Tuesday, April 19, 2005

KASHMIR: A way out in Kashmir

July 9, 1997
In early June 1998, I circulated the following proposal on Kashmir. On June 28, The New York Times wrote an editorial, “The Kashmir Tinderbox,” supporting the main theme of my proposal. The following portion of the editorial is relevant:
“As proposed by independent experts, the first priority would be to end violence and begin disarming Kashmir rebels and Indian forces while Pakistan withdraws its support for the insurrection. Kashmir should itself move toward more autonomy, if not outright independence. Ultimately, some political relationship with both India and Pakistan could be negotiated along the lines of the recent agreement in Northern Ireland. Another essential ingredient would be a pullback by Indian and Pakistani forces on the border, a cease-fire and exchange of military information between the two countries.”

By Muhammad Abd al-Hameed

After the nuclear tests by India, and then Pakistan, the tension between the two countries has increased to a flashpoint. The Kashmir issue brought the two neighbors to war in the past and is the only one that can take them to a nuclear holocaust. The following proposal offers a way out to remove immediately the possibility of war between them without forcing either of them to change its position on the Kashmir issue. The final and permanent solution of the problem can wait for suitable conditions.

The Kashmir issue can be moved out of the way without actually reaching a “final settlement.”
Let us not get bogged down in the background of the issue. Books have been written on the partition plan for the British India, the accession of Jammu and Kashmir, the UN resolutions on plebiscite, the omissions and commissions of India and Pakistan over the years, and the sufferings of the Kashmiris themselves. But no analysis of the ifs and buts of history can change on its own the realities on the ground.

The main ground reality is that the Kashmir issue has blocked the way to peace and prosperity for Pakistan and India. With the two armies facing each other eyeball to eyeball across the cease-fire line, a war can start any time, even if only due to some misunderstanding or miscalculation, as it happened in 1965. Even if there is no likelihood of another war in the near future, the deployment of the armies in itself has already cost many times as much over the years. The financial burden is crushing both sides, made worse by the enormous logistical problems due to the difficult terrain of Kashmir.

The dilemma for the politicians. The politicians in both countries have been unable to move forward. Not because they don’t want to. They do want to save the large amounts being spent every year on the so-called defense. But they would love to have a plan that they can sell to their own people. So far, they have not been provided one. The best and the brightest brains in both countries and elsewhere have been concentrating either on the merits and justification of the stand taken by one side or, in a futile attempt, have been trying to find a common ground between the diametrically opposite points of view. Pakistan has been demanding that the UN resolutions on plebiscite in Kashmir be implemented, in the belief that it will ultimately lead to the accession of the state to it. India claims that the accession is no longer an open issue and, in fact, the whole of Jammu and Kashmir now belongs to it. Sometimes, however, India does show willingness to “give-and-take” along the cease-fire line but Pakistan sees no benefit in turning the status quo into a permanent settlement, even with some favorable adjustments. Then there are the Kashmiris, who may be having their own wishes.

Another ground reality, therefore, is that no head of a government in either country, however weak (like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with a 20-party coalition) or strong (like President Pervez Musharraf, with no Parliament to question him), can survive if he abandons his country’s position that has been reiterated for decades.

Asking some basic questions. The positions on the subject are very rigid. Plebiscite, division along the cease-fire line, independence for the entire state, independence just for the valley with the rest going to either country, nothing is acceptable to all parties. Therefore, the exasperation of the would-be peacemakers is understandable. But one can always find a pass between two high mountains if one looks straight at the green plains ahead, instead of being awed by the peaks on either side.

We shall have a tantalizing view of the horizon if we ask a few basic questions. Why, to begin with, did the armies of India and Pakistan enter the state in the first place? India will explain that it wanted to stop Pakistan from taking over the rest of the state. Pakistan will say that it was the other way round. But both will agree that the two armies moved in after the issue had arisen. In other words, the deployment of armies did not create the basic issue of accession itself. It was a consequence, not the cause. Let us keep this very important point in mind as we go on.

The next question. Why have the armies of India and Pakistan been facing each other along the cease-fire line for half a century? Well, to maintain the status quo, to prevent the other side from advancing. After the First India-Pakistan War (1965), the two armies moved back to the original cease-fire-line while there were small changes after the Second War (1971). Since then, neither side has tried to change the status quo.

Fine. Let us now ask a follow-up question. If the army of one country is there on the cease-fire line only to defend against a possible attack from the other, what will happen if both armies are pulled out completely and simultaneously under the UN auspices? When the enemy will not be there, what will be the need for defense?

No need to change positions. If both armies are withdrawn from all parts of Jammu and Kashmir, will India and Pakistan change their stand on the status of the state? Why should they? (Remember that the deployment of armies was a consequence, not the cause of the basic issue?) Pakistan can continue to demand a plebiscite for the final solution. And India can go on claiming that the issue has already been settled and that its integrity and secularism are now tied with Kashmir.

The status quo on the cease-fire line will be maintained and neither side will have to surrender even a single square meter of territory under its control. The governments on both sides of the cease-fire line in Kashmir will continue to be in place, under whatever control is being exercised over them at present by India and Pakistan. As no movement of persons will be allowed across the cease-fire line, there will be no need for the army there. The local police should be able to maintain law and order. In other words, there will be absolutely no change in the present situation on either side.

How to ensure peace. What will be the guarantee that the status quo will not be disturbed in future? Good question. Here come the peacemakers. The UN observers have been there to monitor the cease-fire ever since it was enforced in 1949. Their number can be increased substantially to meet the need for effective observation. Pakistan and India may attach their own observers with the UN team to allay their own fears and suspicions about each other. The UN observers will not only supervise the entire cease-fire line but also the borders of the Jammu and Kashmir with India and Pakistan so that no army units move in, nor any kind of infiltration into the state takes place.

But we still cannot be absolutely sure. Suppose, one side does make a mischief. Of course, it will not be able to launch an attack across the cease-fire line because its army will not be there nor will it be allowed to enter the Jammu and Kashmir state. But it can certainly send trained and armed personnel to the other side to cause trouble. If the UN observers confirm any violation of the restrictions, the UN Security Council can, with firmness and swiftness, take two steps:
(a) All international flights and shipping services to and from the offending country will be banned immediately.
(b) All financial dealings with the rest of the world (such as letters of credit and remittances) will also be stopped.

The two steps can take effect within hours and should be enough to bring any would-be Saddam Husain in either country to his knees. (Some other punitive measures can also be taken for greater impact.) The people of Pakistan or India, unlike the Iraqis, will never be willing to suffer hardships indefinitely and tolerate a government that causes so much suffering to them for no visible gain. (Of course, there will be no ban – nor there can ever be -- on an attack against the other country across the present international border and a foolhardy, with daydreams of glory, can try his luck any time. If he is not afraid of the nuclear bombs on the other side, that is.)

The benefits of peace. The visible gain of the withdrawal of the two armies will be the prospects of peace and prosperity in the region. The end to the enormous waste of men, material and money in Jammu and Kashmir will be a great relief to each side. There will be a huge saving in defense expenditure, even if there may be no reduction in the present army deployments on the international border between the two countries.

Even a relative peace between Pakistan and India will be a great boon. Given the history of the Muslims and the Hindus in South Asia, the two countries will not become friends exactly but will no longer behave and deal with each other as enemies at war. Travel restrictions will be relaxed, with easier visas and end to the humiliation of reporting to the police ones entry, exit and every other move during a visit. Trade may not be free but it will be much more than at present, with even some joint ventures in the private sector. Films will still not be exchanged (though newspapers and magazines may be) but intellectual property rights will get reasonable protection. There will be no more acrimonious exchanges on Kashmir between the representatives of the two countries at international conferences. After the years of wars and constant tensions since the British left in 1947, Pakistan and India may have peace in the second half century of independence.

And the Kashmir issue itself? With the threat of war removed completely, there will be no longer any urgency. It may take its time before there is a “final settlement,” whatever that will mean then. Meanwhile, there will be no reason for Pakistan and India to go to war against each other and use the nuclear bombs.

July 9, 1997


  1. Please dont suggest as what u have said.

    Let pakistan resolve their own issue and come back for Kashnir issue

  2. Obsession of Kashmir with Pakistan are two fold one army of Pakistan is surviving by keeping kashmiri pot boiling and for politians it is emotional issue which can be wipped when ever need arises because they cannot solve the most pressing problems of bread and butter. Why don't we solve by formula of 1991 which Bhutto was just going to sign i.e convert LoC into international boundry. Also for free movement from accross border we have a European Union set up. now days of changing boundaries are over

  3. History has proved that two nation theory was fundemantly wrong India has not shrunk as Pakistan because of it's sound Constitution which provides space for all shades of opinion to express and florish now compare with Pakistan we started as two nations but as on date Pakistan was further subdivided into two nation and in India after independance many new states were added such as Goa, Pondicherry, Sikkim ,Hyderabad etc. whereas Pakistan half of its history was under dictatorship and now it is facing internal crises with people getting killed by own people and its leaders always in denial mode whether it is cricket or Mumbai attack and then they have to eat humble pie. So instead of being obsessed with Kashmir why not look inwards see what is problem with Pakistan.for my thoughts on Kashmir visit my blog address :http://ashokachkan.blogspot.com/