What is the way out of Kashmir impasse?

We have recently seen two popular uprising in Kashmir, one against and one for, the 100 acres Amarnath Shrine land row. The one against was by the Muslims in the Kashmir valley and the other in the Jammu Town and adjoining area by Hindu’s. The Hindu uprising was further fueled by the BJP, which has taken ‘Hindutwa’ agenda whenever they are out of power.

The economic blockade by residents of Jammu fueled by Amarnath Shrine land row, resulting in rotting of fruits and a shortage of essential supplies to the valley and last but not the least, the damage caused due to firing by security forces killing some 22 people, among them a top separatist leader, has made the situation out of control in the valley.

So a dispute over a small piece of land has snowballed into an international crisis of unparallel fallouts for India.

It was a small matter of 100 acres and could have been sorted out at a latter date after the initial euphoria would be over with the maintenance of status quo before the transfer of the land. But instead BJP fueled the fire, which has now engulfed the whole of Kashmir resulting in an insurmountable communal divide so much so that the valley uprising has every element of cessation from India. If this happens, after Nehru, it will be BJP to blame for another change of course of history with perennial disadvantage to India.

Going back to the history a bit, Kashmir acceded to India as per instrument of accession signed by Maharja Hari Singh of Kashmir and Government of India in October 1947. However by that time Pakistan backed intruders had captured a big part of Kashmir and were in the outskirts of Srinagar. In the fight back India captured many of the lost areas, when Jawaharlal Nehru, a Kashmiri descendant himself, made a historical blunder by declaring a ceasefire while the Indian army was well on the way to drive out the Pakistani intruders to free Kashmir.

He then made another blunder by saying that while deciding the fait of Kashmir, Kashmiri people would be taken into confidence. Not only that, India also accepted a plebiscite under an UN brokered resolution, which set some preconditions for the same that was never accepted by Pakistan in practice. So the plebiscite did not take place and is of no consequence now.

However it is a recorded fact that Kashmir has a predominantly Muslim population. At the time of partition of India in 1947, the valley had a Muslim population of 75% with Hindu Pandits forming the rest. But by now after two decades of terrorist attacks, the Hindu Pandits are hardly even 5% of the valley population.

On the other hand Jammu region of Kashmir had a predominantly Hindu population and the Ladakh in the far North-East has more Buddhist than Muslims. Geographically Kashmir can be looked upon in another way. It has a total area of 222000 sqkm (roughly the size of Great Britain) as per British India map with Tibet as boundary. It can be divided into five sub-regions for the present analysis.

  1. Kashmir Valley between Zanskar range and Pirpanjal range consisting of Srinagar, Baramula, Kupwara, Pulwama, Badgam and Anantanag districts and other adjoining areas of about 20000sqkm with high Muslim population.
  2. Ladakh region in the east area about 45000sqkm having predominantly Buddhist population and India has no problem retaining this area.
  3. Jammu in the south up to Banihal pass, area about 36000sqkm predominantly Hindu population. This portion has absolutely no problem for being with India.
  4. Aksai Chin of about 43000 Sqkm under Chinese occupation including area given to Chinese by Pakistan
  5. Pakistan controlled Kashmir of about 78000 sqkm.

 

India stands no chance of recovering the Chinese part Aksai chin (unless China gifts it to India!). The Pakistani portion is also unrecoverable without a nuclear war, which is not likely to happen either. The whole dispute therefore ultimately boils down to an area of 20000 sqkm of the valley only.

The fact is also that India probably cannot keep forcibly a highly unwilling Muslim population with communal mind set and separatist attitudes for all the time to come. India is also paying a heavy price towards the cost of sustenance of military and paramilitary forces numbering around 400000 as per various assessments.

Therefore with a civilian government in Pakistan and after the initial euphoria subsides a bit in the valley, it will be time for cool brained diplomacy to resolve the Kashmir issue across the table and India as a big brother must have big heart to sort things out with a proactive approach.

History ultimately has to be created by some one to bring peace in the sub-continent. Otherwise a nuclear war cannot be ruled out. A delay may be more costly on either side and India too must not forget that unable to contain an unwilling population, Pakistan had to accept dismemberment in the form of Bangladesh not so long ago.