Kashmir dispute can be termed as the unfinished agenda of Partition in 1947. In one sense, Kashmir problem is the result of British failure to find satisfactory method for integration of princely states in Pakistan and India. Despite several attempts to resolve the issue militarily or politically, neither side has been successful in their pursuits. Pakistan always preferred the option of dialogue but, due to Indian intransigence, no headway was made.
Pakistan on dispute with India and claiming its right on Kashmir, took the matter to United Nations. The right to self-determination of people is a basic principle of the United Nation Charter which has been reaffirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and applied countless times to the settlement of many international disputes. The applicability of the principle to the specific case of Jammu and Kashmir has been explicitly recognized by the United Nations. Sixty-eight years have passed since the resolutions were approved, but as many years have gone since the Charter of the United Nations was adopted, Kashmir continues to bleed.
Looking way forward to Kashmir dispute there can be many options for resolving the matter. The most desired option from the Pakistan stance has always been, as enshrined in the UN Resolutions of 1948 and 1949. India would never agree to this solution, as its implementation will give India nothing except sheer embarrassment. The second option of partitioning of Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of religious affinities along River Chenab, in fact, is the carrying forward of the unfinished agenda of partition. It implies that, India retains Hindu and Buddhist majority areas of Jammu and Laddakh, while the Northern Areas, the Valley and districts of Muslim majority in Jammu and Kargil region join Pakistan. River Chenab is an appropriate boundary as it divides Muslims majority districts of Doda and Hindu majority district of Jammu.
Third option is declaring Kashmir an independent state. This option envisages the independence of the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir including Indian Held Kashmir, areas under Pakistan’s control ie Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas and Aksai Chin plateau presently under Chinese control. Fourth option or the idea of handing over Kashmir in UN Trusteeship for a certain period and on the basis of the consensus arrived at by the Kashmiris through plebiscite. Fifth option is condominium wherein Joint Control of Kashmiris is exercised by India and Pakistan. The Lo can be turned into a soft-line with free movement of Kashmiris for trade. Keeping in view the past track record of Indian interventions in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal, this option again has little chance of success. Sixth option of Regional Plebiscite involves holding of plebiscite on regional basis by dividing State into four zones keeping in view demography of various areas and the likely pattern of voting. Seventh option is of status quo and implying division along LoC which is Indian’s most preferred option.
It may cause minimum destabilization by way of migration of people and change in boundaries but adoption of this option will be a major deviation from the basic stand. Eight option is combination of status quo and selective plebiscite under UN. The Hindu/Buddhist majority areas in Jammu and Laddakh to join India, while Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas join Pakistan. Military option is not a wise solution for Kashmir as both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers.
The United Nations has two choices before it. One is to continue confining itself to warning both Pakistan and India against going to war with each other. The prospect of a nuclear exchange in that vast subcontinent cannot be dismissed in the event of hostilities breaking out between the two countries. The second option is to play a more activist, mediatory role with regard to Kashmir by initiating a peace process. This can take the shape of a polygonal dialogue —US, China, India, Pakistan and Kashmir – or an appropriate use of the newly developed procedures and mechanisms at the United Nations. Considering the above options viable solution for Kashmir is plebiscite. UN supervised plebiscite in the state to determine the will of Kashmiri people is the only way to decide the question of state’s final accession. South Asia today stands on the precipice of a nuclear catastrophe. Let the international community assert its will through the UN to find a lasting solution to the dispute.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think tank based in Islamabad.