Since 1990 Kashmir Solidarity Day is being celebrated on 5 February every year as a day of protest against Indian occupation of Kashmir. Pakistan maintains that Kashmir is a disputed territory and its final status must be determined by the people of Kashmir. Certain Kashmiri groups believe that Kashmir should be independent of both India and Pakistan. But the resolution seems difficult because both India and Pakistan consider Kashmir their lifeline and are not ready to abandon it at all.
One of the apprehensions is that the third world war will be fought on water and this time it will not be in any other continent but Asia, and most probably in Kashmir. Since independence India and Pakistan have fought three wars and all of these were ignited because of Kashmir, a thorn British Raj had left when it decided to quit the subcontinent.
Some say the Raj couldn’t decide the fate of Kashmir but the growing perception is that it was not on the agenda. The Raj wanted to leave a permanent point of conflict for the newly independent states so that at no stage these two countries even think about cooperating with each other. In fact the Raj was right that this permanent conflict will neither allow these countries to become an economic power. In fact these would become the biggest buyers of armament and the history has proved the Raj was right.
Over the years India has been saying that Kashmir is its integral part and the latest stance it ‘we will not allow another division of Hindustan on the basis of religion’. They even go to the extent of saying that division of India on the basis of religion in 1947 was wrong. In fact the followers of extremist Hindus believed that Pakistan would not survive beyond a few months and also made efforts to weaken Pakistan on one or the other pretext.
The Kashmir issue has not only resulted in three wars but the countries have been spending billions of dollars annually on procurement of conventional and non-conventional arsenal. Since the two countries have attained the status of atomic powers world leaders have been stressing the need to resolve the Kashmir dispute to avoid an eventuality that may cause a catastrophe in the region. Kashmir is the nuclear flash point of Asia, surrounded by three nuclear powers.
India has been saying that Kashmir is its integral part, though the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, stated after the 2010 Kashmir Unrest that his government is willing to grant autonomy within the purview of Indian constitution to Kashmir if there is consensus on this issue. Pakistan maintains that Kashmir is the disputed territory and its final status must be determined by the people of Kashmir. China states that Aksai Chin is a part of China and does not recognize the addition of Aksai Chin to the Kashmir region. Certain Kashmiri independence groups believe that Kashmir should neither be a part of India nor of Pakistan but should be given an independent state.
In 1989, a widespread popular and armed insurgency started in Kashmir. This resulted in the formation of militant wings and beginning of the Mujahadeen insurgency, which continues to this day. India contends that the insurgency was largely started by Afghan Mujahadeen who entered the Kashmir valley following the end of the Soviet-Afghan War. Yasin Malik, a leader of one faction of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, was one of the Kashmiris to organize militancy in Kashmir. Since 1995, Malik has renounced the use of violence and calls for strictly peaceful methods to resolve the dispute. He developed differences for shunning the demand for an independent Kashmir.
India claims these insurgents groups get support from Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Afghanistan. They claim Pakistan is supplying munitions to the terrorists and training them in Pakistan. India states that the terrorists have been killing many citizens in Kashmir and committing human rights violations but don’ accept that their own armed forces are responsible for extra judicial murder of thousands of Kashmires and worst abuse of human rights.
Kashmir, as disputed territory between India and Pakistan, is one of the most militarized places in the world. Decades of violence and brutality have divided Hindu and Muslim communities, forcing over nearly half a million people to flee their homes. Military convoys and soldiers armed with AK-47 rifles on the streets are a common scene.
India holds that the Instrument of Accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India, signed by Maharaja Hari Singh (erstwhile ruler of the State) on 25 October 1947 and executed on 27 October 1947 between the ruler of Kashmir and the Governor General of India was a legal act. It says that The Constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir had unanimously ratified the Maharaja’s Instrument of Accession to India. India does not accept the two-nation theory that forms the basis of Pakistan and considers that Kashmir, despite being a Muslim-majority state, is an integral part of India. The common accusation is that insurgency and terrorism in Kashmir is being fueled by Pakistan. The Government of India has repeatedly accused Pakistan of waging a proxy war in Kashmir by providing weapons and financial assistance to terrorist groups in the region.
Pakistan accuses India of hypocrisy, as it refused to recognize the accession of Junagadh to Pakistan and Hyderabad’s independence, on the grounds that those two states had Hindu majorities. In fact, India had occupied and forcibly integrated those two territories. Pakistan asserts that the Maharaja held no authority in determining Kashmir’s future. Pakistan argues that even if the Maharaja had any authority in determining the plight of Kashmir, he signed the Instrument of Accession under duress, thus invalidating the legitimacy of his actions.
Pakistan says: 1) the popular Kashmiri insurgency demonstrates that the Kashmiri people no longer wish to remain within India. Pakistan suggests that this means that Kashmir either wants to be with Pakistan or independent. 2) According to the two-nation theory, which is one of the theories that is cited for the partition that created India and Pakistan, Kashmir should have been with Pakistan, because it has a Muslim majority. 3) India has shown disregard to the resolutions of the UN Security Council and failed in holding a plebiscite to determine the future allegiance of the state.
Experts say that the real reason for the dispute over Kashmir is water. Kashmir is the origin point for many rivers and tributaries. The river basin is divided between Pakistan, which has about 60 per cent of the catchment area, India with about 20 per cent, Afghanistan with 5 per cent and around 15 per cent in China. The river tributaries are the Jhelum and Chenab rivers, which primarily flow into Pakistan while other branches—the Ravi, Beas, and the Sutlej—irrigates northern India. The Kashmir dispute and the dispute over the water control are somehow related and the fight over the water remains as one of the main problems when establishing good relationships between the two countries.
About the author: Shabbir H. Kazmi
Shabbir H. Kazmi is an economic analyst from Pakistan. He has been writing for local and foreign publications for about quarter of a century. He also has his own blog at ‘shkazmipk blog’. He can be contacted at [email protected]