An Out-Of-Box, Non-Jihadi Solution To Kashmir Crisis
Muhammad Ziauddin analyses former diplomat Syed Shariffudin’s statement that contrary to the general disappointment in Pakistan that India’s revocation of Article 370 has sealed the fate of Jammu and Kashmir, it opens many opportunities for Pakistan and Kashmiris, which were not possible prior to 5 August.
International reaction to August 5 move of the Indian government has been relatively neutral, with statements generally calling for restraint from both sides and for dialogue towards peaceful resolution. There was, however, criticism from China, though this seemed more in relation to its own disputed border with India.
Surprisingly, despite being members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, whose contact group on Jammu and Kashmir criticized the move by the Indian government, the UAE and Maldives have stated that this was an ‘internal matter’ for India.
None of this, however, changes the fact that the territory will continue to be viewed as ‘disputed’ internationally and as part of Indian Territory within India. Thus, while there seems to be little the international community is willing to do at the moment, this might hopefully change if the information blackout is prolonged or if conditions in the Kashmir Valley deteriorate once restrictions are lifted.
A key point of contention within India and internationally is the way this step was undertaken. In the preceding week, 35,000 new paramilitary forces were introduced to an already heavily militarized area with 700,000 troops on the pretext of security concerns, while a Hindu pilgrimage was abruptly suspended and tourists were asked to leave the region. Finally, on the day before the government’s announcement, the internet and communications within the Kashmir Valley were blocked, key political leaders were detained and freedom of assembly was curbed, creating an information blackout and panic among residents as well as those with families in the area.
Further, Kashmiris were not consulted and continue to be kept under curfew, highlighting the lack of trust between Srinagar and Delhi. This raises the prospect of increased alienation not only among the general population of the Valley, but also among political parties who have in the past worked with the central government to govern the state, like Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and Mahbooba Mufti—all former chief ministers of India Occupied Kashmir (IOK).
Moreover, the secrecy and speed with which this decision was taken is likely to fuel the sense of injustice that many in the Valley already feel towards the Indian government. It remains to be seen whether this will lend itself to greater mobilization and violence once the curfews and communication blackout are lifted, particularly at a time when militancy in the region is becoming increasingly indigenous, as opposed to primarily comprising recruits from across the Line of Control.
There was some strong reaction in Pakistan following the 5 August 2019 action by India clipping the special status of the IOK granted under the prorogued Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution and declaring it as a Union Territory in two parts under a law enacted on 6 August 2019.
The retaliatory measures agreed by Pakistan’s National Security Committee under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister on 7 August 2019 following an angry joint session of the Pakistan Parliament were as follows:
- Downgrading diplomatic relations with India;
- Suspending bilateral trade with India;
- Reviewing bilateral arrangements with India;
- Matter to be taken to the UN, including the Security Council;
- Pakistan Independence Day on 14 August to be observed in solidarity with the brave Kashmiris and their struggle for the right of self-determination;
- 15 August which is India’s Independence Day to be observed as a Black Day in Pakistan.
In addition to these measures, the Prime Minister of Pakistan also directed that:
- All diplomatic channels be activated to expose the brutal Indian racist regime’s design and human rights violations;
- Pakistan Armed Forces to continue vigilance;
- The Special Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir to remain seized with the issue.The measures did not include Pakistan closing its airspace for all international civilian and cargo traffic bound to/from India.The airspace was opened on 15 July after it remained closed since 26 February following India’s failed airstrike in Balakot. The Kartarpur Corridor for Sikh pilgrims was also not affected by these measures.
According to Syed Sharfuddin, a former diplomat and a former Special Adviser for Asia in the Political Affairs Division of Commonwealth Secretariat mn London from 2000 to 2006 (Post August 2019 status of Jammu & Kashmir and options for Pakistan—Paper posted on line on August 9, 2019) these measures have a short shelf life and will soon be forgotten.
Syed believes that contrary to the general disappointment in Pakistan that India’s action of 5 August 2019 has sealed the fate of Jammu and Kashmir, the abrogation of IOK’s special status by India opens many opportunities for Pakistan and Kashmiris, which were not possible prior to 5 August.
Syed believes that by taking away the special status of Kashmir under duress, India has returned the delegated people’s power from the abrogated Assembly back to the Kashmiri people to decide their future, without a plebiscite.
And in what appears to an out-of-box solution of the crisis, Syed has suggested a rather unconventional but in his opinion a democratic and non-Jihadi option, which he says might strengthen Pakistan’s claim on Kashmir in the long run. He wants the Kashmiri people from both sides of the LOCs to meet in a Grand Congress in the UK and in exercise of their political will in lieu of the long denied plebiscite, they should pass a people’s resolution overturning the Maharajah’s arbitrary and unfair accession to India with their democratic and popular accession to Pakistan.
Following this, he further suggests, the Azad Kashmir Assembly should meet and pass a similar resolution and give Pakistan a clear mandate to claim the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir through a constitutional amendment in the 1973 Constitution, defining its status as the 6th province of Pakistan in Article 157 and showing its territorial boundaries as existed at the time of partition in 1947 in Article 1.
In the opinion of Syed this is a democratic and constitutional solution, away from violence and agitation of the last 7 decades, but, in his opinion, it will require patience and hard work to reach fruition.
As an immediate first step, Syed calls upon Pakistan to honor the wishes of the Kashmiri people from Azad Kashmir, as well as from IOK, to join Pakistan by convening an extraordinary session of the two Houses of Parliament to discuss Kashmir and amend the 1973 Constitution to make Kashmir as the 6th Province of Pakistan comprising the present Azad Kashmir and the entire IOK minus Ladakh.
He says a further provision should be added in the Constitution to reflect this in the international boundary of Pakistan and suggests that the new boundary will take effect from the day Indian occupation terminates in the occupied territory. Having taken this action, he advises Pakistan to negotiate with India a pacific settlement of the Kashmir dispute with or without international mediation from a big power guaranteeing the full implementation of the peace accord.
According to Syed this process may involve a number of democratic steps without going to war with India. This should be done before the dust settles and the current most significant development becomes the new normal in India-Pakistan relations.
The author is a senior journalist and editor.