April 2005 News

Washington think tank calls for Kashmir settlement ideas

21 April 2005
The Daily Times
Khalid Hasan

Washington: Since the Stimson Centre here set up a website inviting proposals for a Kashmir settlement, it has been receiving an increasing number of 'hits' from across the political spectrum.The Kashmir website was the idea of Michael Krepon, founder president of Stimson, who has a special interest in Kashmir and how best the dispute may be resolved.The Strategic Foresight Group, New Delhi proposes that the Line of Control should become a 'Line of Cooperation' and India and Pakistan should adopt policies of autonomy and devolution towards Jammu and Kashmir. The government of India, the group expects, would restrict the powers of the governor, while the Pakistan government would integrate the Gilgit-Baltistan region with Azad Jammu and Kashmir. India, Pakistan, and representatives from Jammu and Kashmir would together design a framework which would establish both a permanent body to monitor the efficient functioning of the autonomy arrangement, and committees from each side which would meet bi- annually to discuss economic, social, and cultural issues. A Joint Economic Development Council of Jammu and Kashmir would also be formed to promote trade, investment and joint ventures. As terrorism subsides and the governments of India and Pakistan relax travel restrictions, a fast-track visa process for Kashmiris would be created so that Kashmiris could travel freely between the two sides. According to Prof Joseph E Schwartzberg, a comprehensive resolution is necessary in view of the alternatives of international terrorism, costly military adventures, and the risk of a catastrophic nuclear war. Looking at the historical experiences of three semi-sovereign territories of Andorra, the Aland Islands, and South Tyrol, Schwartzberg proposes three different measures. The first is the establishment of the Karakoram Peace Park which would be recognised as a UNESCO world natural heritage site and would be centered around the Siachen Glacier. The second proposal is the establishment of an area of free trade and movement (AFTM), which would convert progressively larger portions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into areas of free trade and movement, beginning with the Valley. This area would allow for people and goods from either India or Pakistan to enter the AFTM, but not go beyond it into the other country, unless one had the appropriate visa, or in the case of commercial goods, unless applicable tariffs were paid. Residents of AFTM would enjoy the right to move freely into or out of both India and Pakistan and be able to ship their goods freely to either country as well. This 'solution' was first proposed by the American academic in 1998, and seven years later his views remain unchanged.Prof Robert Wirsing, author of works on Kashmir, argues that it is currently impossible to resolve the Kashmir dispute in a manner that can satisfy both sides because of India and Pakistan's hostile relationship. He proposes that the search for a resolution should be indefinitely postponed while India and Pakistan strengthen their relations. Based on the past failures to improve bilateral relations, Wirsing advocates a multilateral strategy in which an international peacekeeping force led by the UN would be responsible for the enforcement and demilitarisation of the LoC. The implementation of this peacekeeping force would be approved by both India and Pakistan, if necessary in exchange for economic or political incentives. This international presence would allow India and Pakistan to negotiate a reduction in violence and promote a more cooperative environment in which to resolve the Kashmir issue.According to 'the Jandayal Plan,' devised by a concerned Indian, India and Pakistan should annex the parts of Jammu and Kashmir which are currently under their respective control. They should then grant full autonomy to those regions whose inhabitants so desired. Those people who had been displaced from their land since the mid-1980s would then be allowed to return, but not those who left the region after partition to become citizens of another country. Non-residents would be required to leave. Each autonomous part would write its constitution based on the principles of secular democracy. A Joint Commission with representatives from India and Pakistan would preside over cross-border issues such as trade, travel, and tourism, while India and Pakistan would be responsible for external affairs, defence, and communications on their respective sides. The entire region would be deregulated and made into a free trade region. The Line of Control would become the official international border, 'though in reality the physical border would, over time, disappear.'Jon P Dorschner proposes a solution modelled after the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement. The final goal is an internationally administered referendum to determine the status of Kashmir. Both sides would first agree to postpone a resolution of the dispute. A ceasefire would be negotiated immediately and forces on both sides would withdraw from the Line of Control (LoC) and eventually from all of Kashmir. Azad Kashmir would be autonomous within Pakistan, and the Indian- administered areas of the state would be autonomous within the Indian Union. The people of Kashmir would be free to travel on both sides with an identification card. Such a period of demobilisation would increase contact and cooperation between the two sides and improve relations to the point that a referendum could be endorsed by all sides.Dr Vijay K Sazawal, a Washington-based campaigner for the rights of Kashmiri Pandits,Believes that the proposed set of solutions need to move away from land-centric to people-centric solutions. He identifies peace, prosperity, democratisation, and human development as the essential building blocks for future solutions. While peace and prosperity can be largely derived from improved bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, democratisation and human development will require an intra-Kashmir dialogue across the LoC. Looking ahead, Sazawal expects improved economic and political relations between Pakistan and India, but is sceptical that the processes of democratisation and human development on both sides of the LoC will reach their full potential.The Kashmir Study Group now advocates that portions of the state be reconstituted as sovereign entities without an international personality and enjoy free access to and from both India and Pakistan. There would be three portions, Kashmir, Jammu, and Ladakh, established on what is currently Indian-controlled Kashmir, and two portions, Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas, would be established on what is currently Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. These entities would be self-governing, and would be part of an All-Kashmir body which would coordinate areas of broader interest such as regional trade, tourism, environment, and water resources. Each entity would have its own democratic constitution, while India and Pakistan would still be responsible for defence of the entities on their side of the Line of Control. India and Pakistan would open their borders to the Kashmiri entities. They would issue passports to Kashmiri citizens on their side of the LoC. The LoC would continue to exist until India and Pakistan agree to change it, but India and Pakistan would withdraw their forces from the LoC and the Kashmiri state. In addition, all displaced persons who left any portion of entities would have the right to return to their home localities.Ershad Mahmud from Pakistan wants Kashmiri leaders to engage in an intra-Kashmir and inter-Kashmir dialogue. Currently, Kashmiri society is starkly divided on ethno-religious lines. TheKashmiri leadership needs to unite its society and adopt a common strategy. To facilitate the inter-Kashmir dialogue, the Line of Control must be softened to allow travel so that people from different sides can interact and exchange ideas.This increase in interaction would help to create a common identity for the Kashmiri people. In addition, Kashmiri leaders should involve the militant groups in the dialogue. These groups cannot be ignored as they can potentially derail the peace process through violence. After this intra- and inter-Kashmir dialogue has occurred and a common identity and goal of the Kashmiri people has been established, then the Kashmiri leaders can productively participate in the dialogue between India and Pakistan.Indian academic Sumantra Bose argues that the territorial status quo and Indian and Pakistani sovereignty over their respective areas of Kashmir should not be altered. India should establish a system of self-rule on its side. Similarly, Pakistan should establish a system of self-rule in Azad Kashmir so as to create an autonomy symmetric to that on the Indian side. In order to reduce violence in the region, both sides would work for greater enforcement of human rights, better policing arrangements, and the release of political prisoners. The Line of Control would remain in place, but it would become an open border promoting cross- border economic development and political cooperation. Cross-border institutional links, such as a cross-border Jammu and Kashmir ministerial council, would be created and would serve to integrate the two sides. The governments of Pakistan and India would be responsible for foreign affairs, external defense, currency, and macroeconomic policy for their own side. Before this plan could take effect, it would have to be ratified by parliaments in India and Pakistan, and approved through a referenda on both sides of Jammu and Kashmir.

 

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