By Beersmans Paul
Conclusions from the Study Tour to J&K from 24/June to 21/July 2010 by Beersmans Paul, President, Belgium Association for Solidarity with J&K.
A. J&K, as it was before partition in 1947, is at present under the rule of three countries:
(1) China: Aksai Chin and a territory of 5.180 km2 ceded by Pakistan to China;
(2) India: J&K State comprising Jammu-region, the Kashmir-Valley and Ladakh (Kargil and Leh districts);
(3) Pakistan: Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan (Northern Areas).
The population of these regions is totally different from each other: culture, history, traditions, language, religion, etc.
B. In order to find a permanent solution a dialogue is necessary on three levels, as we emphasise already since so many years:
(1) bilateral level: between India and Pakistan;
(2) national level: between the Government of India, the J&K State Government and the representatives of the civil society of the three regions;
(3) internal level: between the different regions of J&K.
C. Priority must be given to end the sufferings of the Kashmiris. This can only be realised by stopping violence and misleading people. They want to have a future and jobs for themselves, for their children. After 20 years of militancy, it is high time to give growing up generations a chance to have a normal youth and education. Violence has been rejected as an instrument for seeking a solution. Pakistan should stop cross-border terrorism and cross-border infiltration, stop sending money, ammunition and weapons, stop giving training. Pakistan decides over peace or violence: as long as Pakistan supports terrorism, openly or covertly, there can’t be peace in J&K. Without peace, there can’t be a solution.
D. Generally speaking, all agree that the Kashmir Valley is the ‘core component’ of any permanent solution, and its voice has a dominant influence on the final outcome although no one seriously believes that resolving the Kashmir issue is only a matter of meeting Valley needs. The other regions of J&K and other constituencies of J&K factor equally in the final solution.
In the end, the resolution of the Kashmir issue is like fitting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. All pieces must fit together at about the same time. So it is to the benefit of Kashmiris from both sides of the LoC to raise voices on achieving an honourable solution at the same time. Accentuating issues on only one side, while ignoring or brushing away problems on the other side, actually helps both India and Pakistan because it ensures that J&K will never emerge as an independent nation. Sure, Pakistan and Valley based separatist leaders can talk about UN resolutions to gladden hearts of their constituencies, but on the ground things will not move by even an inch as has been the case since 1948.
Independent J&K will not be feasible, even theoretically, unless and until all regions of J&K rise coherently to demand it. So, each region must engage with the other in a civil dialogue with mutual respect and with equal considerations. Failing that the status quo will continue, or worse, the Musharraf formula or a variant will be imposed by India and Pakistan and that will be it,
E. Corruption adds to the misery, sufferings and alienation of the common Kashmiri and has a destabilising effect on the normal functioning of the civil society. Kashmiris who have responsible jobs in the police, in the judicial system, in the administration, etc. are supposed to look after the well functioning of the society. By indulging into corruption, they are betraying their own compatriots. It is high time that at all levels in J&K State a serious effort is made to tackle corruption. It is too easy to point to the Centre as being the origin of all evils. One should have the courage and the honesty to recognise the shortcomings in the own system and take the necessary steps to redress the situation.
F. The peace process came to a standstill after the terrorist attack in Mumbai, in November 2008, involving Pakistani nationals trained by ISI and Pakistan Navy. Notwithstanding these hindrances, the composite dialogue must go on. One should not expect a short-term solution, this can only be reached through small steps.
G. The dissident leaders insist that the Kashmiris must be taken into confidence. This is a justified demand, the question however is who should represent the population of J&K in all its segments and differences. On the other hand, most of these leaders do not have a solution. ‘Let a tripartite dialogue start and a solution will emerge automatically’, is their view.
H. The Kashmiri Pandits are the original Kashmiri speaking inhabitants of the Valley. They were hounded out of the Valley by militancy in 1990: some 500.000 of them fled to safer places. This exodus changed drastically the demographic composition of the population in the Valley. After more than twenty years, the return of the Kashmiri Pandits is more and more blurred. Nevertheless, they have their emotional attachment with their birth ground, their roots. They only can return when peace is there and when the rule of law, not the rule of majority is re-installed.
I. There is no doubt that human rights violations are being committed by the security forces and by the militants. There is also no doubt that not all cases of human rights violations committed by the security forces are disclosed or prosecuted. It is also a fact that the security forces always are blamed if something happens. Dissident leaders do not mention and are not critical on human rights violations committed by militants. On the other hand, security forces should show restraint in controlling demonstrations: firing on unarmed civilians, even if they are pelting stones or attacking them, should be allowed only in extreme situations.
J. The Kashmiris expected a lot of the Government headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah: he is young, has a vision, hard working, honest, listening to the demands of the people and paying attention to their basic needs. The challenges are multiple: eradicate corruption and improve the functioning of the administration, the educational system, health care, etc. Terrorism must be tackled. The government must bring back secularism, mutual respect. Due to the prevailing security situation a lot of energy is spent to redress the law and order situation.
K. J&K State is a trouble tormented state for the last twenty years. Especially in the Valley, the youth grew up in a violent environment. They grew up with the presence of so many security forces, with encounters between militants and security forces, with search and cordon off operations, with human rights violations committed by security forces and militants, with the calls for strikes, harthals, demonstrations, shut downs, etc.. Day by day, they witnessed all this for the last twenty years. They didn’t have a normal environment where youth can grow up to a responsible adult. Violence became a part of their ‘normal’ life. This includes stone pelting, provocation of security forces: these are the games they learned to play. Even if peace returns and a lasting peaceful solution has been worked out it will take years to re-educate the youth and to bring them about respect for moral values.
L. It is often stressed that private industries should come to J&K, as they can create many jobs. This is only possible if prospects for a lasting peace are there. Private entrepreneurs only have faith in a peaceful solution. if there is no peace there will be no investment: this goes hand in gloves. Prof. Nisar Ali, senior professor of economics at Kashmir University and a renowned economist of the State believes that the problem of unemployment can’t be solved only by attracting private industries: ‘The problem of unemployment is basically from the educated lot of the State, who want ‘white collar’ jobs (= government jobs) and do not consider other options. J&K is the only State that provides government employment to over 500.000 people, highest in the country, while as in other Indian states it is considerably less. The Government therefore has reached its saturation and can‘t, realistically, absorb the chunk of unemployed youth. The thing that people here want and consider government job as the final word is really aggravating the problem which needs to be tackled on all fronts beginning from changing the mindsets of the people’.
M. The cry for the right of self-determination by some parties in the Valley is supported by Pakistan. However, accession to Pakistan is the only accepted option. Indeed, according to the Azad J&K, Interim Constitution Act, 1974, Par 7. (2): ‘No person or political party in Azad J&K shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan’. In this regard the Strategic Foresight Group stated: ‘To the outside world, it is projected that Pakistan is supporting a struggle for self-determination for the people of Kashmir. Within the closed-door precincts of General Head Quarters of the Pakistani Army in Rawalpindi, Kashmir has a different meaning. It is most aptly summarised by Syed Salahuddin, chairman of the United Jihad Council, as he often assures the leaders of Pakistan that the Kashmir youth are fighting a war to help Pakistan secure its lifeline (= securing access to the water resources of Kashmir).’
General (retd) Tariq Nizami, former Secretary of Kashmir Liberation Cell highlighted the real interests of Pakistan as follows: ‘Kashmir is a primary source of water for the parched lands of the Pakistani peninsula. There are daily reports of the perpetual wrangling between Sindh and Punjab over water sharing. If utter political ineptitude is displayed by the Pakistan government on the Kashmir issue, it would not only lead to Pakistan relinquishing control over Kashmir but would also lead to a gradual secession of Sindh from Pakistan.’
N. Pakistan has no stand in J&K. Pakistan invaded J&K and is at the origin of the de facto partitioning of the State. As early as 13 August 1948 the UN Commission for India and Pakistan requested Pakistan to withdraw its troops from the State as a pre-condition for organising the plebiscite. The same Commission in its resolution of 5 January 1949 repeated this request. Until this date, Pakistan has not withdrawn its armed forces and consequently the plebiscite has not been held.