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A Guide to Kashmir Peace Plans [Quick Read]
by Saima Alvi
25 May 2002 19:51 UTC
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A guide to Kashmir peace plans 

Muzamil Jaleel examines some of the suggested solutions to the longstanding 
dispute between India and Pakistan 

For centuries, poets and travellers called Kashmir a paradise on Earth. But 
the paradise has become a tragic problem - a problem so complex that two 
countries have fought three wars over it in 50 years. Nothing divides India 
and Pakistan as Kashmir does, and nobody has suffered more in the process 
than the people of Kashmir.

For the time being, India and Pakistan seem to have miraculously escaped 
from another war, with tensions apparently eased at the borders. But the 
threat of a nuclear conflagration in the subcontinent reminds the world of 
the urgency of a resolution to this vexed problem. There have been nearly 
40 official proposals for a solution, but not a single plan has yet been 
acceptable to all parties. 

Kashmir's fate is still locked into the story of India's partition in 1947, 
when Pakistan was carved out as a home for Indian Muslims. The first war 
between the two countries was fought within months of their independence, 
while their armed forces were still under the command of British officers. 
Kashmir was divided - and remains divided - between the two countries. 

India claims that Muslim-dominated Kashmir is an integral part of the 
country, a cornerstone of its secular democracy. Pakistan sees Kashmir as 
its "jugular vein" and believes its merger into Pakistan is simply an 
unfinished task of partition. As for the Kashmiris themselves, most would 
like to be left alone by both sides.

International border

One option suggested for Kashmir is to put the current division of the area 
on a more official footing, by turning the line of control between India- 
and Pakistan-administered Kashmir into an international border. 

There are indications that India might accept this solution. Several Indian 
political parties have backed it, as has the chief minister of Indian-
administered Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah. However, such a plan would be 
unacceptable both to Pakistan and to many Kashmiris living on either side 
of the line of control. 

Let Kashmiris choose

Another straightforward solution would be the implementation of United 
Nations resolutions on Kashmir, leading to a plebiscite which would give 
Kashmiris the choice of either Indian or Pakistani rule. 

Fatally, for this plan, India is unlikely to walk into the almost-certain 
embarrassment of losing the vote. Equally importantly for India, there are 
fears that a plebiscite on Kashmir's future could set a precedent, fuelling 
the calls for similar referendums which are already being heard in north-
eastern states, Punjab and even in the south.

Neither would all Kashmiris be happy to be given a choice of rulers. Many 
would want the third option of an independent Kashmir. 

This raises the question of whether, although neither India nor Pakistan 
can afford to let the other side win Kashmir, could a solution be envisaged 
in which both would lose it?


The creation of an independent state of Jammu and Kashmir would have its 
own problems. The argument for self-determination is essentially that 
historically Kashmir was an independent entity until its incorporation into 
the Mughal empire in 1586. 

The leader of the pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, 
Amanullah Khan, suggests a five-phase formula for independence, to be 
overseen by a UN committee. 

The committee, comprising representatives from a wide variety of countries, 
would work towards a referendum in 15 years, following a phased withdrawal 
of troops by both countries and the disarming of Kashmiri militants.

Even within Kashmir, however, a plebiscite leading to independence would 
not be welcomed by all. 

Kashmir is not a homogeneous ethnic or religious unit, and the political 
aspirations of its people vary widely. Neither independence nor Pakistani 
rule would be acceptable to the Hindu-dominated parts of Jammu and the 
Budhist Leh in Ladakh, for example, which would never be in favour of 
secession from the Indian state. 

Similarly, the Kashmiri-speaking Hindus or Pandits who have migrated out of 
the Kashmir valley demand a homeland with a union territory status - that 
is, direct rule from Delhi. 

Religious segregation

In 1950 the Australian diplomat Sir Owen Dixon put forward a plan to redraw 
the boundaries of Kashmir on religious lines. He saw the river Chinab as a 
natural border. 

This would have meant that most of the Muslim-dominated areas of what is 
Indian-administered Kashmir would go to Pakistan, but the Hindu-dominated 
area would have remained with India. 

The plan met with opposition from those with pro-independence sentiments, 
but it had a more serious flaw. The large wave of migration caused by the 
imposition of such a border would involve the displacement of many 
thousands of people, which could itself lead to violence. 

It seems unlikely that the international community would back a plan of 
this sort, which would involve the segregation of Hindus and Muslims who 
have been living for a long time as neighbours in many areas. As many as 
800,000 people might be uprooted as a result of such a partition.


According to British Foreign Office files declassified recently, the United 
States and Britain were urging India and Pakistan to search for a partition 
solution in the mid-60s, soon after the Indo-China war. 

The United States supported the creation of an independent Kashmir valley, 
but Britain feared that Russia and China would immediately exert communist 
influence over the new sovereign state. 

The Soviets were also against an independent Kashmir, fearing that the US 
would hold sway there and use it as a base. 

The talks also discussed the partition of Kashmir valley, but ultimately 
failed. They were followed by the outbreak of war. 

The Andorra model

In 1998, a Kashmiri American businessman assembled a group of western 
policymakers and academics to set up the Kashmir Study Group. The group 
soon published a set of possible resolutions, including an innovative 
arrangement on the pattern of Andorra, the tiny state which lies on the 
borders of France and Spain.

It involved the reconstitution of part of Jammu and Kashmir as a sovereign 
entity, in the same way as Andorra, with free access to and from both of 
its larger neighbours. The part of the state which was to be reconstituted 
would be determined through an internationally supervised agreement 
involving the Kashmiri people, India and Pakistan. 

The resulting entity would have its own secular, democratic constitution; 
distinct citizenship; a flag; and a legislature which would pass laws on 
all matters other than defence and foreign affairs. 

The proposal relies on India and Pakistan overseeing the defence of the 
Kashmiri entity, and jointly working out its funding. 

There would be no change in the present line of control, but the whole 
entity would become a demilitarised zone. 

The plan does not try to avoid a particularly important question which has 
dogged the Kashmir dispute: the politics of ego and prestige attached to 
the claim on the area. Any real solution to the Kashmir problem would have 
to be immune to the suggestion that it amounted to a defeat for either of 
the warring neighbours.

Involving as it does no movement of borders, the Andorra proposal has at 
least the potential to secure both sides a limited measure of control over 
the entire Kashmir region, and attain for both populations a sense of 
victory. The feelings of Kashmiris too would be assuaged to a great extent. 
It may be the only possible solution in sight.

(Muzamil Jaleel, a journalist with the Indian Express, is on attachment to 
Guardian Unlimited)

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