Kashmiri Struggle: New phase - New strategy

By Shabir Choudhry

Many people thought that 1996 would be the last year of the Kashmiri struggle and there would be some kind of solution of the dispute. The year 1996 saw many important developments regarding Kashmir, but still the solution of the dispute is not in sight; if anything, the issue is further complicated with so called 'elections' on both sides of the border.

On the Indian side of Kashmir we saw 'election in the presence of nearly seven hundred thousand army. One can see the fairness and impartiality of these elections, but the fact remains that it is the first 'election' or something near to that, which India has managed to stage since the start of the present armed struggle for independence. In that sense, Indian government (and many other impartial quarters) consider this as a plus point in its fight against the liberation movement.

We have always maintained that elections of any kind cannot provide a solution to the Kashmir problem. Elections whether they are held in the Pakistani side of Kashmir or in the Indian side of Kashmir are never fair; and they are held to install those people who are prepared to dance on the tune played by their political masters. Moreover the purpose of these elections is to elect or select people to run the local administration. These Assemblies do not have a right to determine the future status of Kashmir. This point was made clear by the United Nations Security Council resolution of' 1957.

At present there are two Kashmiri Assemblies, and they both claim to have been 'elected' by people. But the reality is somewhat different. Both Assemblies are given agendas by their respective political masters and they have to follow that, otherwise they lose their jobs. Under these circumstances they both have no right to make any decision about the future of Kashmir. Like any other Kashmiri they can have an opinion or preference, but that should not be binding on other Kashmiris.

Many people thought that militancy is the only way forward to achieve independence, in fact, the nation was led to believe that India is going to collapse like Soviet Russia and the independence of Kashmir is just round the corner. After eight years of struggle we stand miles away from independence. We have tested friends and their pledges, we now know where we stand in the world. We have learnt a lesson, although a bitter one, but we are getting more and more clear about our destination.

The Kashmiri people have made huge sacrifices for the sake of independence, but they feel they were betrayed by their `leaders and `friends'. Kashmiris now know that they have to fight this fight on their own. The struggle has seen its ups and downs, and all that is a part of the independence struggle, but it is important to ensure that the struggle continues. No power on earth call deprive the Kashmiris from their right of self determination, but they have to decide first what they mean by that. They have to clarify without any ambiguities what they mean by 'independence' or 'right of self determination'.

Once that is clear in their minds, as it is increasingly becoming clear to them that even their very close friends have their own axe to grind, and that they can only rely on the true nationalist leadership. The struggle has entered into a new phase, and for this new phase we need to have a new strategy. The strategy we had at the beginning of the present struggle will on longer be relevant to this new phase. We can learn from our mistakes and see what went wrong in the struggle that we are facing the present crises.

I understand that we have to fight on all levels and have to adopt strategies that so maximum pressure is exerted on the forces of occupation, but we have to give preference to strategies which are more acceptable to the international community. By this I mean that we put more emphasis on dialogue. There is growing tendency in the world to resolve, differences through continued negotiations, and the realisation that decisions imposed by sheer force of power do not provide lasting peace and stability.

Apart from that we must realise that India is not the only country which has control of our motherland. We must adopt appropriate strategies that the areas under Pakistan are also part of the freedom struggle. We can not be too complacent when it comes to raising the matters with Pakistan. We must be bold enough to call a spade a spade. If we do not adopt an appropriate strategy to meet the needs of the freedom struggle, the world community would regard this as a territorial dispute or a fight against India based on religious sentiments.

Many people still think that the Azad Kashmir government is working for independence of Kashmir, and that Pakistan is helping them to achieve this objective. I am producing a text of the agreement between Pakistan and Azad Kashmir Government, signed in March 1949, which clearly states that the Azad Kashmir cannot make any strategy for the independence of Kashmir. We must realise that these governments (Azad Kashmir and Indian held Kashmir) are there to support and look after the interests of those who appointed them. So any future strategy with regard to independence of Kashmir must not include these governments.

Shabir Choudhry
Director, Institute of Kashmir Affairs

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