Most Pakistanis, Indians Flexible On Kashmir: Opinion Poll In Subcontinent

17 July 2008
The Dawn


New Delhi: People in India and Pakistan show a readiness to let the disputed region of Kashmir decide its own fate, and many will tolerate independence if that ended the long-running dispute, a rare poll on the crisis shows. A survey by the WorldPublicOpinion.org asked Indian and Pakistanis to consider a range of possible outcomes for the Kashmir question and to say whether they found them desirable, acceptable, tolerable, or unacceptable. A majority of those surveyed would find independence at least tolerable if Kashmiris wanted it. “Given the deep roots of the conflict over Kashmir, it is surprising the conflict does not muster clearly polarised majorities in Pakistan and India, falling in line behind their governments’ positions,” said Clay Ramsay, research director of WorldPublicOpinion.org. “Instead, many show openness to considering different possibilities for resolving the conflict.” Three-quarters of Pakistanis called independence for the Muslim-majority region desirable or acceptable. While 50 per cent of Indians said the idea was unacceptable, 29 per cent said it was at least tolerable and the rest did not provide an answer. The problem, analysts say, is that those who oppose making concessions over Kashmir in both countries tend to be very vocal and have often driven policy making. That has made finding a solution to the crisis impossible until now. Most Indians want occupied Kashmir to remain under Indian control, either in its present status or with more autonomy. While Pakistan’s government has at times conceded that changing borders may not be an option, its people seem reluctant to accept this. Around two-thirds of Pakistanis said simply giving Indian Kashmir more autonomy was unacceptable. Most would prefer it to join their country or become independent. The idea of dividing the region between Pakistan and India gets little support on either side, but is also not opposed by a large majority, the pollsters said. Some 52 per cent of Pakistanis and 42 per cent of Indians found division unacceptable. Similarly, around half of those surveyed on both sides said joint management by India and Pakistan was unacceptable. The poll was taken among 907 Pakistanis spread over 19 cities with a sampling error of about +-3.3 percentage points, while 1,258 Indians answered the survey in 10 cities. The sampling error for India was about +-2.8 percentage points.