The Kashmir issue is still the simplest and easiest of all contemporary international issues provided all concerned demonstrate sincere and selfless desire to solve it. All that needs to be done to solve it once for all is that India and Pakistan should, instead of parroting their claims and accusing each other of standing in the way of solving the issue, fulfill their own nationally and internationally made pledges to concede to Kashmiris their inherent inalienable and internationally recognised right to shape their own future. The Kashmiri leadership should act patriotically instead of acting as puppets of India or Pakistan and the international community should play an active role in persuading and facilitating India and Pakistan to solve the issue.
To refresh the memory of those who look at Kashmir as a very complicated problem, let me refer to only one each of the scores of commitments made by India and Pakistan at national and international levels:-
- On January 15, 1948, the leader of the Indian delegation to the United
Nations, while addressing the Security Council, said "Whether she (Kashmir)
should withdraw from her accession to India, either accede to Pakistan or remain
independent with a right to claim admission as a member of the United Nations,
all this we have recognised to be a matter of unfettered decision by the people
of Kashmir after normal life is restored there".
- On June 17, 1947 Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah declared, "With the termination of Paramountcy, Indian States would be free either to join the Hindustan Constituent Assembly, or the Pakistan Constituent Assembly or to remain independent". On July 11, 1947, Jinnah repeated his stand this time clearly mentioning that Kashmir was fully entitled to declare complete independence and if she did so, Pakistan would be happy to enter into an agreement with her as may be beneficial to both.
There could not be a more solemn and public declaration from India recognising Kashmiris' right to opt for full independence of their State and there could not be more unambiguous a declaration from father of Pakistani nation accepting Kashmiris' right to independence.
What brought India from the aforementioned solemn pledge made from the rostrum of the highest international forum to her present rhetoric of Kashmir being her integral part and what made Pakistan reverse her own father's declaration and pledge is a very long, painful and agonising story better not to be explained here.
Whether one likes them or not, whether they are justified or not, but there do exist some realities which cannot be ignored or bypassed while looking for a peaceful, practicable, equitable and permanent solution of Kashmir Issue. They can be summed up as follows: -
1. Time has proved it beyond doubt that Indians are badly mistaken if they still think that time itself would solve the Kashmir issue to their advantage by making their occupation of the bulk of Kashmir permanent, even if it is against the wishes of Kashmiri people. Pakistanis are equally mistaken if they hope that Indian occupied part of Kashmir would fall into their lap sooner or later.
2. Failure of bilateral agreements in the last 50 years between India and Pakistan has proved beyond doubt that the Kashmir issue can be solved permanently neither through bilateral agreements nor against the national aspirations and freely expressed will of the people of the entire Jammu & Kashmir state. No solution of the Issue can be practicable unless it is acceptable to India, Pakistan and Kashmiris. It has also been proved that the issue cannot be solved without active participation of international community.
3. Both India and Pakistan have made Kashmir a matter of their national ego, a challenge to their national ideologies and a threat to their national interests -- to their security in particular. So no solution of the Kashmir issue can be acceptable to both if it hurts the national ego, harms the national ideology or jeopardises genuine national interests of either of them.
4. Division of Jammu & Kashmir state in any manner as permanent solution of the issue is bound to cause mass-migrations, bloodshed and communal/ethnic disturbances on a very large scale.
5. International community is duty-bound per her commitments, latest per unanimous UN Security Council Resolution NO 1172 of 8th June 1998 to help solve this issue in order to reduce tension between India and Pakistan and to avoid chances of a nuclear war.
6. And most important of all these realities is the fact that were the Kashmir issue to remain hanging in balance, it would continue to bleed the of the economies of both India and Pakistan and keep the sword of a nuclear war hanging on their heads.
On the other hand, its peaceful, equitable and permanent solution would herald the dawn of a peaceful, respectable and prosperous future for India, Pakistan and Kashmir and for one fifth of the humanity living in the region besides ridding Kashmiris of the trials and tribulations that they have been undergoing for the last over half a century.
A permanent solution of Kashmir problem can also ensure permanent peace in the region and strengthen world peace as well, besides guaranteeing safe investments in these countries beneficial to both investors and the local populace. One can well imagine the hell and heaven-like difference between the curses of Kashmir issue remaining unsolved and the fruits of its permanent solution.
In the light of these mostly bitter but un-ignorable realities, only a formula that solves the issue not only peacefully and permanently, but also without hurting the national egos of India and Pakistan, without harming their national ideologies and legitimate national interests, without causing further bloodshed, mass-migrations and communal and ethnic disturbances, one that is based on the national aspirations and freely expressed will of Kashmiri people, can prove acceptable to all the three parties to the issue and thus be practicable. It is equally important that the international community actively participates in the process of implementing the formula.
The formula that meets all the aforementioned conditions is that the divided Jammu & Kashmir state be re-united in several peaceful phases and made a fully independent country (initially for 15 years) with a democratic, federal and non-communal system of government, having friendly relations with both India and Pakistan and undertaking that the Kashmir soil will not be allowed to be used against any country.
The formula has got to be implemented with the approval and cooperation of India, Pakistan and Kashmiri political parties on both sides of the ceasefire line by an 11 member International Kashmir Committee to be formed by UN Secretary General and comprising one representative each of UN Secretary General, P-5 Countries, Germany, Japan, OIC and two of NAM.
Fifteen years after re-unification, let there be a referendum under UN auspices in which Kashmiris will determine whether Kashmir should perpetuate its independence or become part of India or Pakistan and that popular verdict be accepted by all concerned as final settlement of the issue and implemented.
And that will be the end of the problem that has caused two bloody wars, has been eating into economic vitals of India and Pakistan, has kept about 15 million Kashmiris under continuous agony for over half a century besides taking tens of thousands of their lives and that, if left unsolved, can destroy the region completely.
From A Bone of Contention to A Bridge of Friendship
Some very important benefits and advantages of solving the Kashmir issue per this formula are, that it will not harm the national egos of India and Pakistan nor give either of them a sense of defeat because neither of them will have to hand over the Kashmir territory now under their control to the other. Since the formula does not give the part of Muslim-majority-state now under India to Muslim Pakistan, it will not disturb or harm Indian secularism.
This solution does not harm the legitimate national interests of India and
(a) Kashmir will have friendly relations with both
(b) Kashmiri soil will not be used against either of them.
Nevertheless the best golden gift of solving Kashmir Issue this way is that it will change Kashmir from the position of a bone of contention into a bridge of friendship between India and Pakistan. This change will, on one hand, save South Asia from the horrors of a nuclear or a conventional war and rid the two countries of massive defence budgets and, on the other, it would herald the dawn of a peaceful, prosperous and dignified future for India, Pakistan and Kashmir.
It will also benefit the entire world by helping to maintain world peace as also by facilitating large scale investments in these two countries and Kashmir which are inhabited by over one fifth of worlds population. All that India and Pakistan have to do for these colossal gains is to part with the territories of Jammu & Kashmir state now under their respective control.
The governments of Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee and General Pervez Musharraf and the political parties, the media and the intellectuals of India, Pakistan and Kashmir owe it to their respective people and their future generations to take steps conducive to solving Kashmir issue per aforementioned formula or any other practicable way.
Lot of opportunities have already been lost. India and Pakistan may not get another opportunity like this before a catastrophe of un-imaginable magnitude cripples both of them.
(The author is the Chairman, JKLF (Amanullah), based in Pakistan)