Ever since the inception of our beloved Pakistani republic, disputed territorial claim over the fledging valley of Jammu and Kashmir has been a contentious bone that has choked Indo-Pakistan relations since 1947, a staggering 70 years by the time I write this! And yet hardly any real progress has been made in undoing this conundrum since it first appeared on the world stage. In this article I will not provide you any patriotic narrative of the conflict nor explain to you who you should charge with the crime being at fault in this debacle. As a Pakistani nationalist who prioritises whatever that is in his country’s best interest and as someone with a marked disdain for unnecessary conflict, I intend to explain to you my 5 step solution to the Kashmir conflict, so that you may improve upon it and correct whatever I hath doth wrong.
Step 1: Bilateral recognition of the LOC (Line of Control) as an international boundary between India and Pakistan for a period of at least 10 years. Ah the LOC … one side is controlled by Pakistan and the other by India which already makes it an informal border between the two countries and everyone understands that it is the point where the authority of one ends and the other begins. In all practical sense it is already the unofficial border between the two nations. By formalising it we maturely accept that neither state has absolute control over the valley as a whole as of this time period.
Step 2: Demilitarisation of the region, i.e. the armies of both nations withdraw their forces from their respective Kashmirs. To be frank, the presence of both militaries in the region is not doing the natives, whom we all claim to love and protect, much favour. No one enjoys seeing the world around them descend into a seemingly endless warzone; it’s a disruption to trade, it’s a disruption to daily life and it brings tremendous stress upon local communities. The allegations of human rights abuse against the Indian army in particular have also been mounting rapidly over the past few years. It is well within the interest of both states to reduce the likelihood of conflict along the LOC. No one gains anything from a mountain of corpses being erected after all.
Step 3: The deployment of a UN peacekeeping force along the LOC. Understandably, many if not most of you who read step 3, will feel extremely uncomfortable with the idea of a total withdrawal, given the circumstances we live in, one would naturally expect it. This is why a small UN peacekeeping force of no more than 10,000 stationed is recommended along the new official border just for maintaining the peace, controlling movement and enforcing law & order wherever necessary. By bringing in intentional units we lessen the likelihood of any surprising invasion by either country. Neither India nor Pakistan wants to be reputed for attacking the forces of the United Nations. The sheer gravity of the consequence of such an action would be of immense proportions.
Step 4: The development of closer economic and commercial ties between India and Pakistan. The dispute over Kashmir is the single biggest obstacle in the face of good, healthy and mutually beneficial relations between our two nations. Both Pakistan and India have a lot to gain from opening up our borders to trade and tourism. The 21st century Empire is economic rather than military in its nature and if we wish for our nation to grow and prosper into a major player in world events and help shape the future of the human race for the better, we mustn’t pass on any opportunity to develop and enhance our economy.
Step 5: After the agreed period of time expires, Pakistan and India must bilaterally decide to either accept the status quo and take up the LOC as a permanent border, in which case the dispute will obviously end, or a referendum under international surveillance can be held and the people of the valley given the choice to accede to either country. Either way the Kashmir dispute would end permanently, although the likelihood of a referendum being agreed on is much less.
A lot of you may be wondering why I didn’t simply choose to vouch for either accepting the LOC or holding the referendum right in the very beginning instead of going through everything else mentioned and the reason for that is simply the fact that such a move would be so incredibly unpopular for a politician to introduce in both countries that (i) It would never be accepted by a majority and (ii) hardly any politician would risk jeopardising their careers by agreeing to it. By initially agreeing only to a temporary border, we slowly, but surely, psychologically prepare the peoples of both republics to the notion of permanently ending the dispute diplomatically with the possibility of both parties retaining a section of Kashmir.
Many will also reprimand me for not having made the feelings and desires of the Kashmiri people the dominant and sole authority in deciding the fate of the valley as well as my complete absence of enthusiasm for the possibility of an independent Kashmiri state which is thus so because it is a notion so riddled with idealistic absurdity and practical near impossibility, it’s hardly worth mentioning. Neither India nor Pakistan will surrender the territory their soldiers fought for and died to capture and hold. Peace is not the objective of either Islamabad or New Delhi and no one should fool themselves into thinking otherwise.
The future of our foreign policy must be engineered to bring us as much benefit as possible, not thrust our pre conceived biases upon the rest of the world. The further we look towards pragmatism the more we shall extrapolate from this world.