The simmering resentment of the Kashmiri locals, the incompetence of the state politicians, the disinterest of national politicians and the bone-headed blindness of the separatists will ensure the cauldron of hatred keeps boiling and scalding the citizens of J&K and the rest of the nation. The Kashmir problem has increasing become a vexing problem – an open sore festering on the nation’s body (prominently on its forehead).
Will this radical 3-point proposal be the way out:
1) Create a new secular independent nation – comprising India’s Kashmir, Azad Kashmir (or Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir) and China’s occupied Aksai Chin & Trans-Karakoram Tract [Area 1, 2 & 3 in map]. Jammu & Ladakh to remain as a state within India and repeal Article 370.
2) Sign a 50 year non-aggression non-occupation treaty between India, Pakistan, China and the new country: None of the neighbouring country can occupy the new country (even by a police action), nor can the new country act in aggression against their neighbours (directly or as a conduit).
3) Since India is giving up an important land mass in the name of world peace, the world community (and the United Nations) should create a Development Fund for the rehabilitation of migrants from Kashmir into India (especially Kashmiri Pandits).
This proposal hits hard at the guts of Pakistan’s foreign policy:
- If Pakistan objects to the above proposal (and doesn’t let go of POK), it exposes its hypocrisy and two-facedness to the Kashmiris, their “freedom fighters” and the world. It will show Pakistan’s support for the Kashmiri cause is nothing but a way to score against India – that they never truly backed the notion of an Azad Kashmir. [India would get to score a winning goal without even playing the match, by just suggesting the proposal]
- If Pakistan agrees to the proposal, it loses its main point of negotiation and argument against India on the world stage and most importantly the rallying point for fomenting jihad.
Now, the suggestion to break away from India is a drastic move (even considered seditious). But desperate times calls for desperate measures. Kashmir is burning and is bleeding India at the same time. By letting go of Kashmir*, we get to cut off the gangrene to ensure the rest of the body remains healthy.
1) Kashmir was never realistically a part of Independent India. It had been cajoled to join the Union under duress of Pakistan’s aggressive stance. Soon after the accession, Pandit Nehru had committed to a plebiscite to the United Nations, which never happened (Hyderabad, with a similar demographics in ’47, has not displayed such separatist tendencies)
2) It enjoys a special status in the Constitution (Article 370) – guaranteeing it be treated as different from the other states.
3) Financially it’s the right call in these times of austerity. Jammu & Kashmir as a state receives inordinately more funds from the Center than it contributes to the federal coffers. It’s been independently estimated that the Gross Terror-economy Product (the total expenditure, economic loss & opportunity cost) of Kashmir is about Rs3.5 billion. How long can we keep putting funds into a sinking cause, for which its people remain vehemently ungrateful?
4) India spends a high proportion of its annual $32billion military budget on the security forces in Kashmir (and Siachen). Ideally, with Kashmir resolved, we can also dream of reducing our forces on the Pakistan border and the enormous defence budget (but then, that’s being naïve); and it also creates a land buffer against aggressive entry through difficult-to-defend terrain
5) As part of point (1) of the proposal, the international border between India, Pakistan and China will be formally recognized – hopefully ending years of uncertainty and boosting cross-border trade;
6) By pulling this rabbit out of its hat, India gains the moral high ground – and can demand its pound of flesh in exchange of the brownie points [including final resolution of Arunachal in (5)]
7) India as a developing country has always supported the justified demands of people’s movements as in Bangladesh, East Timor and Southern Sudan. It’s time to practice what we preach
8) This, however, doesn’t create a precedent for secessionist movements within India. No other region (not even in the North East) has such a historic reason to justify a separate nation. All other movements are fuelled primarily by economic reasons and/or the need for empowerment, which can be resolved by providing greater autonomy and equitable economic development (Sadly not the panacea for Kashmir).
Naysayers and jingoists will shout “How can we?” My response is ‘Why can’t we? Why shouldn’t we?” Our country has spent its first 50 years in a hyphenated existence with its neighbour. Now, due to our tremendous economic growth and democratic stability, we have been able to seek an independent destiny. Why not jettison the problems of the past and this great Albatross on our shoulders?
Paradise it was, not any more. It might have started as a beautiful rose in Nehru’s coat, but the thorns are now digging into the flesh and twisting at the heart of the nation. Is the way forward to find the will in our hearts to wrench it out and caste it away?
*”If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be”.