Panel Discussion 27/03/2015
Ms. Laura Schuurmans, research/writer on Kashmir from Indonesia visited IPRI on 11 February 2015 for discussion on Kashmir Issue with IPRI Scholars. Salient points of the discussion are as follows:
• In 1940s, the British were suffering from a Russo-phobia. They did not want Russia to advance in Afghanistan and Kashmir. They did not want to divide India for their own reason of global defence of the British Empire. Britian had earlier acquired Gilgit on lease from Kashmir and created an agency there to counter any move from the Soviet side.
• Their proposal was that there should be three subjects in the center: defence, foreign affairs and communication, and rest will be delegated to provinces. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah accepted this proposal by abandoning the idea of partition of India but Jawaharlal Nehru rejected it. Nehru wrote a letter to Mountbatton on June 17, 1947 saying that although there are 77.11 % Muslims in Kashmir, it is “of the first importance to India as a whole … because of the great strategic importance of that frontier state.”
• Just a few months before independence, from March 3, 1947, riots had broken out in Punjab. Since bulk of the Indian army was from Punjab, the retired soldiers had started fighting among themselves and the Britishers were perturbed because Indian army was designed to be a secular united army. British government’s opinion was that if Indian army would split, the defence of India would suffer. However, because of Hindu-Muslim riots, Britishers had feared that communal riots would attract the tribesmen. Afghanistan would follow because they had affiliation with the tribes and Russia might take advantage of the situation. In April 1947, Britishers and Congress leaders had agreed on partition of the subcontinent but were reluctant to divide Indian army because they considered the army necessary for the defence of India.
• London Times had made a picture of a horse, had cut it into two parts and captioned it, “Jinnah wants to divide the Indian army.” Their proposal was that Indian Army should remain united and there should be a Supreme Commander at Delhi with two Commander in-chiefs, one for Pakistan army and other for the Indian army without changing the communal composition of the army. This proposal was not acceptable to Jinnah. He would not accept Pakistan unless he was given an independent army at least 70 % Muslims in composition. Maharaja and Prime Minister of Kashmir had initially decided to remain independent. There was local uprising and the Muslim majority wanted to join Pakistan who were being suppressed by the state forces. The Muslim tribesmen entered in support of their co-religionists. This provided an excuse for Indian army to land in Srinagar on 27 October 1947.
• India’s forcible occupation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 is the main cause of the dispute. Maharaja had signed a controversial document, the Instrument of Accession. India sent its military to crush popular insurgency. According to a Mountbatten’s personal report Number 16 written on August 8, 1947, he had been emphasizing on certain states including Kashmir to join the Indian Union because of their “geographical location.”
• India took the case to the UN under Article 35 of its Charter on January 1, 1948. The UNSC decided wide its resolutions of 1948 and 1949 that the fate of Jammu and Kashmir should be decided through a plebiscite held under UN auspices.
• Although during the early years of UN involvement, there was active UN participation in efforts to resolve the dispute but with the passage of time the UN gradually lost its interest and the Kashmir dispute continued to remain stagnant. The UNSC Resolution of 1957 ruled that elections in Kashmir were not a substitute for plebiscite under UN auspices.
• Ms. Laura was informed of various proposals and attempts made by Pakistan to resolve the dispute but in vain.
• From 1972 to 1994, the two sides met 45 times to discuss various issues but the Kashmir dispute was discussed only once in 1994 between the two foreign secretaries.
• In 2003, President Musharraf suggested four stages for a dialogue process. The main objective was to initiate a debate on the Kashmir dispute. The joint statements issued by President Musharraf and the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee in January 2004, September 2004, and April 2005 clearly reflected the desire for a peaceful settlement of the disputes including Kashmir. However, no progress was made.
• President Musharraf put forward a four point formula to resolve the Kashmir dispute in January 2006. The formula implied soft borders, demilitarization, self-governance and a joint mechanism. The unfortunate Mumbai incident halted the dialogue in 2008.
• India had given local autonomy to Kashmir through Article 370 in the Indian Constitution. However, there have been border deployments by India and Pakistan on several occasions. The Prime Ministers of both countries met in 2012 but made no progress because India continued to insist on probing Mumbai attacks. In 2013 the then President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a UN Session. Nawaz Sharif during his elections campaign also stated that if he got elected he would take two steps to resolve the issue if India took one.
• Narendra Modi’s political manifesto during 2014 India Election was that his government would repeal Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Later on, Modi during his visit to Kashmir blamed Pakistan for fighting a proxy war in Kashmir.
• Kashmir Legislative Assembly elections were held in 2014. PDP became the single largest party with 28 seats. BJP became the second largest party with 25 seats. Article 370 could not be repealed by the Indian Parliament unless the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly had endorsed the move.
• Owing to Indian repression Kashmir has become a human rights issue and Pakistan would continue to provide support because it is a party to dispute as per UNSC resolutions.
Conclusion: Pakistan’s stance is that Kashmiris should be given the right of self-determination under UN auspices as per UNSC resolutions which were agreed to by the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Pakistan wants the resumption of composite dialogues with India to resolve the Kashmir dispute while India believes in status quo. India and Pakistan cannot afford to remain hostile forever and Kashmir issue must be solved in order to make South Asia a peaceful region.