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Entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is disputed

Dr Shabir Choudhry

Before we can make any progress on Kashmir we need to understand what is the Kashmir dispute, as different people have different definitions of the Kashmir dispute. Also we want to define what we mean by Kashmir.

When we refer to Kashmir we mean the State f Jammu and Kashmir, as it existed on 14th August 1947; and the entire state, in our view, is disputed which includes areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, the Valley, Jammu and Ladakh.

Kashmir dispute, whether you call it India and Pakistan problem or give it any other name, is essentially related to national identity and future of people of Jammu and Kashmir. To make it further clear it is an issue of right of self – determination, which is our birthright and doesn’t have to be granted by anyone.

United Nations is supposed to be guardian of human rights. It is there to protect and promote human rights and that includes fundamental right of self - determination, from where all other political, social, economic and cultural rights emanate.

It is unfortunate that we Kashmiris never had an opportunity to present our case to the UN. India and Pakistan presented their case on Kashmir in the UN, not to protect and advance interest of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, but to protect and promote their national interest, which was in conflict to the national interest of people of Jammu and Kashmir.

It was on the floor of the UN where we lost our right of self – determination, and in its place we were given a right of accession wrapped as self – determination. Many Kashmiris were persuaded to buy that as it was presented to them, but thinking Kashmiris were able to distinguish the difference between the two and rejected it.

It is a long and complicated story why the UN could not even get its own resolutions implemented and give people of Jammu and Kashmir right of accession. Ok, we understand these resolutions were passed under chapter six and therefore they could not be implemented by force, as it was the case with certain other resolutions passed under chapter seven.

But fact however remains that it was government of Pakistan that first refused to withdraw its armed personnel from the areas of the state occupied by Pakistan. A complete Pakistani withdrawal in accordance with the UNCIP resolution of August 1948, had to be followed by a withdrawal of ‘bulk’ of Indian forces and subsequent plebiscite where the people of Jammu and Kashmir had to decide whether they wanted to become Pakistanis or Indians.

That never happened and later on Kashmir became a part of the ‘Cold War’ politics, and that provided India an opportunity to change its stance on Kashmir. They started calling Kashmir its ‘integral part’, even though the accession to India was ‘provisional’ and had to be ratified by the people in a referendum.

The slogans of ‘integral part’, and ‘sha rag’, meaning a jugular vein dominated and controlled politics of Jammu and Kashmir, and to large extent politics of India and Pakistan.

It is not possible to give all the details regarding the Kashmir dispute here. Fact however is that it has been a bone of contention between the two countries since 1947, and has been the major source of tension and instability in the region. There have been many attempts to resolve it through bilateral talks, wars, armed struggle, proxy war and international covert or overt involvement, but to date there is no breakthrough.

In my view, after the involvement of the UN, Baroness Emma Nicholson and the EU took first major international initiative on Kashmir, which culminated in the form of that report on Kashmir that is still known as Emma Nicholson report, even though the EU Parliament with thumping majority passed it. That report by no means is perfect, and I hope its author will also agree with this. But it does provide us some new bases to consider the Kashmir dispute in new and much changed world when UNCIP resolutions were passed in late 1940s.

It is true that the EU is not the UN. Both institutions have different mandate and different roles. But with time role and influence of the EU is increasing. The EU has its own experience, strength and influence, and can help us to promote culture of peace, dialogue and mutual coexistence.

If we are sincere to resolve the Kashmir dispute and have peace and stability in the region, and yet are unable to make the desired progress, then we should not shy away from seeking outside help and advice, be it direct or indirect.

Both governments and Kashmiri leaders claim that they are sincere in resolving the Kashmir dispute. They also claim that they are well-wishers of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Let actions speak louder than words. Anyone can claim to be your friend, but as thinking people and people with future at stake, we need to see who is our real friend and who is pretending to be our friend. The criterion for this is very simple to analyse this friendship.

Kashmir dispute, as we understand, is a political one. It relates to nations right to determine its future without any restriction imposed on them. Those who have transformed the dispute to a religious one cannot be our friends, as it has created new problems for us and have paved way for division of the State on religious lines.

Those who brought Jihadi warriors from various parts of the world, in my view, are not our friends as the Jihadi culture brought extremism and hatred, and that changed fundamental character of our struggle; and made it part of Islamic fundamentalism whatever that means in the context of the world today.

We also need to consider view of those who advocate that Kashmir is an issue of economic development. Yes, like any other society and nation we also want economic development, but the Kashmir dispute in reality is not an economic issue.

Economic development comes as a result of investment, be it domestic investment or external; and investors WILL NOT investment in an area where there is political instability, armed conflict or a civil war. Political stability with proper planning brings investment and economic development.

So it is not complicated like egg and chicken situation - which came first, we know there has to be political stability first before we can embark on economic development. I am sure if Kashmiris are masters of their own destiny, and if Kashmiri economists plan with a Kashmiri interest in mind, they can within a few years make Kashmir economically stable.

I understand both India and Pakistan, rightly or wrongly, have vested interest in Kashmir, and some sections of the Kashmiri community have also become part of this vested interest. It is believed that the biggest hurdle in the way of peace and resolution of the Kashmir dispute is this vested interest. To some the Kashmir dispute has become a lucrative business, and this entrepreneurial thinking and approach must change if we are to make any progress in resolving the Kashmir dispute.

Also if we are to make any progress then we, people of Jammu and Kashmir, have to think as Kashmiris, and protect and promote a Kashmiri interest. We should not become foot soldiers of India and Pakistan. Let India and Pakistan defend their national interests and let us defend our interest, our identity and our future. I end with this quote of Khalil Gibran:

“Pity on a nation which is divided into number of groups and each group calls itself the nation”.

Dr Shabir Choudhry "lt may be in your interest to be our masters, but how can it be ours to be your slaves ? "

(The Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director, Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He can be reached at: drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com)



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