Friday, 30 May 2008

The Kashmir Dispute: What might happen?

The Kashmir Dispute: What might happen?

Shabir Choudhry

Once again the Kashmir issue has become a focus of attention on international level. It is the success of the Kashmiri struggle that the issue is on the international political agenda. People in political and diplomatic circles seriously think that the issue has to be resolved if there is going to be any chance of peace and stability in that area.

India's claim on Kashmir is unrealistic and absurd to say the least. India claimed Kashmir on the basis of Maharaja's accession, which later proved to be illegal, and according to new claim by Professor Alaister Lamb, never existed; and the Indian Government forged the so called 'accession'. Whatever the legal status of the 'accession' it was 'provisional', and it had to be ratified by the Kashmiri people in fair and democratically held plebiscite.

India, Pakistan and the world community accepted the disputed nature of the Kashmir in the UN; and both India and Pakistan agreed that the Kashmiri people in a UN supervised plebiscite would determine the 'future status' of the Kashmir. The actual words used in the first Security Council's Resolution (13 August 1948) were the 'future status', apart from accession to either of the 'contesting countries', this can also mean an independent Kashmir, as it was confirmed by the UN later. This Resolution was accepted by India and Pakistan, but never implemented. Perhaps it was never accepted with the intention of implementing it.

On the request of Pakistan, in the second Resolution (5 January 1949) the words 'future status' were replaced with the 'accession' of the state with either India or Pakistan. Thus, from then onwards, the Kashmir dispute appeared to the world as a 'territorial dispute' between the two countries. Although the Kashmir Issue was not seen in its true perspective by the world community, as both India and Pakistan presented the case which suited best to their national interests, and Kashmiris were not allowed to present their own case; nevertheless both agreed that the state of Kashmir was disputed and that the people should decide its future.

In mid 1950s, when there was some stability that was needed to hold plebiscite, India changed her position on Kashmir and claimed that Kashmir was 'integral' part of India. The excuse India made was that since the government of Pakistan has entered in to treaties (SEATO and CENTO) with the United States and acquired some weapons the situation has now changed. It was completely illogical excuse. Purchasing of arms and defense treaties had nothing to do with the promise made to the Kashmiri people - and that was to allow them to determine their own future in completely impartial plebiscite.

India claimed that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly ratified the 'provisional accession'. This Assembly which ratified the 'accession' had 75 members and 73 of them were 'elected' unopposed, not because they were popular but because their opponents were not allowed to contest the elections. In any event the Security Council in a Resolution of 1957 clearly stated that this Assembly could not decide the future of the State as the (so called) Assembly's decision could not substitute an impartial plebiscite.

Throughout 1950s, India maintained that Kashmir was her 'integral part', and that the 'accession was final and irrevocable'. But the same Indian government, after the war with China, had six rounds of talks with Pakistan to find the final settlement of the Kashmir dispute. During these long parleys which stretched over from 1962 to 1963, the Indian delegation was headed by Sardar Swaran Singh and the Pakistani delegation was headed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The talks failed because both countries could not agree who should get what if Kashmir was to be divided between India and Pakistan. Once again the main party to the dispute, the Kashmiri people were not even consulted, never mind being part of the negotiations. Available evidence suggest that India was prepared to make some compromises on the territory under her occupation which she called her 'integral part' before the start of these parleys. This clearly tells that India believes that Kashmir is not her 'integral part', and that is to say legal and constitutional part. It also demonstrated that the final settlement on Kashmir is yet to be reached.

Important question which deserves serious consideration is that no country can promise to hold a plebiscite on its own territory to decide the future status of that area, if that country knows that the area concerned is its legal and constitutional part; or enters in to negotiations with a neighboring country to decide who will get what. Since India knew that Kashmir was not her legal and constitutional part, therefore, she was prepared to hold a plebiscite. When it was realised that the proposed plebiscite might not get the desired results, India rejected the idea of plebiscite and claimed Kashmir to be her 'integral part'. Later on when India realised that the Kashmiri people and the world community does not accept this so called 'accession' and 'ratification', then she decided to hold parleys with Pakistan to get whatever was possible to settle the Kashmir dispute.

Kashmir was again under discussion between the two contestants in Tashkent and Simla. All this is evidence that Kashmir is not integral part of any country; and that there could be no permanent settlement of the dispute until the Kashmiri people are taken in to confidence. Both India and Pakistan can only make temporary arrangements and the Kashmiri people DO NOT have to accept these arrangements as they have done in the past.

The Kashmiri people have given a very clear message to both India and Pakistan that they could not be allowed to play about with our future. Whatever may be the future status of Kashmir, the decision must be made by the people concerned. India and Pakistan and their puppets must not be allowed to decide the destiny of 13 million people.

It is understandable why both countries want either whole or retain a part of Kashmir, but it must be made clear to them that whatever their designs on Kashmir, the people will not like any decision imposed on them. Out of three widely talked about options about the future of Kashmir, accession to India is practically out, as people have seen the true face of Indian 'secularism', and have taken arms against Indian imperialist regime; and that practically leaves people with two options namely accession to Pakistan and an independent Kashmir. The latter option is increasingly becoming more popular in both parts of Kashmir. It is also practical and possibly acceptable to all parties to the dispute.

The concept of an independent Kashmir is not recent development, as some people like to say to confuse the people. Even people like Mohammed Ali Jinnah (Qaaid e Azam) and KH Khurshid supported the idea. Many people, especially the academics know, that the State of Jammu And Kashmir was independent between 15 August 1947 and 26 October 1947. From all logical, practical, ideological and for Kashmiri identity purposes, independent Kashmir is the only solution and it has widespread support, especially in the Valley. But if there has to be any other solution, the decision should be taken by the people of Kashmir, not imposed by a third party

The Kashmiri political parties, hitherto, have been unanimous about any kind of division of Kashmir. They all regard Kashmir as a one political entity and they insist that it should remain one. Whether Kashmir's future is linked with another country with some kind of accession or it REGAINS its independence, the State must remain as one entity. All the Kashmiri parties should work for this common objective despite their different ideological stands and political interests.

To achieve this objective, there must be a united platform of all Kashmiri parties. We took the initiative and called all the Kashmir political parties to form ALL Parties Kashmir (Demo)Committee. This meeting had a single item agenda: to have a big demonstration against India on her Independence Day. It was unfortunate to note that even on this occasion Amanullah Khan group of JKLF boycotted it. They refused to attend any meetings held to finalise this huge task of getting all the parties together and make arrangements for a big demonstration. And not only that, they by a press release announced their abstention. Anyhow all the parties, except Amanullah group of JKLF, participated in the demonstration, and it proved to be one of the most successful Kashmiri demonstration ever held against India in Britain.

Nevertheless it did show that the Kashmiri leadership cannot even unite on a simple issue like holding a demonstration. It must be noted that instructions to boycott the All Parties Kashmir (Demo) Committee came from Amanullah Khan himself. The main reason for this was his animosity to other JKLF group headed by Mohammed Younis and Shabir Choudhry who refused to accept his Stalinist approach in running the affairs of the party; and these people were the main characters behind the Demo committee. It is hoped that a new alliance of Kashmiri parties would be formed soon in England to work here more effectively and efficiently. It is also hoped that the Kashmiri parties in Azad Kashmir and in the Indian held Kashmir would also work out alliances in order to strengthen the freedom movement.

It must be realised that our first priority and loyalty should be with the cause of independence. Individuals, irrespective of intelligence and greatness, come and go. We must, therefore, be loyal to our cause, to our people and the movement; not individuals who for personal gains, megalomania or monomania can betray the cause and the movement. The Kashmiri people have been victims of this betrayal and cannot afford to have another Sheikh Abdullah in the movement. It is imperative to develop a common strategy with a collective leadership to lead the nation to its ultimate destination of independence.

It must be noted that many theories which could possibly provide solution to the Kashmir dispute have been floated. Not all of these theories fulfill our national aspirations. As expressed above the Kashmiri people are not interested in any plan that divides their homeland. The State is one political entity, and it must remain so. The people have not given these sacrifices for the division of Kashmir. The aim of this struggle is to unite the State of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed on 15 August 1947, and then decide what option best serves the interests of the Kashmiri people.

One widely talked about theory is that Kashmir should be divided not exactly on communal lines, but making this the criterion when deciding the share of India. It is proposed that all the non-Muslim areas of the State should go to India, and the Muslim areas currently under the Indian occupation should get some kind of independence. Pakistan, for her share, should get Gilgit and Baltistan, strategically very important area, and Azad Kashmir should also be joined with the other independent part of Kashmir. But this plan is strongly contested by powerful political figures in the Azad Kashmiri politics, as they fear that if Azad Kashmir becomes part of a bigger independent Kashmir, they would lose their political position. They will never be in a position to dominate politics as they have done in Azad Kashmir for the past four decades.

This makes people think that separate arrangements might have to be made for Azad Kashmir. This probably means that Azad Kashmir might retain her present position with some kind of constitutional arrangements with Pakistan. Does that mean there is a possibility of not one but two independent or semi independent states? This scenario is dreadful to say the least. We Kashmiri people will not accept balkanization of our motherland. We cannot allow individuals, groups or foreign parities to impose a partition on the Kashmiri people.

This brings to my last point. The division of Kashmir, in any shape or form, is not what the Kashmiri people want. But the question is what are we doing to avoid this. We have to consider very carefully the role of people in Azad Kashmir and other constituent parts of the state of Kashmir. If we are sincere in what we say about Kashmir being one political entity, about indivisibility of Kashmir and about Kashmiri people's right of self determination, then we have to show that we mean it.

At present, the actual struggle is going on in a small area, with other constituent parts of the State are not doing what is expected of them. It is their national duty to join the struggle for national emancipation. In Azad Kashmir, people are either busy with their businesses, paying little or no attention to what is going on in the Indian occupied Kashmir; or they are busy enhancing their groups or themselves by showing their association with those people who are fighting the Indian army of occupation. It is increasingly becoming clear that these politicians who boost their personal standing on the sacrifices offered by the people in the occupied areas, have little or no control over what goes on over there. But these people are by nature politicians and opportunists, and they pretend that they have control over the freedom movement in the occupied Kashmir. This is not true. Some of these leaders may not get elected in local council elections never mind leading the national movement or having control over the Kashmiri masses.

It is imperative that the other constituent parts of the State play their due role, and if they are unable to do this, for what ever reason, then they have no right to claim or even endeavor to dictate to those people who are in the field fighting forces of occupation. The leaders in Azad Kashmir cannot justifiably claim to represent those who, despite all the odds, are fighting very bravely. We cannot and must not, because of our inadequacies and petty interests, increase their misery, leave them in lurch or hold their progress towards independence.

Shabir Choudhry
General Secretary
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front

No comments: