Islamabad Jan 30: Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) are needed to be brought together to discuss the future of their region, says an Australian academic.
Dr Christopher Snedden, an Australian politico-strategic analyst and author expert on South Asia, was giving a talk at the Oxford University Press bookshop here on Wednesday in connection with the launch of his book “The Untold Story of the People of Azad Kashmir”.
The book has been published by the Oxford University Press.
The book claims to use new information to populate a fact-based narrative for the Kashmir dispute. It also analyses the political and economic dynamics of the Paksitani-controlled Azad Kashmir. But the audience discussion, following Snedden’s talk, mostly focused on a possible resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
Snedden said that he wants the “Jammu-&-Kashmirites (J&Kites)” as he thinks the term “Kashmiri” does not accurately encompass the people of Jammu to have the right to self-determination. However, he admitted that it was an idealistic position because “it requires India and Pakistan to agree to allow the Kashmiris to decide what they want to do about their future.” He said that both countries have not shown any significant movement in that direction.
Snedden said that a “win-win solution” for Pakistan, India and Kashmir would be to involve everybody in the discussion about Kashmir’s future.
“Pakistan and India should realize that if you impose a solution, there’s no guarantee it would work, because the Kashmiris have historically staged uprisings,” he said.
But the peoples of Kashmir also have to realise that the independence option will not be an easy one for a land-locked region that is not exactly rich in resources, Snedden said.
For independence to work, he said, there would have to be tremendous goodwill from India and Pakistan towards Kashmir. Otherwise J&K might end up becoming a pawn in the geopolitical game, Snedden said.
Snedden said the book is a labour of love. He said he wrote it to “correct history” and “to show that the real story of Kashmir is not what India has convinced the world.”
India has consistently claimed that the Kashmir conflict was instigated by Pakistani tribesmen, Snedden said. However, he said that “he believes the dispute was initiated by J&K-ites, especially people in Poonch — these were mostly Muslim soldiers who had served in the British Army, who had been double-taxed by the Maharaja and feared an existential threat when they were forced to surrender their officially issued weapons”.
The Pashtun tribesmen came in to the picture later after Poonchis went to Dara Adam Khel to buy weapons to defend themselves, according to Snedden. He said that the J&K-ites were also wary of the Pashtuns, who went straight to Srinagar because that was the Maharaja’s seat of power but also because they could plunder there.
Snedden said that some important personalities, including the then-chief minister of the North Western Frontier Province Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan, knew about Pashtuns going to Kashmir to fight. But he said it is unclear whether Jinnah knew about this situation or not.
On the other hand, Snedden said Nehru and Sardar Patel knew that the Kashmir issue might arise well before partition and had been discussing it in Congress since August 1946.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2014.