Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Kashmir issue - Let’s get the facts straight, by Kamran Siddiqui

The Kashmir issue is once again bringing Pakistan and India close to another armed conflict. The consequences of such conflict this time however, could be far more devastating for both countries than previous. The issue is alive for 68 years and there are still no signs of a peaceful settlement. While the public sentiments are high in both countries, the primary problem on Pakistan side is that these emotions are mostly built on biased history. Hence, it is critically important to get the facts straight because the recognition of factual grounds certainly help in looking at this problem from a rational perspective that will most likely help in reaching an appropriate solution. I have used a Q&A approach to elucidate the facts.
Question: Does Pakistan have a legal claim on the State of Kashmir?
Answer: No. Legally, the entire State of Kashmir is part of India. This right was awarded according to the Instrument of Accession signed by the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, on October 26, 1947. Maharaja of Kashmir used his right as per Indian Independence Act 1947, which gave him authority of accede to either India or Pakistan. If the plebiscite is held in Kashmir and the decision is in Pakistan’s favor only then Pakistan has a legal claim on Kashmir.
Question: Did Maharaja of Kashmir made up his mind to join India at the time of partition?
Answer: No, the Maharaja of Kashmir had not reached a decision whether to join Pakistan or India by the time of partition and hence wanted to sign Standstill Agreements with both Pakistan and India i.e. buying more time to reach a decision. Pakistan agreed on the Standstill agreement while India invited a representative of Kashmiri government for negotiations. Instead of negotiating a better deal with Maharaja, the Pakistani government decided a military invasion of Kashmir. However, after the refusal from the British commander in chief as it violates the Indian Independence Act, Pakistani government covertly supported Pathan tribal militias to enter Kashmir and start fighting. Maharaja appealed to India to send troops but India declined this request since Kashmir was not part of India. Then Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession to officially join India. India then sent its troops to fight tribal militias. Thus, the illegal intrusion by Pakistan forced Maharaja to reach a decision in favor of India.
Question: Why Pakistan not able to force India to conduct plebiscite in Kashmir as per UN Security Council resolution of April 21, 1948?
Answer: Because Pakistan itself has not demonstrated its sincerity to act according to this UN resolution. Unfortunately, those Pakistanis who strongly belief that UN resolution must be enforced most likely have not read the content of the resolution. The first action item of this resolution is the withdrawal of Pakistani troops and militias from Kashmir. It other words, the primary requirement to arrange plebiscite is the withdrawal of Pakistani forces/militias from the entire Kashmir valley under Pakistani control including Gilgit and Bultistan. India was allowed to keep its forces in the entire Kashmir state but in reduced numbers primarily to maintain the law and order. Has Pakistan ever showed its willingness to fulfill condition on its part, over the last 67 years? When Pakistan never fulfilled the first condition, how can it force India to fulfill the plebiscite condition (seventh action item in the resolution)?  
Despite its weak legal position, Pakistan had some grounds to make its case for Kashmir. One argument was based on Pakistan’s ideological claim that it was created for Indian Muslims and comprised of all Muslim majority provinces in India. Since Kashmir is also a Muslim majority state, it naturally belongs to Pakistan. While this argument had logical basis, Pakistan had lost this argument after the separation of East Pakistan. The other argument was based on Pakistan’s dependency on water resources from Kashmir for its economic survival. However, history has witnessed that over last 68 years, the economy of Pakistan was not hampered due to the Indian control on these resources, along with the strained relations with India. This leads to a logical conclusion that as long as Pakistan gets its due share of water resources as per Indus water treaty, it can survive without Kashmir.
As the above facts and arguments show, at present the position of Pakistan on Kashmir issue is much weaker than what Pakistani people think. Therefore, it is time for the people of Pakistan to take these facts into consideration and think realistically whether it is wise for their country to put everything on stake for this issue and continue pouring a big portion of its financial resources via defense budget, which otherwise can be spent on their well being. It might be much better for both countries to make the line of control the permanent international border and ease the movement of Kashmiri people across it, improve bilateral relations, reduce defense spending and strengthen the economic cooperation.   
Kamran Siddiqui is a Professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.

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