The Kashmir Issue

I posted a little while back that I had prepared a rather contentious post.

This is it.

Of course, I realise I risk being shot down in flames over this post. An Englishman blogging on what he thinks might be the solution to an incredibly difficult problem in the Sub-continent. So I will put on my tin hat, duck behind the sandbags, and press ‘Publish’.

As always, I welcome your comments. In fact, it is probably pointless my posting this unless there is a conversation. But, please, keep it polite.

Obviously, I am not the only person to have thought of this idea. Indeed, I read about it a long time ago, when these various options were being discussed to the backdrop of bombs and bullets.

Plus ca change.

twenty eight

I fear there is only one solution that is practical in the long term, but I strongly doubt that the governments of India or Pakistan would have the courage to implement it. For the whole of Kashmir to remain in Indian hands will mean a continuation of the devastating armed conflict in progress at present, with no prospect of it ever ending, plus the ever-present prospect of it escalating into something much more serious. But for it to pass entirely into Pakistani hands would be considered out of the question by the huge majority of the Indian population, and certainly by the whole of the political class.

No, the only prospect of peace that I see is for the state of Kashmir to be partitioned in much the same way as India herself was in 1947. The areas of Muslim majority such as the Vale of Kashmir would need to be ceded to Pakistan, and the remaining ones would remain part of India. Pakistan and the insurgents would need to agree to give up all claims to these areas. This would need to be achieved by negotiation in good faith with goodwill on both sides, both conscious of the risks and the monumental steps they are taking to finally establish permanent peace, and to restore prosperity to a troubled part of the sub-continent. And upon resolution, all parties would need to declare very publicly that this was a solution agreeable to all, and give it their blessing.

It is not as though there is no precedent to that arrangement. After all, both the Punjab and Bengal were divided this way at independence, and although it was strongly resented by some, it was also generally viewed as the only practical solution. And it is what should have happened to Kashmir, then.

If the difficulties in the way of this solution are huge, then so too are the incentives for success. It goes without saying that the loss of life and the devastation caused by the troubles are highly undesirable in the first place, and then there is the massive drain in resources to both sides by keeping huge forces established on either side of the border. With the prospect of peace, then agriculture, industry and tourism could return to normal with major benefits for everyone involved. Lastly, with the removal of the ‘Kashmir Issue’ as a friction between them, it is possible that both sides might finally come to the sort of mutual respect, collaboration, and friendship envisioned back in 1947. Even if the attempt were to end in failure, then the goodwill generated by the attempt could be a positive that might spill over into other areas of India / Pakistan relations.

The alternative solution, sometimes mooted, of an independent Kashmir under UN jurisdiction, appears an unworkable ideal. The state itself is too divided for this to work, and both Indian and Pakistani players would still covert the whole country. It is unlikely that conflict would cease under these conditions; it would be more likely to simply escalate. The small state would forever be reliant on the UN for security, leading to a constant financial drain on the organisation. The peacekeepers, too, would inevitably become military targets raising the risk of  new frictions arising.

I believe that the option of doing nothing is one that must be finally put aside. At present the situation is one where a resented and hated military presence governs within its own borders through fear and the threat of violence, That is not a situation that is likely to ever change to trust. The population are never going to learn to love their rulers that way. The only option in that situation is the eternal continuation of the status quo.

But it lies within the power of the regional players to solve this crisis once and for all, and it is essential that the attempt is made.

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58 thoughts on “The Kashmir Issue

  1. Mick. Am glad you made the effort of actually thinking about this heartbreaking issue and had the guts to write what you did. Sadly, none from India — a country that has bled too much for Kashmir — or Pakistan will have the courage to speak thus. I don’t know what is behind this never-ending saga…but I hope more people have the guts to see that Kashmir is not just a piece of land…it nurtures lakes and forests, men, women, children, flowers and birds… i hope more people see that. Thanks, Mick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for those words, Sushi. I really hope I do get some comments from India or Pakistan – somewhere like this is a ‘safe’ place to discuss a contentious issue, even if only because I can moderate the replies if necessary. I cannot understand why the parties involved just cannot talk! Surely, they have nothing to lose?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No place is safe. 😐 mick… the kashmir problem (like all others) needs political will and resolution. There are too many things involved: violence, exporting terror, third parties helping with funds, alienation of the people, perceived media bias, military presence, deaths, bitterness and jingoism. The Modi govt came to power promising kashmir and many other lofty stuff and so, they won’t be able to even imagine the solution you have mentioned. If you were indian, you would be declared an anti-national by now. Neither country will give up. Amidst all this, there have been suggestions for a referendum…I don’t think that will happen so soon, if at all… both india and pakistan’s leaders have much to lose as they have forever catapulted to power using the angst generated by bullets and bombs. Will Modi have the guts to get to a compromise fully knowing it will be a blow to his image? No idea. In the meantime, here’s a story suggesting a referendum: https://www.google.com.sg/amp/indianexpress.com/article/blogs/why-not-a-kashmiri-plebiscite-3738237/lite/

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s an extremely interesting article. It makes a lot of sense, but I feel there are a couple of points in the analysis that don’t stand up (just my view).
          1) I think it all centres around the Kashmir Valley region. This is the part where the militancy occurs and the idea that if a referendum decided in favour of remaining in India, then the militants would just accept this, I fear is impossible.
          2) To offer to withdraw troops as a Pre-condition for the referendum taking place, but then to insist they return to ‘protect water supplies’, albeit with a UN escort, would be seen as a pretext, and bad faith.
          3) Without the explicit agreement of Pakistan to a binding referendum, the result would be ignored by the militants and their backers.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes. But all this can be discussed and understood only if people hear each other out. There is too much noise in the name of nationalism and false pride. Add to it the poison of religion and violence and we have a beautiful region burning away along with the people it’s meant to nourish. Shame on all of us.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. It is an awful shame. I am prompted, in part, to blog on this in memory of my own visit to Kashmir in 1989, just as the agitation was beginning to be noticed by the outside world. It is such a beautiful place, and I found the people welcoming and friendly despite the growing tension.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll have to educate myself further on this topic before I give you a definitive response. In general though, I am not a supporter of partition. Although, depending on the circumstances at the time of partition it could bring peace, there are always factions who resent the split. I think it just shelves, never resolves the fundamental issue. What are your views of self-government, kind of like what North Ireland and Scotland have?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think that any arrangement has to square 2 very difficult circles. The first is that while Kashmir ‘belongs’ to either India or Pakistan, there will always be conflict, terrorism and, at the very least, considerable internal unrest, and friction between the two powers.
      The second is that to grant it independence will be to consign it to a future where it is besieged on all sides, with both powers still coveting it.
      The fundamental issue of Kashmir is that it contains large populations of both Hindus and Moslems, and rather than being spread evenly across the state they tend to be concentrated in different areas. At the time of Partition, the ‘ruler’ of the state was a Hindu with a predominantly Moslem population, and ceded Kashmir to India.
      I really see no alternative solution other than partition, which would not result in even more armed conflict than there is now. It is by no means a perfect solution, but I feel it would be the best of several unsatisfactory ones.

      Like

        1. I forgot to add, there is a form of power-sharing, a coalition government, in Kashmir at the present, but it seems to be making faltering progress. I can only wish it well, but I fear it will face many, many problems.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. The Partition of India was a disaster. The division between Hindu and Muslims was initiated by the British in 1858. It continued in the 1920’s

      If Nehru had been less of an arrogant ass, we would not have been partitioned.

      The number of people who died and were mutilated during this time is horrifying, as is the fact that many of us lost our homes.

      Partition is no solution

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It was a dreadful disaster, Rajiv. I could not agree more. The trouble is I don’t think any other solution will ever be accepted by the majority, and the thing I fear most is that some incident will tip India and Pakistan into another war, one which perhaps might be more horrifying than anything that has gone before.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. An intense rivalry still exist along the Missouri/Kansas border – but these days it is more about football than anything else. Only when who we are as a group become less important than what we are as individuals will this madness end.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, if only the rivalry in Kashmir could be confined to football, Greg. Or, more practically, cricket!
      You are absolutely right, and in that respect this post has a lot in common with my tongue-in-cheek one on religion, last week. The same problems, the same foolishness, the same unwillingness to see others as anything other than enemies just because there are differences in how they dress or worship or eat or…anything, really.
      And once governments are involved, of course, it only makes it worse.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Only the peaceful negotiations between India, Pakistan and Kashmir will really solve the problem. The people of Kashmir have been the victims of military rivalry between the two countries. The rivalry has also been counter-productive for the South Asian region.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely, Sandeep. This rivalry has been incredibly destructive for all parties, and I don’t see that anyone has gained anything from it.
      The real difficulty will be to get all parties around the table to discuss the issue in a positive and open way, but it must be the way forward.
      Thanks so much for commenting on this issue.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree it should never have been partitioned, Rajiv, but unfortunately it is impossible to reverse that decision. The problem is how to solve the problem as it is now.
      Do you feel that current government policy is the only practical way, or are there other ways that should be explored?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. malvika7

    But what to the people of Kashmir want? Do they want to continue as a part of India but without this violence? Only a few seem to be asking this. This is a lovely piece Mick. It is thoughtfully written. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ahhh an interesting yet a controversial topic indeed.. appreciate your courage( cos you know under the given circumstances how difficult a topic it is to even blog about)
    Personally I feel even if Kashmir is made a separate country do you think the terror attacks are going to stop??? Will it keep the trouble makers away ??? Eventually India will have to come to its rescue again..not to forget the “N” number of wars fought between the two borders..the innumerable treaties made, yet there is no sign of peace..wonder when it will all end..
    As you rightly stated Kashmir has kashmiri pundits and Muslims too..will they be​ able to co exist together..will the trouble makers let that happen..a question only time can answer..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right, I am sure, Neethu, that whatever solution eventually occurs, there will be terror attacks.
      I guess that one of the huge conditions of any solution, is that whatever the boundaries of Kashmir in future, each part, if there are more than one, would need to contain a population that was content with the settlement. Whether that involves a change of sovereignty, boundary changes, or simply (simply?) changes in attitude by both the population and the other players, is the issue to be resolved.
      But once that does happen, then the militancy should, in theory, fade away.

      Like

  7. I think if the Kashmiris would accept this then it’s a viable proposition Mick. Hopefully it would lead to reduction in the number of deaths over there and I certainly like your positivity in thinking this action might heal old wounds and lead to friendship of a sort between the two protagonists.
    Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am, Arv. I wanted to provoke a conversation, because I often think that the average person has as many good ideas on a problem as those whose job it is to solve them. For this post, I declare a safe forum!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha ha! That’s the whole idea of having a blog! exchange your views. There’s no harm in this. It’s not illegal….
        I guess all sides have their own perspective. It’s not about who is right or wrong. But I guess it’s about the suffering of people.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s the suffering that is so heartbreaking, Arv. I know we won’t come up with a solution, but the more it gets discussed, the more that possibility exists. I have certainly learned more about the issues since posting this, thanks to the comments thread.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Human folly. There is a similar situation in Cyprus, and elsewhere. Why can’t people get along? They let things get out of hand, and then it is impossible to contain the situation, or go back. And the innocent suffer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, impossible to go back. No one can possibly countenance things going back to how they were, as all the parameters have changed. And so no one knows how to move forward.

      Answers, I guess, on a postcard to the UN.

      Like

  9. I was waiting for at least one responder to say, “Is that the only solution you Brits can come up with? Divide the effing place?” 😀
    Ok, so not going back to pre-47, once India was partitioned, Kashmir had its choice of joining either nation or independence. It chose the latter. Pakistan invaded, the raja dithered but finally signed a custom-made instrument of accession, India reached Srinagar in the nick of time, Nehru went to the UN without delay, much against the advice of his generals, leaving about a third of the state under Pakistani control, and there started the “Kashmir problem”.

    We’ve fought three overt wars and more than an a couple covert ones; there is no solution in sight. If you ask any sensible army general they’ll tell you converting the ‘line of control’ into the international border is the only practical solution (this leaves the Kashmir valley with Srinagar, Gulmarg etc in Indian hands but much of the muslim majority area stays with Pakistan.

    No Indian government can hope to sign such an agreement and hope to live through the week. No Pakistani government can sign it and hope to be not overthrown by the army.

    And this is where we stand. Sigh!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s going to be a long haul, I fear, whatever solution is proposed.

      I take your point about a ‘British solution’ and I don’t pretend I think it good. Partition itself in 1947 was a ghastly, unnecessary affair, and who can say how history would have unfolded if Modern India had been born as a whole nation? It is always possible that it could have torn itself apart in sectarian strife at a later date – I once contemplated a novel based on that very premise, but decided it wouldn’t be me to write it.
      But it happened. All that anyone can do is try to make sense of the world as it exists, rather than as it should have been. It seemed the better option to me only in the sense that it seems to be the only solution that seemed to have any chance of being accepted by a majority of the players, albeit reluctantly.
      I admit I had not thought through completely the consequences of the line of control, something that, of course, complicates the issue even more. If that solution was proposed, I wonder what the reaction would be from the residents of the Kashmir Valley? My understanding is that a majority of them might prefer to cede to Pakistan, but I know that others think there would be a majority to stay with India. Do you know the figures? Are there any reliable ones published?

      Thanks you very much for the input, Himanshu. What on earth will be the solution?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t think there was a viable alternative to partition, no matter how much hand-wringing and chest-beating we indulge in today. Even as it stands, India is an ungainly beast and much more difficult to keep together then even Europe in some ways.
        As for the valley, you’re right a majority of the current residents might want to go to Pakistan, however put the Kashmiri brahmins back and those figures could change. Add to that the fact that secession is not a guaranteed right and you can understand how infinitely complex the situation is. I don’t believe in most published figures but any referendum would go along religious lines. And there’s the question of treating the valley separately in the first place, the state is called Jammu and Kashmir, not Kashmir. Not to forget Ladakh. Add them all together and a referendum could very well be Pakistan’s nightmare.
        Now if I believed in god I’d say the answer lay not on earth but up above. 😁

        Liked by 1 person

        1. All of that is true, I fear.

          The comparison of India to Europe is a good one. Throughout history, of course, India was usually a collection of states and empires, until recent times never a unified entity. Europe is essentially a confederation of separate states, and perhaps in a world that was slightly more perfect than the one we live in, that would be the case with India – not that I’m suggesting that as a way forward; I don’t think many people would take too kindly to that suggestion!

          But yes, it is important to remember there are those three parts to Kashmir. Jammu would undoubtedly opt to remain with India, and so would Ladakh – certainly that part east of Kargil, at any rate.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Well there certainly needs to be open communication, for starters. And that’s not seeming like it’s happening. And what with the political red tape.. but you offer options here, Mick, and that’s reason for hope.. it will never get better if we give up hope.. Thanks for blogging about a topic that is a difficult one to tackle

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Christy. Now, this is slightly leftfield, but this is your subject, and also something that I feel strongly about (hence the subject matter of my book, and certain of my posts), but don’t you think it time that ordinary women in all communities were given more of a chance to come together to discuss these sort of contentious issues?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes, absolutely, Mick. Unfortunately many women likely fear the backlash for doing so. A safe environment needs to be created for women to be able to openly communicate with one another. It all starts with grass roots.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. And it has a long, long way to go, sadly. But if it happens, and if there is any progress that way, it would have to happen at grass roots level. The few women who have managed to reach positions of power generally have done so because they are as power-obsessed and merciless as the men around them, and are really no different. The wisdom required is elsewhere.

          What chance, eh?

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for this intelligent and thought provoking post. I can see from the comments that this is an issue fraught with difficulty. I do not know enough about it to offer any opinion but your post and the comments have certainly given me more knowledge than I had before. It is sad to see a situation like this and I’m afraid that some of the “British solutions” elsewhere in the world ( the dividing up of the Middle East in partnership with France after WW1). Have not worked out too well either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Anne. And thanks for visiting. No, those divisions seem to have always had a bad outcome. India, of course, the Middle East, as you say (creating the artificial country of Iraq was a singularly foolish move), Northern Ireland…it never seems to work out particularly well. But that said, the world inherits what previous generations have left, and as it is impossible to go back and change what has happened, the imperative is to find a way forward out of the mess that has been left.

      Liked by 1 person

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