Could a solution to a problem based on division of human hearts be endurable? The conversion of the Line of Control into International Border in Kashmir is being touted as a “permanent solution”. An analysis of this idea would make it clear that it is a theoretical approach which is not practicable.
This “solution” views Kashmir as a bilateral issue, discounting its internal political dynamic. It also requires co-opting the various trans-LoC political and militant forces that have been the most important component of the political and militant problem campaign in Kashmir. This idea raises a basic question: who could be the parties to such a “solution”.
Could the conversion end the militant campaign in Kashmir? Could it permanently isolate the trans-LoC political forces who have been temporarily separated by the political division? Could it mean an end to alienation in Kashmir? What about the three million Kashmiris who live in Pakistan and other parts of the world as expatriates, and have been supporting the campaign in Kashmir for permanent unification with their families? What about the half million Muslims of the Jammu region who, at the time of Partition, were forced Jammu to migrate to Pakistan?
The first assumption of the LoC conversion solution is that it could be brought about bilaterally. There lies the fundamental flaw. The stated objective of the militant groups fighting in Kashmir today is its incorporation into Pakistan. These groups could never accept any solution based on the status quo? Their problem is with the status quo. What could make these groups accept this solution?
The composition of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference should be a matter of close analysis. Most of the groups in this conglomerate have a trans-LoC base and deep political roots across the border. For instance, the institution of the Mirwaiz in Kashmir, presently led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has a trans-LoC character; much of the Mirwaiz family lives across the LoC.
Then there are pro-independence groups like the JKLF whose objective is unification of the two divided Kashmirs. These groups have strong presence on the other side of LoC. Could the JKLF led by Amanullah Khan be a party to the conversion plan? They have heavily invested in the Kashmiri struggle.
Among the pro-Indian parties in Kashmir, the National Conference is the only group supporting of the conversion plan. However, given its debacle in the latest elections and its dwindling support base among the masses, the NC’s endorsement of the conversion plan could have little effect on the ground. On the contrary, it could spell political suicide for the NC, since it is likely to lose the little clout is possesses in Kashmir today.
The Hindu dominated districts of Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur and the pre-dominantly Buddhist Ladakh could welcome the conversion idea, but the majority population on the Indian side will not be a party to this plan. Advocates of the conversion formula however argue that since the Pakistan administered Kashmir has little in common with the Indian administered Kashmir, it makes an ideal solution.
Who, by the way, in the Pakistan establishment would be willing to discuss such a plan with India? Given Pakistan’s stated positions on Kashmir, assuming its agreement to such a plan is a grave mistake. It is unimaginable that Pakistan would agree to such a “solution” from a Kashmiri perspective.
Besides, the porous and volatile nature of the Line of Control cannot be changed by a mere change of nomenclature. The border would remain as porous as before and the trans-LoC separatist impulses would remain alive.
Also, for most Kashmiris, such a solution is treating Kashmir as a territorial problem. There is the human dimension as well. Many separatist political parties, mainly the Jammu-based J&K Freedom Movement, have time and again raised the issue of those Muslims of Jammu who were forced to move to Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK) in 1947 at the time of the riots. The Hurriyat Conference has, on the other hand, raised concern about the people who have migrated to PAK during the last 12 years. Any political party in Kashmir would have to deal with a related but explosive issue: the Resettlement Act. The Act passed by the J&K Assembly, to pave the way for the return of the Muslims who were forced to flee to PAK in 1947, is still a bone of contention between the State and the Centre.
In nutshell, the very idea of LoC conversion raises more questions than answers.