[act] A way out of Kashmir quagmire
- July 1, 1999
(South Asia Citizens Web)
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
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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