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April 1, 2015

Kashmir: Urgency in dialogue process

By Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai  

“All of us remain concerned that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir should be solved through peaceful negotiations and should be willing to lend all the strength we have to the resolution of this matter.” President Nelson Mandela at the NAM Summit – September 2, 1998 

In matters of international conflict resolution, that can only imply the involvement of a third party mediator or facilitator. If Ashok and Ahmad can't put Humpty Dumpty back together because they can't agree on where the pieces go, then Sam, a specialist in eggshell reconstruction, should be called upon in order for differences to be resolved. Most importantly, without a third party's impartial diligence in pursuing a settlement, breakdowns in lines of communication or other disputes that may arise will inevitably create barriers to resolution, and the process will fail. The side in the dispute which offers initiatives will always be seen as weak when both are out rattling their sabres; hence no progress can be made. 

Although it seems that the UN would be the most ideal party to do so, it's obvious that UN involvement needs acceptance from both Pakistan and India. India has made it clear that the UN's monitoring of the Line of Control separating the two sides is itself unacceptable. Efforts to involve other major power brokers has achieved nothing, and most have alliances with one or the other of the two countries that would taint the process. The world powers can still persuade India and Pakistan to go back on their position in respect to the UN. Alternatively, they can suggest to both neighboring countries to simply agree that some other neutral party which perhaps professionally engages in conflict resolution might work between the two countries, creating an unbroken line of communication between them so that differences can in fact be resolved. 

This mediator or facilitator should not be any party that is tied to any known national or international political agenda, whose funding should be derived independent of such interests, and which may pursue the resolution of this conflict objectively. 

It would be the task of such an independent agency or a personality of an international stature to review solutions to the dispute which have garnered some attention and agreement in the past and to propose steps that would bring Pakistan and India together on points of alignment, with the full inclusion of the Kashmiris themselves. Since the future of Kashmir is at stake, it is vitally important that its own interests, however varied among Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and others, be a party to any discussions that are to take place. 

Numerous proposals have been made in the past for resolving the Kashmir dispute which the neutral agency might take into consideration, such as that proposed by Sir Owen Dixon’s Plan in 1950, Ambassador Yusuf Buch’s Proposal in 2003, to Ambassador Kuldip Nayar’s Proposition in 2014. 

There are several key issues that have been addressed in such proposals that need to be taken into consideration again. 

1.         Should all military operations cease and all troops from both countries be withdrawn?
2.         What political, economic, national defense or social interests do Pakistan and India have in their respective regions of control in Kashmir that are important to retain?
3.         Is their involvement in the power structure of a future Kashmir necessary to preserve such interests?
4.         Should the long-term objective be complete sovereignty and independence for such a state, or should a power-sharing arrangement be sought with the countries now involved?
5.         Should communal interests that divide these regions culturally and religiously be used to establish provincial or federalized boundaries in order to separate them politically?
6.         Should the Chanab River be used as a boundary in making such a division?
7.         Should the Line of Control be dissolved?
8.         Does land or territory make a country or do people make a country? Which has greater priority in deciding Kashmir's future?
9.         Should the interests of the people who now live in Kashmir be given greater priority than geographic considerations of proximity to Pakistan or India or any other interests of those who live outside its boundaries?
10.       Is peace possible if the interests and desires of the population inhabiting Kashmir are not given the highest priority?
11.       Should valuable resources within Kashmir, such as water, which provide an essential need to all countries involved, be managed by a board or coordinating committee composed of members from all who benefit with international guarantees?
12.       What examples of international conflict resolution may be used to identify successful pathways to resolving the conflict? 
13.       What are the benefits that would accrue to both India and Pakistan in resolving this dispute?

It is clear that resolving this dispute requires a careful evaluation of its many points of contention and addressing them one by one in a carefully drawn out process in which coming to an agreement on each sets the stage for moving on to the next. The most basic set of principles must be established and adhered to regarding human rights, the interests of the Kashmiris themselves, and the preservation of vital interests that both India and Pakistan have at stake, and then to proceed with steps toward objectives that result in a win-win solution for all.

Dr. Fai is the Secretary General of World Kashmir Awareness.