A US scholar, Stephen P. Cohen considers Indo-Pak distrust as the main cause of Kashmir dispute, remaining unresolved after even seven decades. According to him, “Extremely persistent conflicts seem to draw their energy from an inexhaustible supply of distrust.” In their bilateral relations, the element of trust deficit has caused deterioration to an extent where they take one-step forward and two steps backward. Since Kashmir dispute remained unresolved for decades now, it has added many more issues in the list of bilateral problems. The water problems and Siachen Glacier are the direct outcomes of Kashmir dispute. Besides, heavy and unremitting defence expenditures hampering socio-economic development.
It is always the Kashmir dispute, which blocked the normalization process between Pakistan and India. Indeed, Kashmir holds the key of peace between Pakistan and India and peace between these two neighbors would guarantee peace and stability of South Asia. It is worth mentioning that, except 1971, all wars and conflicts between India and Pakistan were over Kashmir. Despite involvement of major powers in the regional politics of South Asia both during and after the cold war, they have been ‘ineffective in trying to help address the Kashmir problem.’ Keeping the region hostage of Kashmir problem, is indeed a collective failure of major powers, UN and in fact, “biggest failure of international diplomacy.” The dispute though has become complicated over years, yet can be resolved. There is a requirement of farsightedness and statesmanship for resolution of this dispute.
Leaving aside the UN resolutions and aspects of international law, India started calling Kashmir as its ‘integral part’. Pakistan however maintained its stance that, Kashmir is a disputed territory and it has to be resolved as per UN resolution through a plebiscite. In a recent article, Indian scholar and former lawmaker, Mr Kuldir Nayar has rejected the Indian ascertain that, “Kashmir is an integral part of India”. He referred to Article 370 of Indian Constitution, which is only applicable to IHK and not to any integral Indian state(S). India cannot make laws for the Kashmir, unless Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly ask for. However, this all is on paper, practically, IHK is under the Indian rule ever since August 1953 and under Indian Army, ever since 1990. There is no say of Kashmiri leadership in IHK and Kashmir people there are in state of repression and oppression with massive human rights violations under discriminatory laws like Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act & Armed Forces Special Power Act.
Very recently, Indian Home Affair Ministry has introduced a draft bill called, Geospatial Information Regulation Bill -2016. The bill is still under debate. The bill aims at, unilaterally depicting Jammu and Kashmir as Indian Territory and anyone depicting Kashmir as disputed region, shall be punished. Pakistani representative in UN, Dr Maliha Lodhi has strongly protested with UN over this draft Indian bill. Whereas, the UN resolutions have declared the Kashmir as disputed, pending final decision, how can India unilaterally take such a decision? In fact, this is continuation of 1953 Indian agenda, being implemented by Modi Govt.
Among many election promises of the BJP Government, doing away with the Article 370 of Indian Constitution (only linkage between India and IOK) and integration of Kashmir with Indian Union was the most significant promise. Failure to get majority seats in Indian Occupied Kashmir Legislative Assembly, Modi Government has taken three steps.
First, implemented massive demographic changes in Jammu province through RSS, the militant wing of BJP. Two, plans for rehabilitating the Pandits and other Hindus, through fortified colonies on strategic locations for causing ultimate demographic changes in Muslim majority Valley. Then, there is an allocation of huge land for Hindu Shrine at Amarnath. Besides, there are plans for the establishment of Sanik (soldiers) colonies for the retired Army and BSF officers and men. Three, the introduction of the Geospatial bill, the consolidation phase through a broad coverage.
These measures would enable India to completely change the demography of the Jammu and Kashmir state, further do away with Article 370 of Indian Constitution and finally integration of the disputed state into Indian Union. There has been hardly any protest against these Indian developments in IOK from Government of Pakistan or diplomatic circle. Surprisingly, the Kashmiri leadership has not been very forthcoming on these developments. This insensitivity on the part of Kashmiris and Pakistan has further encouraged the India to implement its long-standing agenda of absorbing the Kashmir into India. The question arises, what would be Pakistani response, once India demands AJK and GB after incorporation of Indian occupied Kashmir into Indian Union. After all, Kashmir was an entity and Indian claims have been over entire Jammu and Kashmir.
— The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.