As India celebrates its 70 th Independence Day, the country has made rapid progress in many fields. In others it lags sorely behind. One such problem is the Kashmir dispute which in some ways looks as hopeless as it was way back in 1948.
But how do we go about solving the dispute? For the record, we have the Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh. Our enemy has Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and China has Aksai Chin.
Can we solve the Kashmir dispute multilaterally?
No. This is a big fail. When the League of Nations was dreamt up after World War I, it went bust in a matter of time. We had the United Nations after World War II and while that has been good for focusing on things like health (WHO) and children’s issues (UNICEF), it has been an overall political disaster.
America does what it wants in the UN, the Tibet and Taiwan problems will never be solved thanks to China and the United Nations Peacekeeping Force is a toothless body. The UN will never ever be able to solve a complex dispute like Kashmir.
First Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is still rubbished by many in India for internationalizing the dispute and talking of plebiscite in J&K. (To give him his due, he did say that such a thing could be considered only after Pakistan vacated PoK)
Can we solve the Kashmir dispute trilaterally?
No. There is no third party that is acceptable to both India and Pakistan. China is partial to Pakistan and we will never accept America as the big brother. Norway tried their hand at the Israel-Palestine conflict (Oslo Accords) and Sri Lanka with limited success.
India is the land of Gautam Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi. It will never cede ground when it comes to any other country vis-à- vis a peace process.
Can we solve the Kashmir dispute bilaterally?
No. Pakistan claims Kashmir even though nobody gave it to them. The British Empire didn’t give it to them. Maharaja Hari Singh and Sheikh Abdullah (the popular leader) both chose India. And yet Pakistan has been holding on to this stubborn illusion for close to 70 years now.
Why will they change their unrealistic stand in the future? To make matters worse, India and Pakistan have been involved in four outright wars: The 1947-48 Kashmir war, the 1965 war,the 1971 Bangladesh war and the 1999 Kargil war.
Apart from that there have been two conflicts: Rann of Kutch (1965) and Siachen (1984 onwards). They also fuelled militancy in Punjab and tried to foment trouble in the Northeast. They started sending terrorists to Kashmir in the 1990s.
That violence spread to the rest of India and there has been a Pakistani hand in dozens of terrorist blasts all over India. 26/11 represented the absolute breakdown of any meaningful trust between India and Pakistan.
Unrealistic claims. Wars. Conflicts. Terror attacks. India and Pakistan have reached a point of no return. Multilateral solutions, trilateral solutions and bilateral solutions may have seemed promising in the 1950s and 1960s, but impossible in the 2010s.
Can we solve the Kashmir dispute unilaterally?
“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
The truth is that the Kashmir problem can only be solved unilaterally no matter how improbable that sounds. Pakistan is not going to wish for peace in Kashmir.
China will continue to exploit the situation. America cannot and will not bring Pakistan to heel. The UNis a joke. Only India is in a position to solve the Kashmir dispute on its own and in the last couple of years it finally does seem to be changing direction though it remains to be seen whether we can keep at it.
Some points to be noted…
1. Development goes a long way: At one level, the issues that people face are the same all over the world. Everyone wants roads, schools and things like a good rail network. There is no doubt that India has kept J&K underdeveloped for ages.
The current government has announced a slew of road, rail and power projects and it is important that all of these are started promptly and fast tracked to completion. Kashmir’s tourism industry is also potentially among the best in the world and this has to be optimized.
From 1990 to 2010, the death toll almost every year used to be 1000+. That has been brought down to hundreds in the 2010s and can be brought down even further.
Integrating J&K on the development platform will be the biggest thing that will bring down disillusionment and unrest.
2. Strong military action against terrorists: The liquidation of Burhan Wani was a masterstroke by the security forces even though the mainstream media, liberals and intellectuals pretended otherwise.
As mentioned above terrorism has been drastically reduced in the 2010s and somehow this is not at all highlighted. Terror groups are reaching an endgame in Kashmir and if the security forces can up their operations, then they will be severely weakened.
3. Raising PoK and Balochistan: Pakistan has been shouting about injustices in Kashmir 24X7 from 1947. They fomented the Khalistan problem and rubbish us at every international forum about our treatment of minorities.
India has been defending itself all this time without going on the offensive. That has now changed. For the first time the current government has raised the issue of PoK returning to India and rights of the Baloch people.
This new offensive has totally taken Pakistan off guard and we only have to keep it up.
4. Time for the knockout punch: When we got Independence, a lot of Western commentators said that India would break up and Pakistan stay united. Well it was Pakistan which broke up in 1971.
Till 1991, India and Pakistan were put in the same bracket. Things changed rapidly after 1991, when India liberalized itself and Pakistan terrorized itself. Today Afghanistan and Pakistan are in the same bracket while India and China are in another.
There are Independence movements in Balochistan, PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. The War in North Waziristan is taking place between tens of thousands of terrorists and 1.4 lakh Pakistani troops.
Pakistani citizens in the range of 50-60,000 have been killed in terrorists since 9/11. Pakistan is the weakest it has been vis-à- vis India since Independence. India can finally land the knockout punch if you include all of the above factors.
“Unilaterally” has to be the new mantra to solve the Kashmir dispute and with resolve, we can finally come to a conclusion!
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here