Convert Line of Control (LoC) into de facto international border

23 Jun, 1999    ·   209

Extract from P. R. Chari, Indo-Pak Nuclear Standoff: The Role of the United States (New Delhi: Manohar, 1995), pp. 154-156

The difficulties in resolving the obtaining impasse in Kashmir arise from a bewildering combination of historical, communal, international, ethnic, geographical and strategic factors. But a counsel of wisdom suggests that these difficulties require India and Pakistan to cooperate with each other for this purpose and consultation with the local population inhabiting this area. The problem here derives from a definitional conundrum: should the solution be restricted to the Kashmir Valley ; to Jammu , Ladakh and the Kashmir Valley ; or to the Kashmir state as it existed before partition? A delimitation of the problem by restricting it to these different geographical areas suggest very different answers.



For instance, greater autonomy for the Kashmir Valley within the body politic of India or independence for it outside India 's confines are conceivable solutions. But these solutions would clearly be wholly impracticable since the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir also includes the predominantly Buddhist region of Ladakh and the majority Hindu area of Jammu . Together, their population approximates that of the Muslim dominated Kashmir Valley . And this ethnic divide in the Jammu and Kashmir State is further accentuated due ot the fleeing of the Hindu population estimated around 200,000 from the Valley and other parts of India . Enlarging the Kashmir problem to Ladakh and Jammu would require their establishment as separate administrative and constitutional units like full-fledged States or Union Territories or Autonomous areas which has serious implications for the Indian polity. It could encourage similar demands become more vociferous in various other regions within the country. A further enlargement of the Kashmir problem could occur if the solution attempts to include the erstwhile pre-partition, princely state of Kashmir . It would then be necessary to include the Northern territories , Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (Azad Kashmir) and, an issue of greater contention, approximately 2,000 square miles of territory ceded by Pakistan to China . Including all these areas in Pakistan and those in India within the ambit of a solution to the Kashmir problem would add horrendously to the ethnic dimensions of the problem.



The search for an elusive perfect solution to this problem could only be described as chimeral. It is dubious if the fuller implications of seeking this elusive perfect solution to the Kashmir problem are appreciated in Pakistan or, for that matter, in India . For its part, India has considered virtually every possible solution to resolve the impasse ranging from maintaining the status quo in Kashmir to independence to merger to greater autonomy to trifuration to depopulation to re-population. None of these propositions could gain acceptance unless all the State political parties and ethnic groups concerned agree to make the necessary compromises. More significantly, the political moment must be right.



Indubitably, both India and Pakistan have formulated basic national positions on Kashmir . India 's position that the accession issue cannot be questioned is paralleled by Pakistan 's conviction that a plebiscite should be held to ascertain the wishes of the local population. Pakistan 's expectation that the Valley could somehow be incorporated into its body politic - the independence option has been rejected by Benazir Bhutto - seems increasingly unlikely to fructify. India is hardly likely to relinquish territory which it considers as having been legally acquired, and over which it has invested so much blood and treasure. Equally, the evolution of an independent state comprising the Kashmir Valley could lead to an inter-religious colouration to the problem being given by fundamentalist-nationalist parties, and widespread communal riots being instigated by them. For that matter, the emergence of an independent Kashmir state may not leave Pakistan 's portion of the former Kashmir state unaffected: similar movements for autonomy and independence within its confines could lead to a balkanization of this region and turmoil in Pakistan .



A counsel of moderation would suggest that the only practicable solution to the Kashmir problem would be acceptance of the de facto line of control as the international border and thereby recognize the division of Kashmir by according it de jure status. A resolution of the Kashmir problem does not seem possible unless these ground realities are understood and wisdom dawns on both India and Pakistan that no political solution is possible by adopting maximalist positions.