path as charted out below shall serve a definite purpose in mitigating the present state of affairs. Nationalism should be the guiding principle when solutions to Kashmir are chalked out, but in no way jingoism should intervene.
Is India ready to seek a solution of Kashmir? The answer by all guesstimates ought to be an unequivocal “yes.” And if that is the case, is India ready to forego its claims to the Valley? The answer may be fraught with vehement debates. But a majority of Indians are, by all probability, ardent votaries of freedom and democracy. That is, at least, what they have stood for the last six decades and that is what they have fought for about two centuries.
Hence presently India should not shy away from granting the Kashmiris their “right to self determination.” But hang on. India had agreed to the same in the early 1950s too after the mediation of the United Nations (UN). India insisted that the Pakistan Army as well as the Pashtoon guerillas should first withdraw from their areas of domination. However, neither Pakistan nor India withdrew their respective forces and hence no plebiscite was eventually agreed upon. The demography of the valley has changed since then, more so since the armed insurgency commenced in 1989. So, what kind of a referendum now?
Still, there can be a referendum. First, the “Kashmiri Pandits” have to be moved from their dilapidated camps in Delhi and rehabilitated in Jammu. For all practical purposes, settlement in the valley of Kashmir should be a foregone conclusion for this group by now. And this rearrangement is an onus not only on the Indian government but also on other groups in contention if they seek a solution to this “Kintifada.”
Thereafter, a region-by-region plebiscite has to be arranged under the auspices of the UN. That should be done only after the Indian, the Pakistani and the Chinese Army and paramilitary move out from their respective positions, which can happen in a phased manner but within a reasonable time frame of six months. From the withdrawal of the respective armies and the paramilitary till the adoption of a new constitution for the “All Kashmir Federation,” comprising the five sub-regions as provinces, the territory needs to be administered by the UN having no Indian, Pakistani or Chinese observers.
The five sub-regions shall have the freedom to choose amalgamation with either India or Pakistan or China or join the Federation. By all means, contiguity of borders shall not be violated. It shall be a close to an impossible scenario that Jammu would like to cling to China or Gilgit-Baltistan to India.
The envisaged “Kashmir Federation” may follow the US federal system as the archetype. Prima facie, it should be a win-win situation for all the parties.
However, to implement the above, one needs to start a multi-party dialogue encompassing all the incumbents, even with representatives of the pyromaniacal jihadi elements, provided they abjure arms for the time being. But who would bell the cat? As the major power in South Asia, it would do no harm to India’s prestige if it takes the lead. China can also catapult itself into the South Asian region as a major player if it initiates this direct negotiation.
And for all this to fructify, the masses of South Asia need a set of well-intentioned leaders who can not only think “out of the box” but who have the will to factor in democracy in the region. Otherwise, any attempt at bringing peace in Kashmir would be temporary and hence nugatory in the long run.