January 2004 News

Former Indian journalist outlines plan to resolve Kashmir

18 January 2004
The Nation

Lahore: A former Indian Journalist has proposed what he calls 'borderless solution' for Kashmir through unification of its two parts as a semiautonomous, neutral state. 'In an age of everdeepening global integration, this would mark a new kind of peace, drawing Indians and Pakistanis into friendship through the compulsions of shared space,' Anand Giriharadas, who is now a management consultant in Bombay, said in an article published in the New York Times on Sunday. Outlining his plan for borderless peace, Giriharadas also said that it also 'permits mutual face saving'. Discussing his plan in detail, he said: Plans for South Asian integration are already under way. In 2006, a South Asian Free Trade Area will link India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Mr Vajpayee has proposed even more ambitious plans for a supranational currency, parliament and bureaucracy. Architects of the plan call it the South Asian Union. As a neutral space within that union, Kashmir could host the capital for its administrative machinery. The city could adopt the name Shantinagar - Hindi for 'peace town.' It is a borderless solution to an endless argument over borders. In 1947, departing British colonisers ordered 562 Indian princes to join either India or the new Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Kashmir's Hindu maharajah ignored the decree, favouring a free state. But when Pakistani tribesmen abetted a local rebellion, he turned to India for protection - a perceived betrayal of his Muslim-majority subjects. War ensued, and in the cease-fire of 1949, Pakistan kept one-third of the kingdom. The two countries fought all-out wars over Kashmir in 1965 and 1971. Since then, a Pakistani-backed uprising has incited skirmishes that have claimed thousands of lives. Hard- liners in each country claim Kashmir wholly for their side. A settlement based on borders will, therefore, redraw the maps without resolving the rage. But a borderless peace has the potential to halt the firing - and then to rally two vast peoples around the project of their own development. Shantinagar would rope India and Pakistan into habits of association and foster links of trade, travel and innovation. It would catalyze millions of personal diplomacies - the one-to-one acts of international contact that render war between leaders insupportable to their citizens. The people of Kashmir would govern domestic matters like taxation and education. The South Asian Union would police Kashmir and coordinate union-wide policy on issues like development and counter-terrorism. Tourism revenues would be reinvested in the province, with a levy paid to India and Pakistan. Reunification would make Kashmir a hub for international attention and investment. It would also satisfy India's and Pakistan's more particular desires. For Pakistan, the settlement would grant the Muslim-majority population the basic powers of self- government. Thus, Pakistan would get what it has long demanded: a cross-border referendum in which Kashmiris resolve their destiny. The new Kashmir would also put Pakistan on the map of power. Globalisation flowers in international spaces like New York and Hong Kong. Pakistan will join the club of integrated nations only when it can claim a global hub of influence like Shantinagar. The plan would also revitalise Pakistani tourism. South Asian Union policing would allay the worries of foreign visitors. India's middle class would make forays into what are now Pakistani areas of Kashmir. And with its economy booming, India will invest heavily in Kashmir - with clear ripple effects for Pakistan. For India, there would be equivalent gains from tourism. In the mid-1980's, Indian Kashmir's flower-filled lakes and snow-dusted mountains drew more than 600,000 domestic tourists a year. With the uprising, that number dropped into the hundreds. But the real benefits to India are in geopolitics. In a region fragmented by class, caste, community and creed, India currently lacks the legitimacy to speak for all seven countries, and thus to drive regionwide reforms required for progress. But in a neutral space, through neutral institutions, India would be free to orchestrate strategy for South Asia on issues like terrorism, trade and development. Perhaps even richer gains for India lie beyond South Asia. India, with one-sixth of mankind, aspires to be an ambassador for developing nations. For its voice to resonate with those nations, it must address the world from a neutral mountaintop, not a combat zone littered with Muslim bodies. As for the Kashmiris themselves, whose interests are too often neglected, this settlement would bring two of the things they most desire: self-determination and money from tourism. Why should this plan succeed where others have failed? Perhaps because it permits mutual face-saving. Pakistan can say that a Muslim-majority state is at the heart of the new South Asia. And India can claim Kashmir as the foundation for what is, effectively, Greater India. A plan for a borderless peace makes the most of a global moment. The insight of our age is that borders sanctify difference, but that borderlessness spurs partnership. Our century may enrich the Asian tigers. But it will belong to the snarling lions that learn to hunt in packs.


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