Because there always is a third side!
“According to Kashmiris, the dispute can be resolved only through trilateral talks between India, Pakistan and Kashmir,” said Mir Suhail while defining Pakistan’s role
The chronicle of Kashmir dispute dates back to 1947 with the newly demarcated dominions of India and Pakistan claiming the region in its entirety. Whatever happened back then –Prime Minister Ram Chandra Kak’s dismissal at the hands of Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh, the Muslim League’s ostensible failure to provide an apt definition of ‘state’ on the basis of which territories were being laid claim to, and the fighting of two of three wars on this dispute over local autonomy of this stretch of land – the re-emergence of most recent uprisings can be tagged by the killing of a popular rebel commander hailing from Hizbul Mujahideen, Burhan Wani, with the year 2017 being labelled as “the year of the student uprising”.
Going by the rule of dealing with the latest events first, the Jammu and Kashmir government on 26th of this month ordered banning of internet services and suspension of social networking websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat and Pinterest, for a month in the whole valley. These atrocities, along with previously reported incidents of fatal casualties, rapes, torture, and enforced disappearances are mere manifestations of the seeds of hatred that were sown back in 1947 and re-cultivated in 1989, the year wherein formation of militant wings and the onset of mujahideen insurgency in Kashmir. The darkest shades of reality lie, in actuality in the past and the prospective future possibilities.
Much has been written on the Maharaja’s indecisive strategy regarding Kashmir’s accession and the eventual signing of the Instrument of Accession in contexts of one side and its flipside, much less of it is related to the rimmed edge which is equally deplored by both the parties and, therefore, seems to be a narrative way closer to reality than any of the two are. The Indian Independence Act of 1947 accorded the leftover princely states to choose whether to join India or Pakistan… or to remain independent. The attainment of Jammu and Kashmir, the largest of the princely states, was more a matter of prestige and national integrity for both the countries than an issue of hearing the voices of its denizens. The Pakistani version portrays the Maharaja as a devilish figure who acquiesced on behalf of the Muslim-majority population to join the Dominion of India, while the Indian version accuses Pakistan of encouraging local Muslims to an armed revolt that eventually led to the first war between the two countries shortly after partition.
The relatively less acknowledged section of the chapter is the Governor General of India Lord Mountbatten’s flight to Lahore in November 1947 to confer with his counterpart in Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, over the given and related disputes. It was proposed by the former to decide the accession by “an impartial reference to the will of the people” in all the princely states, which would have then included Hyderabad and Junagadh along with Kashmir, where the ruler did not comply with the choice of the majority population. Abdul Ghafoor Noorani, a leading constitutional expert and political commentator from India, writes in his book, The Kashmir Dispute, 1947-2012, that Jinnah squandered this offer, claiming that India had acquired the accession of Kashmir through “fraud and violence” owing to which a plebiscite in the given scenario was totally needless. Worried of losing the plebiscite, Jinnah also turned down another recommendation of Mountbatten to conduct it under the supervision of the United Nations.
Despite several internal concerns and resistances on both sides of the Radcliffe Line, UN mediation was invited, following which the UN Security Council passed Resolution 47 whereby it called for: an immediate cease-fire; withdrawal of Pakistani nationals and tribesman not residents of the state of Jammu and Kashmir; reduction of Indian forces to minimum strength in order to maintain civil order. The document, like its predecessors and successors, was rendered ineffective owing to differences over interpretation of the extent of and the procedure for demilitarisation. Even the Dixon Plan, the postulates of which are regarded to be the closest to resolving the dispute, was subjected to such rebuffing that after a certain point Dixon lost patience and declared failure by admitting that India would not agree to provisions governing the plebiscite that guard against influence and abuse ensuring a free and fair plebiscite. It is pertinent to mention here that Sir Owen Dixon’s recommendations and Jawaharlal Nehru’s partition-cum-plebiscite plan had suggested of giving Jammu and Ladakh to India, Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas to Pakistan, and holding a plebiscite in the Kashmir Valley, declaring a state-wide plebiscite “impossible”.
67 years after the Dixon Plan, the three stakeholders are still stuck as from where to initiate the extrication from permanent engagement in the conflict. 70 years after partition, the three entities are still standing firm on their respective stances: The Indian claim on Kashmir as a state, Pakistan’s narrative of highlighting the demographics, and Kashmir’s stance of being awarded the right to self-determination and, eventually, independence.
The foreign office of Pakistan has incessantly reiterated that Pakistan does want plebiscite in Indian-held Kashmir but only after the region is demilitarised. “We believe that this exercise under the clouds of occupation would just be a farce like the sham elections,” stated a source from the FO on condition of anonymity.
India calls for the implementation of the Simla Agreement of 1972 to solve the issue by settling the “differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations” as Pakistan had then agreed to comply with the covenant following which the UNSC resolutions are no more applicable.
Naseem Zehra, an illustrious Pakistani writer and journalist’s opinion, Pakistan, on the contrary stands firm on its stance to act in accordance with the Resolution 47 owing to its precedence to the Simla Agreement.
“The fact that the Simla Accord categorically read to uphold the stated positions of both the countries refutes India’s stance on absolute reliance on bilateral talks,” she said. “There is no denying the truth that Pakistan’s stated position at that time and even now is to resolve the Kashmir dispute in line with the UNSC resolutions because it straightforwardly asks for the right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir and which, by every length and measure, is Pakistan’s national narrative regarding the dispute.”
A renowned Indian journalist, Vishva Gaurav, associated with the Times of Indiagroup, eyes the recent wave of insurgency as a result of incitation by external factors: “The people of Kashmir are not in the favour of yet another partition but are being provoked by foreign funded separatists to chant anti-India slogans. These separatists portray India as a Hindu state despite the axiomatic presence of more Muslims in India than there are in Pakistan.”
Nonetheless, Gaurav acknowledged the anti-war sentiments among the masses by saying, “Pakistanis and Indians want nothing else but peace to prevail. However, it is the dirty game of vote-bank politics in both the countries that causes unrest and instability.”
As mentioned earlier, there is a third dimension as well, which cannot be understood without realising the slight difference between plebiscite and self-determination that in actuality forms the basis of the entire conflict. While being treated as a single entity, the region was declared to be indecisive about its associations and accessions. When autopsied, however, the regions of Ladakh and Jammu were proposed to be glued with India on the grounds of its majority’s inclination and the same rule to be applied for Pakistan on the awarding of Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas. The proposed plebiscite to be conducted in the Kashmir valley thus implies that an opportunity was being given to the valley’s denizens to choose between India and Pakistan. And this is what plebiscite precisely is all about.
How a plebiscite is different from self-determination in its true sense was answered by Mir Suhail, a journalist hailing from Kashmir. “The whole Indian media is misguiding the Kashmir cause,” he emphasised. “Being a writer, I want to say frankly that our heart bleeds with Pakistan but we want to live independently.”
This is the right to self-determination in its essence – a cardinal principle of human rights law binding as such on the United Nations and through which individuals, based on equality of opportunity, have a collective right tofreely determine their international political status and sovereignty and to freely pure economic, social and cultural determination. By virtue of this statement, Kashmiris should be granted the right to choose between staying with India or egressing as an independent country.Then where does Pakistan stand with its state narratives and foreign policies towards India?
“According to Kashmiris, the dispute can be resolved only through trilateral talks between India, Pakistan and Kashmir,” said Mir Suhail while defining Pakistan’s role.
“Pakistan’s claim on Kashmir, unlike India, is not territorial and is, in fact, honest advocacy of the right to self-determination being demanded by Kashmiris. The cause received adequate spotlight post-1989 insurgency and the Kargil War, but has gained even more prominence after Indian atrocities and manifestations of brutalities in the form of Burhan Wani’s assassination and the use of pellet guns on innocent and harmless Kashmiris,” expounded Naseem Zehra.
However, Salim Bokhari, a veteran Pakistani journalist, unravels a totally different perspective to deal with the allegedly unwanted and controversial role of Pakistan in the conflict: “By limiting the Kashmir cause to merely acquiring independence the incontrovertible role of Pakistan and the say of Kashmir’s public is being constantly undermined and challenged by the new lot of journalists and activists in the valley who have been implanted with a pre-fixed mindset.” He also spotlit Pakistan’s failure to strengthen its diplomatic activism by saying “Jawaharlal Nehru had himself called the territory disputed and the issue unfinished as demarcation could not be completed owing to unfavourable weather conditions.
“If we agree to what has been said regarding Kashmir’s wish for independence in its entirety, this is an irrefutable contradiction with what Kashmiri public periodically and consistently demonstrate by donning Pakistan Cricket Team’s uniforms, swaying Pakistani flag in protests held even during imposition of curfew, and chanting Pakistan Zindabad slogans in front of Indian soldiers. This is the reality. The very subjects of state, its populace, should be reached out to and heard in order to become aware of their actual demands. No government and no journalist can portray the true sentiments of public as none of these can be absolutely impartial and nonpartisan.”
It is undoubtedly true that almost every discipline of social sciences, let it be world history, political science, philosophy, or politics, is full of social facts – different versions of the developments and events resulting after the application of human mind and sentiments. But in every given spatial and temporal context, one social fact has tried to dominate its alternatives by tracing the shape of brute fact – a development or event stated independent of human mind. Mistaking a social fact for a brute fact is a cardinal error as is evident from the Kashmir Dispute. Therefore, the only possible and workable method is a series of trialogues between India, Pakistan and Kashmir if we are to find a permanent solution to this issue; otherwise history will never become short of pages for writing the tales of indifference, savagery, and sufferings for another 70 years.
Aminah Qureshi is a student of Biotechnology with an interest in current affairs, politics and journalism.