The internationalization of human relations has led to the emergence of a globalized socio-political arena, governed by a complex network of inter-state relations. Although complex, this network is predictable since it is driven by the basic human tendency to acquire power. As Jack Snyder explains, “At realism’s core is the belief that international affairs are a struggle for power among self-interested states.”1 Nowhere has this struggle for power been more evident than in Kashmir. Located in the North-Western corner of the Indian Subcontinent, Kashmir has been the center of an intractable territorial dispute arising from the bipartite division of British-India into India and Pakistan. A series of three different wars over Kashmir in 1947, 1965 and 1999 have engulfed the region in socio-economic disorder. The acquisition of nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan have merely increased the threat of a nuclear confrontation. Moreover, the conflict has severely undermined Indo-Pak relations, thereby destabilizing the South-Asian region. Amidst this turmoil, Kashmiris have been exposed to armed conflict for both strategic and political gain. Consequently, an estimated 70,000 Kashmiris have lost their lives to military and insurgency operations orchestrated by both countries.2 Stabilizing these deteriorating circumstances requires the establishment of Kashmir as a Sovereign State. This is the only effective solution to safeguard Kashmiris’ right to Self-Determination, ensure long-term regional stability and stimulate new economic prospects for the Indian Subcontinent.
To proficiently analyze the proposed solution, it is imperative to dissect the roots of the Kashmir Conflict. Historically, Kashmir has been exposed to several theocracies. The Buddhist Rule in Kashmir began in the 3rd century BCE. From 9th to 12th century CE, Hinduism appeared to be the dominant culture of Kashmir. A myriad of Hindu dynasties ruled Kashmir until 1346, when it came under the Muslim Rule. This period lasted nearly five centuries, ending with the annexation of Kashmir to the Sikh Kingdom of Punjab in 1819.3 From Buddhist Emperors to Sikh Rulers, several religious minorities in Kashmir experienced policies of oppression and forcible conversion. In 1846, the British defeated the Sikhs and conquered Kashmir. However, the Dogras4 paid a lump sum to buy the rights to Kashmir as a part of the Treaty of Amritsar. Moreover, the British allowed the Dogras to form the princely-state of Kashmir by combining disparate regions, religions, and ethnicities.5 The resulting ethnic violence, together with high poverty, increased segregation in Kashmir.
In 1947, the British rule over the Indian Subcontinent came to an end. Accordingly, Britain entrusted Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a British lawyer, with the task of devising a framework for the partition of the Subcontinent. His recommendations, known as the Radcliffe Awards, required all princely-states to accede to either India or Pakistan on the basis of geographical contiguity and the religion of the majority in the principalities.6 Moreover, while the Hindu-majority states were required to accede to India, the Muslim-majority states were required to accede to Pakistan. Accordingly, of the three main routes to Kashmir, two acceded to Pakistan. A third route existed via the district of Gurdaspur. Under the Radcliffe Awards, all of Gurdaspur district with a 51.16% Muslim-majority had acceded to Pakistan. This meant that all routes to Kashmir would have fallen under the control of Pakistan. Subsequently, a revised Partition-Plan introduced changes to the Radcliffe Awards. Ironically, the only state affected was the district of Gurdaspur. Despite its Muslim-majority, a significantly large portion of Gurdaspur was awarded to India.7 This gave India the necessary geographical contiguity to lay its claim on Kashmir.
At the time of independence, Kashmir had a 77% Muslim-majority, racially and religiously akin to Pakistan. When the Partition-Plan was announced, Kashmiris started pressuring the government to announce their accession to Pakistan. All the major political parties of Kashmir supported this accession.8 However, the Hindu-Maharaja of Kashmir had no such intentions. On 12th August 1947, the Maharaja entered into a Stand-Still Agreement9 with Pakistan. He then went on to acquire the support of Hindu and Sikh battalions to crush all pro-Pakistani elements. In response, the Kashmiri freedom-fighters liberated Kashmir, forcing the Maharaja to flee to India. Various tribal armies from Pakistan also crossed into Kashmir to help Kashmiris attain their independence. Consequently, the Maharaja was forced to execute the Instrument of Accession10 to India in exchange for military support. On 27th October 1947, the Government of India dispatched her troops into Kashmir, effectively blocking the advance of the freedom-fighters. With the subsequent intervention of Pakistan in 1948, India was forced to internationalize the issue by seeking UN’s involvement. On 21st April 1948, the UN passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire. Moreover, the resolution laid a framework for determining the future of Kashmir through a free and impartial plebiscite.11 The ceasefire line, known as the LoC (Line of Control), became the de facto border splitting Kashmir into two regions: Jammu Kashmir (Indian-Administered Kashmir) and Azad Kashmir (Pakistan-Administered Kashmir). India’s strong opposition to the proposal of a plebiscite meant that the Conflict would not be resolved through a democratic process.
Nonetheless, the prolonged nature of this Conflict is rather a consequence of Indo-Pak interests in Kashmir. To India, Kashmir is integral to its secular identity. Likewise, Pakistan perceives Kashmir as an integral part of its Muslim identity. Moreover, the Muslim-majority status of Kashmir is of interest to both countries. On a more strategic level, Kashmir provides both a strong military outpost and an access to its vast water resources. In fact, three of the major rivers of Pakistan, namely Indus, Jhelum and Chenab, flow through Kashmir.12 Control over these resources translates into an increase in regional power. To elaborate, Pakistan’s control over Kashmir eliminates their dependency for water on India. In retrospect, India’s control of Kashmir secures their dominance over a largely agricultural Pak-economy.13
Moreover, these vested interests in Kashmir explain the failure of past diplomatic negotiations in providing a remedy to the Conflict. Instead, these negotiations have constituted the Kashmir Conflict as a bilateral dispute, thus eliminating the involvement of a third-party in arbitrating a resolution. However, a rather interesting proposal was made by Pakistan’s President, Pervez Musharraf. In 2006, he called for the enforcement of a joint-supervision mechanism in Kashmir, thereby allowing Kashmiris to freely move across the LoC (Line of Control). Nonetheless, India rejected the proposal on the basis that the free movement of people posed a threat to its national security. In fact, the proposal faced serious criticism in Pakistan itself. Many Pakistanis believed that a joint-supervision mechanism would undermine Pakistan’s influence in Kashmir.14 While unsuccessful, these negotiations have corroborated the same basic principle: neither India nor Pakistan is willing to let the other side acquire Kashmir. It is for this reason that the only effective resolution to the Kashmir Conflict lies in the establishment of Kashmir as a Sovereign State.
Besides being effective, the independence of Kashmir safeguards Kashmiris’ right to Self-Determination. As stated in Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976), “All people have the right to Self-Determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”15 In its economic aspect, the principle is understood “as the right of any State to reintegrate its national wealth…and to use it in the interests…of its people.”16 Historically, a plebiscite has been used to determine the ‘will of the people’. However, the execution of this right does not necessarily require a plebiscite. As explained in Article 76(b) of the Charter of the United Nations, “the basic objective…of the trusteeship system…is to promote…the progressive development (of the inhabitants of disputed territories) towards self-government or independence…based on the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned.”17 Note that while the Charter recognizes the principle of Self-Determination, it never establishes a plebiscite as a precondition towards the application of this right. Therefore, the independence of Kashmir will be in accordance with the U.N definition of ‘Self-Determination’ if:
i) The independence upholds the purpose of the right to Self-Determination; and
ii) There is a consensus on what the ‘wishes of the people’ are.
The purpose of the right to Self-Determination is simply to protect cultures and enable nations to fully utilize their economic potential. Kashmir is a region which has its own history, language and culture. However, the Indo-Pak rivalry has severely threatened Kashmir’s distinct culture, clouding it with tales of violence and hatred. Furthermore, Kashmiris have failed to be economically prosperous simply because of the political unrest in the region. Subsequently, by addressing the Kashmir Conflict, the independence of Kashmir will protect Kashmiri culture and eliminate the political unrest in the region. This will then enable Kashmiris to fully utilize their economic potential. More importantly, most polls in Kashmir have shown that Kashmiris would prefer independence over accession to India or Pakistan. The first official poll conducted in 2010 concluded that over 43% of Kashmir’s population desired independence. Support for accession to India or Pakistan stood at 21% and 15% respectively.18 Moreover, the proposition of independence enjoys popular support in Kashmir. As already established, it also upholds the purpose of the right to Self-Determination. Consequently, only an independent Kashmir can safeguard Kashmiris’ right to Self-Determination.
Simultaneously, the independence of Kashmir ensures long-term regional stability for the Indian Subcontinent. For over eight decades, Kashmir has prevented the development of diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan. Not surprisingly, the Kashmir Conflict has been the peripheral issue of all wars fought in the Indian Subcontinent. Moreover, the Conflict has compelled India and Pakistan to contest for regional dominance. The most obvious indication of this contest is seen in the proliferation of nuclear weapons by the two countries. Nonetheless, by far the most significant threat to South-Asian stability is associated with the rise of ‘proxy-wars’19 in the Indian Subcontinent. The rise of such wars can be associated with the Kashmir Conflict. In 1972, Pakistan’s defeat to India revealed that Pakistan was ill-equipped to confront an India-Army. However, Pakistan’s use of Talibans20 to successfully perpetrate a proxy-war in Afghanistan led Pakistan to believe that it could use the same tactics in Kashmir. Therefore, Pakistan continued its support for the Talibans long after the end of the first Afghan-War. As Graham Usher points out, “Pakistan has used Afghanistan as a staging area for ‘proxy soldiers’ to wage war in Kashmir…”21 In executing its foreign policy, Pakistan has resorted to proxy-wars in an attempt to wear down the Indian resistance in Kashmir. This assertion is further strengthened by two historical events: the insurgency in Kashmir (1989-present) and the Mumbai attacks (2008). In both instances, Pakistan-based Talibans conducted attacks in Kashmir and India. While the insurgency in Kashmir has led to nearly 40,000 casualties22, the Mumbai attacks killed 164 Indian civilians23. More recently, the Afghan-War emerged as yet another threat to South-Asian stability. The international community soon realized that ending the Afghan-War would require Pakistan’s support in defeating the Talibans. However, since Pakistan is currently using these Talibans to continue its own policy of proxy-wars, Pakistan has refused to join the efforts to end the Afghan-War. As a matter of fact, Pakistan will not withdraw its support for the Talibans until an acceptable resolution to the Kashmir Conflict is enforced.24
Moreover, the resolution of an independent Kashmir has the potential for restoring South-Asian stability. By eliminating Kashmir as a peripheral issue, the resolution promotes the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan. More importantly, it also effectively addresses the Afghan-War. To elaborate, the independence of Kashmir means that Pakistan will no longer have an incentive to continue harboring Talibans. This will allow Pakistan to support the international efforts in Afghanistan without the burden of pursuing its policy of proxy-wars. Besides being beneficial for Afghanistan, the resolution also offers significant hope in ceasing the rise of proxy-wars. Consequently, by addressing the major threats to South-Asian stability, the independence of Kashmir ensures long-term regional stability for the Indian Subcontinent.
In its economic aspect, the independence of Kashmir offers significant potential for the Indian Subcontinent. For centuries, countries have relied upon foreign investments to facilitate their economic growth. However, such investments are virtually non-existing in destabilized regions. To elaborate, investing in a disputed territory means that there is potential for never receiving a return on the investment. This disincentivizes investors from investing in such regions. For Kashmir, being a disputed territory has meant that there is nearly not enough foreign investment to facilitate its economic growth. According to the NITI Aayog statistics, Kashmir’s GDP growth has fallen from 5.63% in 2014 to -1.57% in 2015. This period also saw a fall in foreign investments from over $3 million to just under $1.75 million.25 Moreover, the political unrest has proven detrimental to Kashmir’s diverse industries. Although Kashmir is a tourist attraction, its deteriorating circumstances have severely damaged its tourist industries. As Javed Burza, the President of Kashmir’s Hotel and Restaurant Federation, points out, “The situation is going from bad to worse… (There is) just 15-20% occupancy (of tourists in hotels), down from 70-80% a year ago (in 2016).”26 Likewise, Kashmir’s agricultural and manufacturing industries have faced devastating effects due to the political unrest. In many instances, crops and livestock have been destroyed by insurgencies. More importantly, while Kashmir has the potential for exporting goods, its status of a disputed territory means that it cannot enter into trade agreements with other states. In retrospect, Kashmir’s independence will allow it to negotiate its own trade agreements, thereby maximizing its economic potential. By eliminating the political unrest in the region, Kashmir can then hope for greater foreign investments. Moreover, the independence of Kashmir facilitates the generation of such conditions under which Kashmiri industries can flourish and contribute to rapid economic growth.
Likewise, the independence of Kashmir is also economically beneficial for India and Pakistan. For too long, Kashmir has kept the two countries from investing in other economically productive areas. For example, while Jammu Kashmir has received 10% of all Central Grants given by the Indian Government since 200027, its contribution to the Indian GDP has been merely 0.76%28. Infact Jammu Kashmir has been a burden on the Indian economy. Following the political unrest in Jammu Kashmir, IMF’s projections in 2017 for the growth of Indian economy came down from 7.6% to 6.6%29. Similarly, Pakistan has been involved in heavy spending in Azad Kashmir. As a result, Pakistan has failed to successfully exploit its resources in Baluchistan. Baluchistan holds about 5.9 billion tonnes of ore, making it the world’s fifth largest deposit of gold and copper.30 Despite its huge economic potential, Baluchistan remains underdeveloped and untapped. Accordingly, the independence of Kashmir will free up resources for both India and Pakistan. These resources can then be allocated towards the exploitation of resources and other economically productive industries. The resulting growth of diplomatic relations may also facilitate the growth of bilateral trade agreements. According to some sources, the expansion of bilateral trade between India and Pakistan has the potential for growing up to ‘$40 billion in just a few years’.31
In essence, it is evident that the independence of Kashmir benefits all stakeholders involved in the Conflict. Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that such a resolution requires significant international involvement to gain the necessary Indo-Pak support. Without the prospect of sanctions, neither India nor Pakistan will recognize Kashmir as an independent State. Furthermore, Kashmir will also need economic and military assistance to ensure its survival. The intervention of international organizations, such as the United Nations, is thus imperative. Unfortunately, it is hard to foresee such international involvement in the near future. The development of India’s relations with the U.S, and the strengthening of Pak-China alliance means that imposing sanctions on India and Pakistan is nearly impossible. Moreover, any resolutions which undermine Indo-Pak interests will be vetoed by either U.S or China. Consequently, while the independence of Kashmir remains an effective solution, the recent political developments suggest that an immediate resolution to the Kashmir Conflict is rather unlikely.
1 Jack Snyder, “One World, Rival Theories,” Foreign Policy, December 2003, 55.
2 “Kashmir: Conflict Profile,” Peace Insight, December 2010.
3 Naghma Mangrio, “A Historical and Political Perspective of Kashmir Issue,” The Dialogue Vol.7, July 2012, 256-257.
4 ‘Dogras’ were a dynasty of Hindu Rajputs who ruled Kashmir from 1846-1947.
5 Adekoye A. Raquel, “The Impact of the Kashmir Conflict on Indo-Pak Relations,” ResearchSpace, 2014, 6.
6 Ibid., 7.
7 Ahmad Mahmood Hayat, “Pakistani Options for Resolution of the Kashmir Dispute,” Biblioscholar, June 1999, 22.
8 Alastair Lamb. “Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy 1846-1990,” Oxford Books, 1991, 95.
9 A ‘Stand-Still Agreement’ is a contract that stops or stalls a hostile takeover of a State.
10 The ‘Instrument of Accession’ finalized Kashmir’s accession to India.
11 Ahmad, 25-26.
12 “Geography: The Rivers of Pakistan,” Dawn, September 2009.
13 Musarat J. Cheema, “Pakistan-India Conflict with Special Reference to Kashmir,” South Asian Studies, Vol. 30(1), 2015, 46-48.
14 Ghulam N. Fai, “Musharraf’s four-point Formula: The Devil in the Details,” Kashmiri Reader, March 2017.
15 “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, March 1976.
16 Daniel Thurer, Thomas Burri, “Self-Determination,” Oxford Public International Law, December 2008.
17 “Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International Court of Justice,” 1945, Article 76(b).
18 “Kashmir mulls comprehensive opinion-poll,” BBC News, 2010.
19 ‘Proxy-wars’ refers to a war instigated by a major power that does not itself become involved.
20 ‘Talibans’ are an Islamic Fundamentalist Group currently waging war in Afghanistan.
21 Graham Usher, “The Afghan Triangle,” Middle East Report, 2009, 21.
22 “40,000 people killed in Kashmir: India,” The Express Tribune, 10 Aug. 2011.
23 “Mumbai Terror Attacks: Fast Facts,” CNN, 12 December 2017.
24 Patrick J. Larkin, “Kashmir – The Key to Peace in Afghanistan,” Naval Postgraduate School, March 2013.
25 Anil Sasi, “Jammu & Kashmir: An economy in turmoil,” Indian Express, 13 Sep. 2016.
26 Hakeem Irfan, “Kashmir sees a sharp decline in Tourists,” The Economic Times, 14 April 2017.
27 Sushant Talwar, “Why does J&K get 10% of Central Funds with 1% of population?” The Quint, 25 July 2016.
28 Ajaz Ayoub, “Economic structure of J&K,” Greater Kashmir, 29 Jan. 2013.
29 “World Economic Outlook Update,” International Monetary Fund, January 2017.
30 Khurram Shahzad, “11 Amazing Facts about Pakistan’s Largest Gold-Mine,” Daily Pakistan Global, 4 Jan 2018.
31 Shuja Nawaz, Mohan Guruswamy, “India and Pakistan: The Opportunity Cost of Conflict,” Atlantic Council, April 2014, 13.