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[act] A way out of Kashmir quagmire

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    July 1, 1999 FYI (South Asia Citizens Web) ====================== The Hindu Thursday, July 01, 1999 Op-Ed. A way out of Kashmir quagmire By S. P. Udayakumar
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 30, 1999
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      July 1, 1999
      (South Asia Citizens Web)

      The Hindu
      Thursday, July 01, 1999

      A way out of Kashmir quagmire
      By S. P. Udayakumar

      There is no dearth of patriotic fervour, nationalistic rhetoric, strategic
      analysis, and mindless moralism on Kashmir, but one can hardly find any
      concrete proposals to get out of this quagmire that has sapped the
      resources, energies and vitality of not just India and Pakistan but of the
      entire South Asia.

      Some of the probable solutions may include either of the countries having
      Kashmir, or both not having it, or both having parts of it, or both having
      the whole of it. Neither India nor Pakistan would even think of letting the
      other have Kashmir completely. If one of them were to do that, we would not
      have this conflict at all.

      If Kashmiri Muslims do not want to be with predominant 'Hindu India,'
      would Kashmiri Hindus want to be with overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistan?Can
      all the Kashmiris together form a country of their own? Although there are
      several pro-Pakistan groups among the Kashmir rebels and they enjoy
      enormous support among Pakistanis, there are also powerful groups who
      demand reunification of Kashmir and complete independence from both India
      and Pakistan. If only India and Pakistan agreed to this!
      The other option of both countries having parts of Kashmir has not worked.
      India has controlled two thirds of Kashmir as the state of Jammu and
      Kashmir, and Pakistan the remaining one third of it as Azad Kashmir (after
      acceding Shaksgam and a few other pockets of land to China which also
      controls Aksai Chin area). This unofficial division along the `Line of
      Control' has always been considered by both India and Pakistan as some kind
      of an interim arrangement before they acquire complete control over the
      whole of Kashmir. Kargil episode demonstrates all this amply well.
      It leaves us then with only one option: both India and Pakistan having the
      whole of Kashmir. One may wonder how on earth is that possible for the two
      age-old archenemies who are caught up in a nasty bigotry.

      How can they together administer peace and justice to the Kashmiris?
      One may argue that religious antagonism, communal mistrust, social myths,
      historical traumas, and military scars may not be conducive to this
      arrangement anyway.
      But then South Asians are in a situation to choose between swimming
      together or sinking together. With population bomb, massive poverty,
      illiteracy, ill health, unemployment, and nuclear catastrophe hanging over
      their heads, they have to choose between a more dignified human life and a
      humiliating sub-human existence.

      As the first step, both the Indian and Pakistani elites should come to
      grips with the reality that they may not have the whole of Kashmir for
      themselves ever.Instead of concentrating on the strategic, political,
      historical and cartographic anxieties from their viewpoints, the elites
      should open up the arena for popular discussions. It is high time we
      expanded the Kashmir debate to involve various actors of the Indian and
      Pakistani civil societies and eradicated the practice of branding people as
      `unpatriotic' or persecuting them for their personal stand on Kashmir.

      When the ``ordinary citizens'' of India and Pakistan begin to debate
      openly and freely, that will free up our political creativity and enhance
      our ability to find an amicable settlement for the issue.
      India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh should undertake a bold Constitutional
      reform program, give greater autonomy to all of their provinces and retain
      only some key areas such as defence, foreign affairs, currency matters,
      environmental policy and so forth for the federal governments in New Delhi,
      Islamabad and Dhaka. There are many ways for India and Pakistan to have the
      whole of Kashmir. Joint administration of the reunified Kashmir, or each
      country administering specific departments in the reunified Kashmir's
      government, or divided administration that is area-specific,
      period-specific, duration-specific and so forth.

      However, the most practical way would be India's and Pakistan's
      area-specific administration of Jammu and Kashmir and Azad Kashmir that are
      coupled together in a broader framework. As Kashmiris of both Jammu and
      Kashmir and Azad Kashmir manage their own affairs jointly under the new
      Constitutional reform programme, India and Pakistan can hold on to the
      portions they have right now for administering defence, foreign affairs,
      and other federal responsibilities in close consultation with each other.

      This Kashmir boolean is only a larger and bolder extension of other
      booleans that have existed for the past 52 years such as sharing river
      waters, visits to religious shrines, Rabindranath Tagore (writing the
      anthems of India and Bangladesh) and so forth. Make Kashmir the
      Subcontinent's Antarctica. Having tried two Punjabs and two Bengals rather
      effectively, why not try a two-in-one Kashmir now. The area that has kept
      us all divided and poor can be made into the stepping stone for a new
      beginning for friendship, dignity and development.

      The 26 states and six union territories of India, the four provinces, Azad
      Kashmir, 'tribal areas' and federally administered areas of Pakistan, and
      the five divisions of Bangladesh can create a loose regional confederation
      of ``Union of Subcontinental States'' with economic cooperation, free
      travel, educational and cultural exchanges and other such confidence
      building and development enhancing measures.

      All this may sound very idealistic or even naive. But then ending the cold
      war, abolishing apartheid, or bringing the Israeli Jews and Palestinians
      together all sounded naive and idealistic not too long ago.

      (The writer is Research Associate and Co-Director of Programmes at the
      Institute on Race and Poverty, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.)


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