J&K: Let the People Decide

03 Apr, 2013    ·   3866

Shujaat Bukhari discusses the role of the people in solving the Kashmir issue

Shujaat Bukhari
Shujaat Bukhari
Editor in Chief, Rising Kashmir

Problem of Jammu and Kashmir is so intricate, that even 48 small or broad “roadmaps” given by different entities since 1947 have failed to resolve it. Three full fledged and one “undeclared” war further distanced India and Pakistan. Hundreds of books and research papers have failed to have an impact on the might of these two neighbours to think about resolving the problem that has consumed tens of thousands of lives in last over six decades.

The 21-year-old armed rebellion might have shaken the Indian state but it too failed to put an end to this protracted conflict. It rather led to a situation where New Delhi feels confident in managing it but over a period of time the alienation has grown stronger. With New Delhi stuck in the “Atoot Ang” theory that has even been discounted by an elected Chief Minister Omar Abdullah recently in the assembly, Pakistan boasts about Kashmir being its “jugular vein” but has failed in its strategy beyond the “wresting mentality”. From United Nations’ mediated Plebiscite to Dixon I, Dixon II, Gunnar Jarring to Joseph Korbel and Kashmir Study Group proposals, the localized efforts from Bhutto-Swarn Singh, Rajaji formula to Mushrraf formula and Autonomy to Self Rule there are numerous recipes which have been tried in the troubles waters of Kashmir. Musharraf’s 4-point formula was perhaps the only one, which was nearer to implementation as those associated with it have often made it public that it was close to reality. Former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri and many others have emphatically stated that both countries had reached an agreement. But for Musharraf’s own fault of firing the judges, this too was derailed. Historians have seen a jinx attached to Kashmir solution. When in 1947, the future of the state was about to be decided the tribal’s raided Kashmir, giving India a chance to intervene. In 1964, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah visited Pakistan ostensibly with a “mandate” from Jawahar Lal Nehru to resolve the issue but the latter passed away much before something could be concretized. During the Tashkent meeting, they say a resolution was imminent but Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri passed away there only. In 2001, Prime Minister AB Vajpayee and President Musharraf were close to an agreement but the hard-line faction of BJP played a spoilsport. And finally in 2006 when both countries had agreed upon an interim solution, Musharraf had to exit.

With no solution coming forward amid New Delhi’s rigidity and Pakistan’s wrong way to claim Kashmir, a new proposal has been suggested by Australian politico-strategic analyst Christopher Snedden. He recently kick started a fresh controversy by saying that it was not the tribal raid of 1947 that was responsible for the division of Jammu and Kashmir. But, he maintains that there were three other factors that led to division. Detailing these in his new book Kashmir: An Unwritten History, Snedden says the three major actions, include the Muslim uprising in Poonch in western Jammu, serious inter-religious violence throughout Jammu region and the creation of “Azad Kashmir” government on October 24, 1947, which he believes was the final blow to the unity of the state. Snedden also blames the disunity among Muslims for this division, as they constituted 77 percent of the princely domain.
His book mainly focuses on “Azad Kashmir” but he has shown concern over the continued marginalization of people of Jammu and Kashmir in the process of resolution. Terming a new coin for them, he says these J & K-ites have not been given any role and both India and Pakistan are contended with what they have, in the shape of territories of Jammu and Kashmir. He says neither nation has engaged in healing process of this battered population. While arguing that it is only a third party that can resolve the issue, he is aware about the reservations New Delhi would have for such an intervention as both India and Pakistan have agreed in Simla Agreement that it was one among the bilateral issues. “Despite the respective positions of India and Pakistan, there is actually a third party that could resolve the Kashmir dispute and which would be acceptable to both nations: the people of J & K” he writes in his 435 page book.

Carving out a greater role for people of Jammu and Kashmir, Snedden borrows the title of this proposal from one of the speeches made by then Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru in the parliament where he said “it is only the people of Kashmir who can decide the future of Kashmir. We would willingly leave Kashmir if it was made clear to us that the people of Kashmir wanted us to go”. “Let the People Decide” is the title of a broader speech Nehru delivered and Snedden shapes up his proposal by saying both nations should step aside and let them decide.
Giving a framework, he suggests that the Task should be through an extended dialogue so that people of Jammu and Kashmir will determine the resolution. People of J & K, he says should convene, by whatever means they see fit a body that “I have called the Council to Resolve International Status of J & K”.  The Chief Minister of Indian J & K and Prime Minister of AJK along with respective opposition leaders should consult communities and then appoint delegates to the Council. Delegates could be members of elected assemblies and from among pro Independence state subjects. India and Pakistan should provide non-partisan support that enables participants to form and operate the Council. Snedden suggests that there should not be any timeline and they (delegates) should go on as long as they agree on an International status for J & K.

But he sees the challenges to such a proposal in more pragmatic manner. First that it would be very difficult to getting India and Pakistan agree on this. But he is confident about lobbying by sub continentals of goodwill, by world leaders and others that could encourage both countries. While the delegates may lack sufficient agreement to be able to formulate an international status, appropriately trained facilitators can extend their help. The third important challenge he sees is that India or Pakistan may not accept the possible international status but international community should encourage both nations to engage with this process and in that context people of J & K need to be aware that only point on which India and Pakistan agree in their dispute that the state cannot be Independent.

Snedden says that his proposal is worth attempt, as any solution determined by the people will give them a sense of ownership plus a strong sense of responsibility to ensure that it works. “This could also be a win win situation for India and Pakistan, if only because it would remove one of the major irritants in their relationship, thereby possibly allowing better relations to develop” concludes Snedden.
Snedden’s proposal is touching the humanitarian angle as he talks about the miseries this dispute has brought for the people. As of now it is yet another solution, but the moot question is whether both New Delhi and Islamabad are really serious and sincere in resolving it in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people of all the five regions of the state. “Let the People Decide” provides a perfect framework to move forward for a solution and it should not merely become just 49th solution in the long list.

By arrangement with Rising Kashmir