• Banjosa Lake (NXPowerLite)

Kashmir Solidarity Day, or Kashmir Day as it is better known, has been observed on 5th February every year since 1990, to express ‘solidarity’ with Kashmiri brethren in their struggle to resolve the Kashmir dispute according to UN resolutions. What I cannot fathom is why it is a public holiday? How is the cause of Kashmiris served by 184 million Pakistanis taking the day off?

Sure, rallies are held in some cities, seminars and conferences are organized, special prayers are offered and the media churns out the obligatory annual outpouring of condemnation of India for its atrocities in IOK (Indian Occupied Kashmir). But again, how many people are actually part of all this? Less than one percent of our total population, maybe? For the other 99 percent, it is a holiday, like any other holiday, and an opportunity to sleep late, catch up on visiting relatives, doing pending household chores, taking the family for an outing, or simply, doing absolutely nothing more strenuous than lazing around at home and watching television. And I daresay, some may well be

watching a Bollywood film!

A public holiday to observe anything is a bad idea. Full stop. It costs the economy billions in lost activity, deprives millions of low-income daily wage earners of their day’s livelihood and deprives millions of school going children one precious day of education, to name just 3 outcomes.

On the other hand, instead of a public holiday, the nation can work and function as on any normal working day and still observe Kashmir Day and serve the cause in more productive ways. I can make several suggestions here, but that is not the point. The point is that what is important is to get the general populace inspired and motivated to do something on its own volition.

Kashmir is a highly sensitive topic. So sensitive that if you even mildly question, leave alone challenge the written-in-stone official narrative, you can be declared a heretic, a blasphemer, a traitor, an Indian agent, or even all of these. But isn’t it possible, even remotely possible, that the elusive solution to the Kashmir quagmire can come out of opening the given narrative to discussion, debate and an objective evaluation of possible options for a solution?

Keep in mind that the already tried options have not produced any result for over 68 years. Three wars with India were fought but Kashmir was not ‘liberated’. Tens of thousands of jihadists were recruited and trained and infiltrated into Kashmir over a period of nearly 20 years and nothing was gained. So if we are going to keep on trying these same options time and again, are we being smart? Or even being sane, considering Einstein’s definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results?

Let’s also look at some ground realities:

a) Azad Kashmir has a total estimated population of around 4.6 million people. There are another about 7 million in Indian Jammu & Kashmir. So for about 12 million people, there is permanent estrangement with disastrous consequences between 184 million Pakistanis and over a billion Indians.

b) There is no way on Earth that India will ever give up Kashmir, at least not to Pakistan. Will any country in the world concede a large, fertile and rich with natural resources territory it is holding to another country? So at least, let’s forget about ‘Kashmir banega Pakistan.’ To expect India to allow Kashmir become an independent state because the people there apparently want this, is really about the same as expecting Pakistan to allow Balochistan becoming an independent state because the Balochis want to be separate.

c) Further, very few in Azad Kashmir itself are interested in becoming a part of Pakistan. In fact in many areas of Kashmir, there is actual resentment against Pakistan, even though hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris live and work in towns and cities across the length and breadth of Pakistan. We were in Rawalakot last August 14 and the absence of the Pakistan flag fluttering anywhere was stark. Speak to locals, and none want to be a part of Pakistan.

d) So what do Kashmiris want? Well, besides wanting to become an independent state that includes Indian Occupied Kashmir which we are supposed to conquer for them, Kashmiris also want Gilgit-Baltistan to be part of their desired independent country. Because a long time ago when Kashmir was a princely state, Gilgit-Baltistan were a part of the state.

Consider this statement by the AJK Prime Minster given some months ago at a press conference:
“Gilgit-Baltistan is part and parcel of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Any attempt to merge it into Pakistan will deal a fatal blow to our stand in the light of UN resolutions envisaging right to self-determination for the Kashmiris ….. On behalf of over 17.5 million Kashmiris, I warn you (Islamabad) to change your thoughts. Or else, there will be severe reaction.”
Threats to Pakistan by the people for whom this country has sacrificed thousands of lives, spent billions, given employment, supported economically in myriad other ways, and generally protected. If Kashmir was to become independent, how this landlocked country with little industry, little infrastructure and few natural resources besides forests and rivers is going to survive is anyone’s guess.

e) The whole jihadist saga which began with Zia ul Haq and which continued to be nurtured by succeeding governments has been a disaster for Pakistan itself. Not only did it bring our relations to boiling point and even a nuclear war with India on a number of occasions, the arming and training of jihadists eventually backfired on us in terms of dangerously armed non-state actors running amok within Pakistan itself.

f) Ironically, while jihadists of all hues from all over Pakistan were going off to Kashmir to infiltrate into India and bring about ‘liberation’, very very few Kashmiris themselves were part of this armed movement. I don’t have figures readily available, but I am sure a little research into writings of subject experts will reveal that the freedom-fighters (our definition, and extremists / terrorists for India) crossing the line of control at various points and at various times, over a period of 20 years or so, were practically all from Punjab (especially Southern Punjab) and what was then NWFP. Kashmiris themselves were by and large not participants.

So realistically speaking, what are our options for a permanent and sustainable solution? But wait, do we even want a solution? Is it in the interest of some stakeholders to not find a solution? Keep the issue on a permanent slow burner, bringing it to boil every now and then when needed? Keep the bogey of India being an enemy alive forever and not seek peace with our much larger neighbor? Even though world history since the end of the Second World War is testament to the fact that sworn enemies, neighbours to each other, have all made up and gone on to achieve great things through peace and mutual cooperation; just 2 examples being France and Germany, and China and Japan.

If almost 7 decades of strife and confrontation has not ‘liberated’ Kashmir, can we at least consider if and how the lives of Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control can be made better, with the Line of Control becoming the international border?

Or, if we insist on India letting go of their Kashmir (an impossibility in my opinion as earlier stated), then can we revisit our foreign policy and devise a much more effective strategy to get the backing of the world community on UN Resolutions application for a plebiscite in Kashmir? So we provide protection to the Middle East monarchies, allow them to come and hunt our protected species, bend over backwards in a dozen ways, but we cannot persuade them to vigorously back us on Kashmir against India. I guess because for them India at a realistic level is much more important than us.

The resolution for Kashmir Day 2016, coming from the government and all stakeholders, should be that before Kashmir Day 2017, a permanent, lasting, peaceful and acceptable to all (including India) will be found.

3 Responses to Kashmir

  1. Hunaid Tambawala says:

    There are several points here that I think are open to interpretation and how the narrative was created. At the risk of being declared a heretic, a blasphemer, a traitor, an Indian agent, or even all of these, I would like to question the written-in-stone official narrative.

    Would there be a Kashmir day if it were not for Muslims in Kashmir?

    Does there have to be estrangement if there was a political solution?

    Yes, if Vietnam and USA can develop such close relationships after raping and looting the land under false premises, it is time for Pakistan and India to look for a political solution which I don’t believe will happen in my lifetime for reasons that are self-evident.

  2. Mehfooz Aleem says:

    Very well written author analyze the issue properly. Hope Kashmir’s solution find soon.

  3. Anil suryawanshi says:

    I have served in ladakh three times since 1985 and four times in Kashmir valley as part of infantry units in uri , doda , kupwara , tangdhar & banihal . Analysis of map shows that India is just holding slightely more than one third of Jammu & Kashmir . Rest is with China and Pakistan . Ladakh residents were neglected economically and wanted separate budjet. Jammu is clearly siding India . In Kashmir valley which has few districts , residents do not want to merge with India or Pakistan . That want to continue with present constitutional status . Traders in srinagar are happy at level of profits even after paying 20 % tax to militants .Residents along line of control and gujjar community wants to merge with India because they see no future and development under govt controlled by Kashmir valley .India can never take back aksai chin and area ceased by Pakistan without a major war . Siachen conflict is a prestige issue and has no strategic value and is waste of Rs 5 crores per day . I was there in 1985,& 1995. I also opened route to american mountaineer Mr Leo lebong for his expedition to k 2 mountain in 1986 . Siachen is good for adventure training only .Field Marshall manekshaw had rightely advised for conversion of line of control in to international border. Insurvency Problem is just confined to few pockets in k valley . Kashmiris are not with India nor Pakistan . Political solution is the key . Amen !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *