I believe that fresh thinking is needed to cut the Gordian knot in Kashmir, which has been flailed at for more than 70 years bilaterally between India and Pakistan without result. All parties concerned – the Governments of India & Pakistan and the leadership of the people of Kashmir — should recognize the necessity of adjusting or re-thinking the modalities of implementing any plan to suit present-day circumstances. But what is not acceptable is any erosion far less a negation, of the principle of the will and sentiments of the people of Kashmir.
We know that all international conflicts ultimately were resolved on the negotiating table. If that is true then the world powers should become deeply engaged in order to make sure that the peace process between India and Pakistan once initiated does not get derailed. They can play a bridge building to bring parties together so that the animosity is done away with and the dawn of dialogue and engagement is sustained. They need to make sure that the policy of conflict resolution adopted by both New Delhi and Islamabad over the Kashmir dispute is consistent, coherent, transparent and dependable.
We are mindful of the urgings by the United Nations that India and Pakistan keep talking to each other. It would be perverse on the part of anyone to oppose that course of action. But to expect a breakthrough in talks is to ask for miracles. It would be irresponsible on our part to encourage the hope that if the Governments of India and Pakistan are willing to depart from the stand of principle, the compromise will be endorsed by the people of Kashmir.
During the long years of domestic and international political chess by India, Pakistan and the United Nations, it must be stressed, the people of Kashmir themselves have been denied even the role of a pawn. Their voices have neither been summoned nor heard; yet they have suffered the most in daily and harrowing human rights violations.
It’s interesting how problematic it is for India & Pakistan to agree that Kashmiris themselves have a stake in any talks about their future. In what kind of democratic process would this not be of prime consideration? The moral, legal and historical foundations for such a principle have been frequently raised not only by Kashmiris but by the world community as well, which are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as in the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Kashmir.
India and Pakistan have had more than 150 official rounds of talks in the last seven decades to discuss conflicts and differences between them. The by-product of every round of talk was an agreement to meet again to talk. In consequence, the peace process between parties has always remained an illusion. Talks have always proved barren because both India and Pakistan have never defined the parameters of talks. The talks were never meant to be time bound with specific benchmarks that would define and characterize progress. History testifies that the dispute will not, and cannot, be solved bilaterally by the two disputants. Both India and Pakistan have to agree to include the leadership of Kashmiri political resistance to explore the lasting solution of the dispute.
We are fully aware that the settlement of the Kashmir dispute cannot be achieved in one move. Like all qualified observers, we visualize successive steps or intermediate solutions in the process. It is one thing, however, to think of a settlement over a relatively extended period of time. It is atrociously different to postpone the beginning of the process on that account.
The plan of action that would ensure for all components of the State as it existed on August 15, 1947 equal representation and equal freedom to decide whether to continue the status quo or to opt for a new dispensation is not difficult to work out. It can be done by a joint committee composed of the rightly qualified people from India and Pakistan who would consult Kashmiri representatives and also, as necessary, experts from the United Nations.
What is desperately needed is an affirmation by Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan of the necessity of taking new measures to effect the settlement of the dispute within a reasonable time frame. To that end, India and Pakistan must together prepare a plan for the demilitarization of the State with safeguards for security worked out together.
Peace in the region would benefit not only those who are directly impacted by this conflict – Kashmiris – but India as well. Sounder minds must prevail. More rational methods of dealing with differences must be sought. Repeating the same mistakes while expecting different results has long ago been found to be the path of failure. Seventy years should demonstrate a need for a change in policy, a policy that accepts the need for coming together in a process that accepts the right of all people to determine their own destiny.
The people of Kashmir, like most people, are by their nature peaceful. History testifies to that fact. They do not seek war, and do not want to see their children die in a bloody conflict. They seek and would welcome a peaceful and negotiated settlement to the crisis for the sake of peace and stability in the region of South Asia.