Different individuals, groups, and states have the different and often contradictory understanding and stance on the Kashmir dispute. No viable solution can be presented without defining one’s own understanding of the issue. If the Kashmir dispute is seen in its original form it is a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan over the territory of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Now the question what comprised the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir can be answered from the Treaty of Amritsar. According to which it was comprised of present day AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan, Valley, Jammu, Ladakh, Aksai Chin and Trans Karakorum Tract. In other words, it was consist of former states of Burushal, Dardistan, Boloristan, Ladakh, Purig, Kishtwar, Duggart, Poonch and Kashmir, and it remained as it till 1947, the time of the partition of India. Now seeing Kashmir as a whole, demands considering its every part a disputed one including Gilgit-Baltistan; some advocate as Pakistani part and Ladakh; sometimes considered a part of India.
After defining Kashmir, one needs to know what the dispute is and what proposed solutions are already there. The Kashmir dispute emerged after the partition of the Indian subcontinent. Pakistan opted for a communal approach to the solution of the problem whereas India opted for a legal solution. Pakistan claimed that the Kashmir is a Muslim majority region so should be incorporated in Pakistan as per the division formula. But the division formula was exclusively for the regions directly colonized by the British so the Kashmir being a princely state enjoyed exceptional status. The Maharaja Hari Singh signed a standstill agreement, to remain independent and never joined India or Pakistan, until a tribal invasion on 22 October 1947 from Pakistan, which forced him to seek help from India.
Since the cease-fire went into action on January 1, 1949, one-third of Jammu & Kashmir falls under Pakistan’s control and the rest of Kashmir is being controlled by India. Both, India and Pakistan have made Kashmir an existential issue. India wants to keep it to justify its showcase secular democracy, and Pakistan wants to get it to prove its two-nation theory. But neither India nor Pakistan is prepared to give up its stance on Kashmir.
Pakistan’s official position on Kashmir states that Maharaja Hari Singh’s accession of Jammu and Kashmir was not supported by the people of Kashmir so it has no value whereas India’s official position on the Kashmir dispute states that Kashmir is an integral part of India and accession is final and legal. Pakistan maintains that Kashmir is unfinished agenda of the partition and the promised plebiscite was never held by India. India on the other hand, says elections are a substitute for the plebiscite. Pakistan claims that Kashmir is its jugular vein and it runs in its blood whereas India claims that Kashmir is its integral part. Pakistan maintains that the solution to the dispute requires a unitary plebiscite as per United Nations Resolutions for the whole of J&K under international auspices whereas India maintains that the will of the people does not need to be ascertained only through a plebiscite. Democratic elections are a recognized means of ascertaining the wishes of the people and the people of the State of J&K have repeatedly participated in such elections. According to Pakistan, the Mujahideen who fight for their suffering Muslim brethren in Kashmir may cross the LoC, and it cannot guarantee an end to all infiltration whereas according to India all would be well in Kashmir but for cross-border terrorism sponsored by Pakistan. According to Pakistan, India is involved in Human Rights Violations in Kashmir whereas according to India Human Right Violations by the State are negligible and sufficient judicial mechanisms are in place to investigate such allegations. Pakistan should relinquish control of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. It is not Azad Kashmir.
To end the First Kashmir War, the United Nations intervened and through its Security Council passed resolutions, and called for a cease-fire, followed by the withdrawal of security forces, and an a plebiscite for Kashmiris to decide whether they join India or Pakistan, which will be monitored by international supervisors. The cease-fire resolution was implemented, but neither India nor Pakistan withdraw its forces. So a plebiscite was never taken place.
Pakistan and India fought in 1947, 1965 and then in 1999 over Kashmir. Now both have nuclear capability and any intended or accidental incident can bring the whole south Asia under threat. The Kashmir dispute is now a nuclear flash-point and needs more attention than ever. But as from the hard positions of the two countries it is evident that neither India nor Pakistan would retreat from its historical positions, so what is needed is an innovative and creative solution to the Kashmir dispute. A solution which doesn’t make India or Pakistan felt compromised or defeated.
The dispute over Kashmir, if seen as a territorial or an ideological dispute would not be easy to solve because neither India nor Pakistan can divide Kashmir alone. So there’s a need to understand that the people of Kashmir are the central to any resolution of the conflict. As this dispute is more about their fundamental rights and future than about territory and Ideology for India and Pakistan.
As there is least possibility of immediate breakthroughs as well as of ultimate solutions (e.g. proposed by the United Nations), so India and Pakistan need to consider creative but viable smaller solutions which can (step by step) lead to the ultimate resolution.
We proposed that a third party is crucial in moving toward any viable solution for the dispute. This third party must be the people of Kashmir who would participate through their elected representatives.
Legislative assemblies in Pakistan-administer Kashmir (in AJK and G.B) and state assembly in Jammu and Kashmir don’t have a real mandate of the Kashmiri people. On Pakistani side no Member of a Legislative Assembly in AJK or G.B can qualify without demonstrating allegiance to Pakistan and on Indian side on one can qualify without demonstrating allegiance to the Indian Union. These legislative assemblies which are controlled from New Delhi and Islamabad need to replace by the “Representatives Assemblies”. Assemblies comprised of representatives of the people of Kashmir from all parts of the state. Elections for these representative assemblies must be free and open to the public and international organizations. No representative must be disqualified on not alleging to India or Pakistan.
These assemblies after their fair formation would combine and merge together to make a Greater Representative Assembly (GRA) for all the people of Kashmir, with the mandate to negotiate with India and Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the line of control would make flexible and the people to people contact through social and economic activities, would enhance. On the social side, people must permit for family reunions and on the economic side, they must permit to start the business on either side of Kashmir. Subsequently, the region would demilitarize and militant organizations would cease to exist. Refugees from all parts of the world would allow returning to their homes and the international human rights commission would make responsible for monitoring Human Rights situation. International organization and companies would allow starting development projects. And political parties would allow opening their offices in all parts of Kashmir.
The writer is pursuing his MPhil at Iqra University Islamabad. He blogs at Kashmirica.wordpress.com and can be reached on twitter at @imrankhushaal and on email at firstname.lastname@example.org