Division of Kashmir must be opposed

By Shabir Choudhry
1st October 1998

Once again the Prime Ministers of both India and Pakistan met and agreed to resume talks at the Ministerial level. In one news statement it was said that the issue of Kashmir was not discussed; but the statement made by the Pakistani officials said that all the disputes including Kashmir were discussed. Statements like this cause more confusion to the people.

If the Kashmir dispute was not discussed or would not be part of any future talks then one wonders what is there to be discussed? I am not saying that there are no other disputes between the two countries, but all those are either part of the Kashmir dispute or considered as trivial compared to the Kashmir dispute. And more over, if Kashmir dispute is solved then it would be easier to find solutions to other disputes.

It looks that both countries have already agreed on some kind of solution of Kashmir, and difficulties associated with bilateral talks, different terms and agendas are just a smoke screen. They want to give this impression that it is virtually impossible to negotiate with each other, especially on Kashmir, because of their entrenched positions. Whereas it is true that both countries have entrenched positions and the prevailing political situation does not give them too much room for manoeuvre, especially when it comes to Kashmir, but it is still possible to negotiate and find an acceptable solution which can be agreeable to all parties to the dispute.

My fear is that they don’t want to do this. They want to impose a decision and divide Kashmir. They can very well anticipate a strong public protest against any such move. In order to counter such protest they are creating this atmosphere, and would endeavour to persuade the public opinion that nothing else was ‘practical’, because the future of Pakistan was at stake. Our economy could no longer afford confrontation with India. We want to have peace and prosperity in the region that economic progress can be achieved. And in order to achieve the above we had to make a compromise with India.

It is no longer a secret that Pakistan has abandoned its so called ‘historical and principled stand on Kashmir’, which meant implementation of United Nations resolutions on Kashmir. The resolutions gave the Kashmiri people a choice either to join India or Pakistan, denying the people a right to determine their own future - the third option of independence. Many explanations can be given why the UN resolutions were not implemented. India is the biggest culprit in this, but Pakistan is also blamed for not implementing parts of the terms and conditions agreed in the resolution of August 1948. India also agreed to these resolutions, and publicly declared that the people of Kashmir will be given a chance to decide if they want to live with India, join Pakistan or become independent. Despite these lofty claims and promises India now calls Kashmir as her ‘integral’ part.

Both India and Pakistan have their own agendas and interest regarding Kashmir. Both wish to take over Kashmir no matter what the people of Kashmir think about it. After fifty years of confrontation, and huge lost to human life and property both have realized that they can not impose any decision by the use of military might. Now they have agreed to accept a ‘negotiated settlement’ on Kashmir, of course with out the participation of the main party to the dispute, the Kashmiri people. This practically means ‘give and take’ on Kashmir and divide the State of Jammu and Kashmir on permanent basis. Only very strong governments in Pakistan and India can dare to divide Kashmir. From the point of view of division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, it is unfortunate that there is a strong government in Pakistan which is determined to take tough decisions, even to divide Kashmir against declared public opinion. In India on the other hand, there has not been a strong government in the near past. When there was one, India at that time was not prepared to make any compromises on the area under her control. It will be a long time, if at all, before India gets another strong government. The indications are that the BJP could get into government, and it will be this party which will make compromises on Kashmir, not the Congress.

There are clear advantages for the both countries in dividing Kashmir, and it is not he first time they have negotiated to divide Kashmir. Pakistan can try to satisfy the public opinion by counting the following advantages:

  1. We have sacrificed every thing for these Kashmiris, and yet these ‘traitors’ want to abandon Pakistan and set up an independent Kashmir which is against the interest of Pakistan -( Pakistani authorities have now come to believe that the majority of Kashmiris in the Indian held Kashmir would opt for an independent Kashmir if the option was available to them) ;
  2. Pakistan will get all of Gilgit and Baltistan - Northern Areas;
  3. Problem regarding Siachin and Wulhar barrage would be solved;
  4. Huge reduction in arms - money can be used for urgently needed social and welfare programmes;
  5. Huge reduction in loss to human and property which result through continued border clashes with India along the cease fire line or Line of Actual Control since the Simla Agreement;
  6. As a bonus, Pakistan will permanently get some more areas from the Azad Kashmir, especially districts of Kotli, Bhimber, Mirpur etc;
  7. Arch enemy India will also lose parts of Kashmir, currently occupied by India, as a part of State of Jammu and Kashmir will be given under the ‘Trusteeship’ of the United Nations;
  8. The suffering people of Kashmir will get some kind of independence and relief from their present misery;
  9. And more important from Pakistani point of view, new relationship with India, especially trade, will bring economic prosperity which is desperately needed;
  10. New era of ‘peace and tranquillity’ will bring stability and prosperity to the area and open new markets of Central Asia, from which the nations of South Asia will benefit.

One can see that there is a quite bit for both India and Pakistan, if this plan goes ahead. It is very likely that it will go ahead because a sizeable section of the intelligentsia of both countries have agreed to this, albeit reluctantly; but more important is the fact that it all fits in the plan of the ‘New World Order, or New Economic Order. Only possible obstacle to this nefarious plan is the public opinion. It is debatable how effective this can be. It is very clear that the Kashmiri people are divided on political, religious, ethnic and regional lines, and it will be difficult for them to put a strong challenge to this. The public opinion in Pakistan, however, can play an important role. They can force their rulers to abandon the idea of dividing Kashmir. It must be remembered that we did not pay these sacrifices for the division of Kashmir. We appreciate the support the Pakistani people have given to the Kashmiri struggle in the past, and it is partly because of that support that the issue is still alive today. But, please remember, we need your support ever more to stop this division.

I request the people of Kashmir to put aside their differences and unite to oppose this grand plan against the freedom struggle. My appeal is specially to nationalists of Kashmir, it is the time to get together and fight shoulder to shoulder to oppose the division of Kashmir and liberate our motherland.

Shabir Choudhry
Director, Institute of Kashmir Affairs

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