Opinion: A Modest Proposal

Muslim Matters

Opinion: A Modest Proposal

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

El Cerrito (Calif.)–One of my overriding fantasies is to win the Nobel Prize for literature and peace.  Well, that is not to be, but I  hope that  I can add something to both of these areas with my pen – especially to peace.

Sometime ago I had written to an extremely important United States Senator with an especial interest in the Himalayan region of Asia –  that is to say over the Kashmir imbroglio, too, which – after the Arab-Israeli crisis — is the second most dangerous flash point on our earth.

This Senator passed on my ideas to the U.S. State Department who referred the letter to the, then, Desk Officer for South Asia.  After the better part of a decade, in cataloguing my papers for a major institutional repository in the Eastern half of the North American continent, I have come across this proposal again, and deeming it to be still a propos I would like to release it to the general public in an enlarged form for further discussion since it is poignantly an Islamic issue upon this Eids.

Since the fall from grace of the right-wing Hindu Chauvinist BJP (the Bharata Janata Party) in India there are glimmers of hope for settlement on this question within the Indo-Pakistani nuclear theater.
As a journalist and a South Asian scholar based in the U.S.A., I have written for Indian and Pakistani plus American publications on the subject of Kashmir.  This has given me access to representatives of the Kashmiri people on both sides of the LoC (Line of Control) as well as the rebels in the Vale (the Indian State Kashmir) plus Hindu Pundits (i.e., Brahmins); representatives and diplomats from the two counties in conflict. 

As an academically trained historian and South Asian regional specialist, it has occurred to me that there very well might be a historical precedent as a basis for resolving this crisis.  Succinctly, revert back to the constitutional status under the British Indian State.  Further, at Independence the Raja of Kashmir had opted for Independence, but tribal irregulars from the  Northwest Provinces and British intervention created the first Indo-Pakistani War which, in turn, produced a division of the princely State of Kashmir into the de facto Pakistani Territory of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and the Indian State of Jamu and Kashmir (J &K).  A small portion of Pakistani administrated Kashmir, the Shaksgam tract was ceded to China in 1963 and now forms the Uygur Autonomous Region or Xinjiang.  This area of the People’s Republic is the only Muslim-majority portion of China, and they have rebelled against Beijing.  China, also, controls 10% of the Indian State (Aksai Chin) of Jammu and Kashmir acquired through the Sino-Indian War of 1962.  Both Pakistani and Indian Kashmir have territories such as Purig, Gilgit-Balistan, Kargil and Ladakh.   In several areas attached to the two Kashmirs are unique sub-nationalities.   There is a yearning for independence or attachment to an independent Tibet within some.    Thus, there are not two countries vying for Kashmir, but three.  Most importantly there are the Kashmiris themselves as well as the sub-nationalities within those mountains.

Then, there is Jammu which forms a good deal of the Indian State, and part of it is in Pakistani AJK.    Jammu is largely Hindu with a sizable Sikh minority.  Any settlement of the Kashmir question has to ascertain the wishes of the people of Jammu or whether they would prefer to remain part of the Indian  federation or to remain part of the political entity of Kashmir itself.

Thus, back to my purpose:  that Kashmir reverts back to a “princely” State (of course now it would be a republic or an autonomous region).  This region of the two Kashmirs, if it became autonomous from both India and Pakistan, would join together sovereign  in internal affairs, but both would remain divided within their part of the larger States in its external status.

In 1948 after the first Indo-Pakistani War, the U.N. (United Nations)  demanded a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the people of Kashmir on whether they wished to be part of Pakistan or India.  Due to the intransigence of the then Prime Minister in New Delhi, Jaharial Nehru, who was born  in Allahabad in the British Indian State during the Nineteenth Century, but  his antecedents derived from a Kashmiri Pandit (high Brahmin) family, and this may have influenced his policy toward the larger Kashmir which has an overwhelmingly Muslim population. 

I perceive a possible resolution of the conundrum by initiatives of the United Sates and other interested nations (excluding China because they are part of the problem) of initiating shuttle diplomacy between Pakistan and India and secondarily with China.  Ultimately, call for an international conference for resolving the question.  This, hopefully, would lead to the plebiscite called for from New York  forty-four years ago, but now a third option should be included – not only accession to India or Pakistan, but autonomy or independence.  Also, in any plebiscite, Jammu’s determination should be separated from Kashmir ‘s desires because the two Kashmirs seem to be significantly different in religion and ethnicity than that of Jammu.  Basically, it must be determined if Jammu wishes to be bound to the State or territory of the future Kashmir or whether they wish a different political destiny.

The foremost point to my proposal (which should be whittled down through negotiation) is the intransience of New Delhi who refuses to budge from the Simla Agreement of 1972 between India and Pakistan that all bilateral issues must be resolved bi-laterally which precludes any third party diplomacy between the two.  Well, I call upon India to allow trustworthy partners to act as interlopers.  If this is tenuous domestically to conduct this “shuttle” diplomacy secretly until it can safely become acceptable to their electorate.

Personally, from my objective study, I believe the Kashmiris will opt for independence or autonomy.  Islamabad has stated this would be acceptable to them upon the determination of the Kashmiris themselves.

Whatever the outcome of a vote Kashmir itself should become de-militarized.   Pakistani and Indian troops and border militias should move back from direct confrontation with each other back to defensible positions outside Kashmir, but adjacent to their borders with it.  United Nations’ blue helmets should divide the two armies, then. 

If autonomy is selected or just to have India ”save face,”  Governors (actually political agents) should be elected or appointed.  Azad Kashmir  could still be part of Pakistan and the Vale would theoretically be attached to India, but together they would form a self-governing entity internally.

There is much to be worked on this proposal to make it acceptable, but there are tremendous advantages in solving this predicament that arose out of the 1947 Partition of the Subcontinent.  It must take into account of the facts on the ground, but a resolution could have great benefits for Islamabad and New Delhi together. 

Primarily, it would lessen the tension between the two countries – especially the nuclear threat that almost became tragically viral a decade ago.  It should lessen the threat of terrorism within the Center  and rebellion on the peripheries of Bharat, for the majority of terrorism involves the bleeding sore of Kashmir, and, if the crisis is amended, there would be little acerbation and support for that sort of action among the people of Pakistan. 

Further , a political entity that straddles between the two could have tremendous economic benefit for both.  It would permit traffic between the two countries.  Pakistan already has secure gas pipelines with Iran.  India desperately must have that cleaner energy (it is dependent on filthy coal which is destroying their grand heritage)to fully compete with the other economic Asian “tiger,” and the best route for that pipeline is through Pakistan, and for that to happen a stable peace between the two must be achieved!

This modest proposal is only a kernel for a possible solution.


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