New Delhi - While New Delhi and Islamabad are still at their wit’s end on how to go about the Kashmir issue, a US-based think-tank, largely funded by a businessman of Kashmiri origins, has proposed that a portion of the former princely State be reconstituted as a sovereign entity, but without an international personality, enjoying free access to and from both India and Pakistan.
The paper, entitled ‘Kashmir - A Way Forward’, has been authored by the Kashmir Study Group, largely funded by Mr Farooq Kathwari, a businessman who deals in furniture at Danbury, Connecticut, United States. Those consulted on this formulation include former Indian Foreign Secretary S.K. Singh, Vice Admiral K.K. Nayar, former Pakistan Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik, Gen K.M. Arif, Army Chief under the Zia-ul-Haq regime, Mr Howard Shaeffer, former US Ambassador to Pakistan, Mr Phillip Talbott and Mr Ainslee Aimbree.
However, when contacted by The Hindustan Times, Mr S.K. Singh said: "The crucial words that this Kashmiri entity would function under the parameters of the Indian Constitution are missing from this proposal. Our effort was to have a discussion on the subject of autonomy for Kashmir. As some of the members had objection to the word autonomy, we decided to call it sovereignty. But all this was under the Indian Constitution".
The proposal envisages that the portion of the State to be so reconstituted should be determined through an internationally supervised ascertainment of the wishes of the Kashmiri people on either side of the Line of Control (LoC). This should be followed by an agreement among India, Pakistan and representatives of the Kashmiri people to move ahead with this formulation.
The former Foreign Secretary said that time and again the Indian leadership from Narasimha Rao onwards has talked about giving autonomy to Kashmir. It is only a methodology to start the negotiations.
The Kashmir Study Group has proposed that the sovereignty of the new entity would be guaranteed by New Delhi, Islamabad and appropriate international bodies. The entity, under this scheme of things, would have its own secular, democratic constitution, as well as its own citizenship, flag and a legislature, which would legislate on all matters other than defence and foreign affairs.
India and Pakistan would be responsible for the defence of the Kashmiri entity, which on its own would maintain police and paramilitary forces for internal law and order purposes. The financial arrangements of the so-called Kashmiri entity would be worked out by the two countries and the so-constituted State would have a currency of its own.
The proposal says that Kashmiri citizenship would also entitle such citizens to acquire Indian or Pakistani passports depending on which side of the LoC they live on. Alternatively, they could use entity passports subject to endorsement by India and Pakistan as appropriate.
Stating that the proposal represents a practical framework that could satisfy the interests of the people of Kashmir, India and Pakistan, the formulation allows for this entity to have open borders with India and Pakistan, thus permitting free transit of people, goods and services.
The proposal states that the LoC should remain in place until such time as both India and Pakistan decide to alter it in their mutual interests.
However, it calls upon both the countries to demilitarise the area included in the Kashmiri entity, except to the extent necessary to maintain logistic support for forces outside the State that could not otherwise be effectively supplied.
"Neither India nor Pakistan could place troops on the other side of the Line of Control without the permission of the other State", the paper recommends.According to the think-tank, all displaced persons, including Kashmiri Pandits, who left any portion of the Kashmir entity, shall have the right to return to their homesteads.
The paper says by resolving the principal issue that could lead to armed conflict between India and Pakistan, it would go far towards relaxing political tensions in South Asia. It would offer enormous economic benefits not only to Kashmir, but also to India, Pakistan and all of the South Asia region.
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This Archives is Maintained by Md. Sadiq, 1998