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Right To Self-determination,
A Key To Kashmir Solution

By Syed Ali Safvi

24 February, 2007

The solution of Kashmir imbroglio is accessible provided all parties are committed to resolve the dispute. Both New Delhi and Islamabad have been doing a lot in this regard but their efforts have not yielded concrete results. The last few years have witnessed a tremendous improvement in the relationship between the two nations. However, when Kashmir, which is a bone of contention between India and Pakistan, comes for discussion the atmosphere of hope turns into despair and both the countries are unable to come to a joint agreement. Both the nations must know that the good relations will last long only when the made-complex issue of Kashmir is resolved, otherwise such Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) will turn out to be fruitless only.

India and Pakistan are so allergic to each other that they are not going to accept any solution proposed by either of the two. The reason is that the leaders of the two countries don't trust each other and the history too does not augur well for them. Musharraf's proposals of 'demilitarization' and 'self-rule' was turned down by India without considering them worthy of giving a serious thought. In such a hostile and hopeless situation, the solution of Kashmir crises looks very much elusive. It is very pathetic on part of the Indian leaders not to come up with any proposal. If they don't like the proposal put forth by Musharraf why they don't then come up with their own proposal? This clearly shows how "serious" and "committed" they are to resolve the impending dispute over Kashmir. You cannot castigate others and yourself remain silent at the same time. Either you have to accept the proposals or come up with one.
The history bears testimony to the fact that India and Pakistan can't reach any solution and the measures they take are only to make an impression in the international stage that Kashmir is being 'seriously' discussed. In fact, both the countries are merely killing time and the status quo will mean that Kashmir crises will continue unabated.

Pragmatically, there seems to be only one way out to put an end to nearly 60 years of mayhem in Kashmir: free and impartial plebiscite under the aegis of the United Nation as per the UN Resolution, with the inclusion of a third option, Independence, just to update the 'old' Resolution. Let the people of Kashmir decide about their future. The UN Resolution can peacefully and permanently solve the Kashmir dispute. After all, it was responsible to permanently solve the dispute in South Africa and Angola. Ironically, one of the largest democracies in the world, India, has refrained from granting the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir, which happens to be their democratic right.

The referendum should be held in two different phases:

Phase one: Independence or Union

Phase two: Union with India or Pakistan

(The second phase will come in effect only when the majority of the Kashmir population vote against Independence in the first phase).

Here are various measures which need to be taken to ensure free and impartial plebiscite:

i) Complete cease-fire: The two countries should announce the complete cease-fire along the Line of Control (LOC) to ensure that there is no untoward incident. The government of Pakistan should take militants into confidence. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq once said in an interview that Hurriyat can convince militants on cease-fire and if Hurriyat can do that then I believe Pakistan government should not find it an impossible task.

ii) Demilitarization: After the cease-fire is ensured, India should call back its troops from Indian Administered Kashmir (IAK) and, simultaneously, Pakistan, too, should follow the suit by calling back its troops from Pakistan Adminis-tered Kashmir (PAK).

iii) Post Demilitarization: After the demilitarization, the UN security forces should occupy both sides of the divided Kashmir. The UN can ask for reinforcement from any member country (of course, except from India and Pakistan) to maintain law and order in the erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir and pave the way for an impartial and peaceful plebiscite. The observers of the United Nation should remain in Kashmir and should keep a close vigil on the scheme of things, and when the situation becomes conducive, the observers should go for referendum. Since, people of Kashmir do not want the solution of Kashmir on ethnic or religious basis, therefore, the Pandits who left Kashmir in one of the most unfortunate incident in the history of Kashmir (which of course was a handy work of the then Governor of J&K, Jagmohan), should be called back as an integral part of Kashmir's culture and identity, they too would decide the future of Kashmir along with their Muslim brethren.

The referendum, as already stated, should be held in two phases:

First Phase: - In the first phase people of Kashmir would vote between independence or Union. The referendum would be held under the aegis of the United Nations and one representative each from India and Pakistan would monitor the democratic exercise. If the people of Kashmir vote for the Union, then second phase of voting becomes inevitable.

Second Phase: - In the second phase of voting, people of Kashmir would choose between Union with India and Union with Pakistan. Their 'will' must only decide with which country they want to associate their future.

However, both the countries should respect the consequences of the electoral verdict without being egoistical. If Kashmir decides to accede to Pakistan then Jammu and Ladakh will, by default, go to India and in case the Kashmiris favour India, even in that case Jammu and Ladakh will remain a part of India because there is apparently no dispute over Jammu or Ladakh between India and Pakistan.

Therefore, there is no denying the fact that unlike the common belief, Kashmir can survive as an independent entity. If the people of Kashmir decide to be Independent, both India and Pakistan have to guarantee its Independence. For a start, Kashmir would not have its own currency but the currency of both India and Pakistan would be accepted as legal tender money. Kashmir, as an independent state, would have a free trade with both India and Pakistan and both the countries would invest in its economy. It is an admitted fact that only fruit and tourism industry, if properly managed, are enough to keep the economy of Kashmir afloat.

However, the onus is on the United Nation to finally show its existence and play the role to resolve the Kashmir dispute. In the world of globalization no country would like to be engaged in war or constant dispute. Similar is the case with India and Pakistan.

Now, this is the high time for both New Delhi and Islamabad to show flexibility and see the Kashmir imbroglio from a pure humanistic point of view instead of perceiving it from the nationalism angle. As things are going nobody can rule out the possibility of yet another full fledged war between the two estranged neighbors of Asia. Since, both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers and if the war breaks out then the whole South Asia will face a disaster. Let the recent warmth at Havana last so that the situation takes a healthy turn. Hope we see a better tomorrow.

(The author can be reached at


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