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Any solution for Kashmir?

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Friday prayers in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. © John Isaac

A Kashmiri Pandit, Puran Krishan, was shot dead in south Kashmir’s Shopian district on November 6, 2022. he is the third person from the Pundit community to be killed in Kashmir(Kashmiri Pandit shot dead in Shopian, Hindustan Times Oct 16, 2022.The community believes that the unabated third killing in succession exposes the BJP government’s myth of “normalcy” in the disputed state. Civilian killings in Kashmir contradict the narrative of normalcy. Residents blame it on the BJP’s “militaristic policy” to change Kashmir demography by issuing domicile certificates to non-Kashmiri residents.

The Frontline questioned: Are the attacks on Pandits a fallout of New Delhi’s iron-fisted bureaucratic control of Jammu and Kashmir, marked by the arbitrary use of anti-terror laws against people with dissenting viewpoints, including journalists, and the summary incarceration of Hurriyat and religious leaders? Are they a backlash to the government’s perceived plan to reorient the region’s demographics? Can economic incentives and doles aimed at boosting Jammu and Kashmir’s ramshackle economy be a panacea for a layered political conflict? What are the perceptions, anxieties, and political reflections of Kashmir’s Muslim majority? (The Frontline, Nov 03, 2022).

Perhaps irked by the volatile situation in the occupied Kashmir, India’s Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (November 5, 2022) hinted at the possibility of the Centre considering restoring state status to the disputed Jammu and Kashmir. She dropped the hint while talking about the distribution of funds to the states by the Centre as per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. Sitharaman was delivering a lecture on “Cooperative Federalism: The Path Towards Atma Nirbhar Bharat ” organised here by Bharatiya Vichara Kendram in memory of Sangh idealogue P Parameshwaran (Will J&K’s statehood be restored? Here’s what FM Nirmala Sitharaman said,  India Today,  Nov 6, 2022).

NGOs’ efforts to get dialogue kick-started

Several NGOs including Institute of International Relations (KIIR), Islamabad/Muzaffarabad advocate dialogue as the only possible way out of the Kashmir tangle. They have been highlighting the miserable life in the occupied Kashmir.  The Institute has been contributing to developing durable relationship with individuals, interest groups and institutions in South Asia and around the world working towards conflict resolution and human rights.

In its efforts for global peace and resolution of Kashmir conflict KIIR has engaged policy makers and policy implementers: members of parliament, political activists, lawyers, journalists, academics and social activists.

Plebiscite and other solutions

Inability to hold a plebiscite led to academic discussion on alternative solutions. Pakistan view is India negated the cardinal principle in inter-state relations, that is, pacta sunt servanda `treaties are to be observed’ and are binding upon signatories.  Till 1954, India kept saying that it was committing to holding a plebiscite. Now it says the United Nations are mediatory in nature. And, as such, not of binding nature. India pleads the United Nations’ resolutions have become antiquated: clasula rebus sic stantibus (things as they stand, or fundamental change of circumstances. In the case of a ‘fundamental change of circumstances’, that existed when a treaty was concluded, a party to that treaty may invoke this fact as a ground for termination or suspending operation of a treaty. 

India’s foreign secretary JN Dixit’s view

As quoted in Victoria Schofield’s book Kashmir in the Crossfire, JN Dixit says ‘it is no use splitting legal hair. Everybody who has a sense of history knows that legality only has relevance up to the threshold of transcending political realities. And especially in inter-state relations… so to quibble about points of law and hope that by proving a legal point you can reverse the process of history is living in a somewhat contrived utopia. It won’t work.’

A plethora of solutions

 Academic solutions abound: (a) Freezing the Territorial Status Quo. This solution offers the Kashmiris south of the LoC both Kashmiri ID cards and Indian passports. Likewise, it offers those on the north of the LoC, Kashmiri ID cards and Pakistani passports (Marc Weller. and Staffan Wolff (eds.), Autonomy, Self-Governance and Conflict Resolution, New York, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2005, pp. 41,42). (b) Andorra Model: Andorra was a unique co-principality- (without any arbitrator), ruled by the French chief of state and the Spanish bishop of Urgel for 715 years. Through a constitution, enacted in 1993, the government was transformed into a parliamentary democracy with both French and Spanish heads of states jointly wielding executive powers (as well as defence) as co-principis. When this solution was first proposed by Hurriyat Conference (in 1974), President Musharraf supported it. However, all sections of the Indian media termed this solution ‘Pandora’s box’. (c) Sweden-Finland Aland-Island Model: Swedish nationals in Finland controlled the Island. They wanted to unite it with Sweden. But, Finland did not allow them to do so. With League of Nations appointed as an arbitrator in 1921, the island was given the status of an autonomous territory. Finland retains nominal sovereignty over the island with obligation to ensure linguistic rights (Swedish language) as well as culture and heritage of Aland residents. The island enjoys a neutral and demilitarised status with its own flag, postage stamps and police force. On December 31, 1994, Aland joined the European Union voluntarily. Aland is a self-governing entity, created without use of force, catering for conflicting interests of rival communities. (d) Italy-Austria South Tyrol Model: South Tyrol was part of Austria. It was inhabited by three linguistic groups (70% Germans, 26% Italians, and 4% Ladin). It was annexed by Italy in 1919. The German majority rebelled against Italianisation. An agreement between Austria and Italy provided an autonomy framework, vouchsafed by Paris Peace Agreement, 1946 (also known as Gruber Degasperi Agreement). Under the South Tyrol Package of 1969, Austria exercised a mandatory protective function vis-à-vis Italy for the Austrian and Ladin minorities in South Tyrol. The package was meant to pave the way for peaceful co-existence of German- and Ladin-speaking communities of South Tyrol, particularly in the multi-ethnic province of Bolzano. The package collapsed and gave way to a settlement in 1992 with the United Nations as the arbitrator. The revised package still recognizes Italian sovereignty but allows greater autonomy of legislation and administration, recognition of cultural diversity, minority vote on issues of fundamental importance, and proportional ethnic representation. (e) National Conference Autonomy Formula (2001): The formula envisages return to 1953 position, abrogation of all central laws imposed on the state, and an informal co-federal relationship between the parts of Kashmir. (f) Chenab Formula: According to this formula the River Chenab will form the separation line between free (Azad) and occupied parts of Kashmir. Some writers have discussed the Indus-basin-based formula, akin to it. (g) Kashmir-Study-Group Formula: It envisages division of the state into two self-governing entities, enjoying free access to one another. The entities would have their own democratic constitutions, citizenship, flag, and legislature (sans defence matters jurisdiction). Defence would be the joint responsibility of India and Pakistan. (h) Other solutions like Sami parliamentary model, Italy-Yugoslavia Trieste model, Basque leader Jose Ibarretxe ideas, and Caledonia island (discovered in 1774), sovereignty sharing Noumea agreement (1999).

UN rep Dixit’s  Plan

Dixon talked with all stakeholders and came up with a planLa) Ladakh should be awarded to India. (b) Azad Kashmir (including Gilgit & Baltistan) should remain with Pakistan. (c) Whole Kashmir valley should have a plebiscite with no option to independence (and it might have gone to Pakistan). (d) Jammu should be divided on religious basis. The river Chenab should be the dividing line. Northern Jammu (Muslims dominated) should go to Pakistan and Hindu majority parts of Jammu to remain with India.

In short Muslim areas should have gone with Pakistan and Hindu-Buddhist majority areas should have remained with India. India rejected the Dixon plan. India never accepted the plan at heart.

AG Noorani  says ‘The Dixon Plan (1950) is even today nostalgically cherished by the people of Kashmir as a viable solution of the Kashmir issue. Sir Owen Dixon, an Australian judge, in his capacity as representative for India and Pakistan, proposed this plan pursuant to the Security Council’s Resolution of March 14, 1950’.

The Kashmir Dispute 1947-2012 A.G. NOORANI, The Dixon Plan, The Frontline

Jagat S Mehta’s formula

Parvez Musharraf’s four-point formula appears to be a modification of Indian foreign Secretary, Jagat S. Mehta’s proposals. Mehta understood India’s abhorrence to the word ‘plebiscite’. So he presented some proposals to serve as requirements for evolving a solution after a period of ten years.  His proposals are contained in his article “Resolving Kashmir in the International Context of the 1990s”.

 Some points of his quasi-solution are: (a) Pacification of the valley until a political solution is reached. (b) Conversion of the Loc into “a soft border permitting free movement and facilitating free exchanges…” (c) Immediate demilitarization of the Loc to a depth of five to ten miles with agreed methods of verifying compliance. (d) Final settlement of the dispute between India and Pakistan can be suspended (kept in a “cold freeze”) for an agreed period. Voracious readers may refer for detail to Robert G Wirsing, India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute (1994, St Martin’s Press, New York pp. 225-228).

Concluding thought

Kashmir is a nuclear tinderbox. The two neighbours bury the hatchet and talk eyeball-to-eyeball about it. 

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

South Asia

A long way of solidarity: a voice for the voiceless Kashmiris

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Friday prayers in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. © John Isaac

Every year on February 5 Pakistan observes Kashmir Solidarity Day. It aims to demonstrate Pakistan’s support and solidarity with the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir, and their continuing liberation struggle, and to honor Kashmiri martyrs who sacrificed their lives fighting for Kashmir’s independence.

Every year, on Kashmir Solidarity Day, Pakistan expresses its political, moral, and diplomatic support for the righteous fight of our Kashmiri brothers and becomes its voice in the international forums.

Kashmir’s discord carries historical as well as contemporary events that hinder its political future.

Historical account of the humiliation of Kashmir’s people

The history of conflict dates back to 1947. In the June 3 plan, the princely state offered a choice between India and Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh deceived Pakistan and ceded Kashmir to India through a standstill agreement, which sparked an uprising of Pashtun tribesmen and the Hindu nationalists and RSS to organize a program against Muslims, killing between 20,000 and 100,000 Muslims. On October 27, 1947, Indian troops landed in Kashmir to fight against the Pashtuns and the local armies; this led to the first India-Pakistan war. During the war, India’s prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, promised a referendum: “The fate of Jammu and Kashmir is ultimately decided by the people; the pledge we have given is not only to the people of Kashmir but also to the world.” “We will not and cannot back out of it.”

India referred the dispute to the United Nations a little more than two months later. A resolution passed on August 13, 1948, asking both nations to withdraw their forces; once that happened, a referendum was to be held, allowing the people of Kashmir to decide their political future. But the Indian troops were never withdrawn, and the referendum never happened. On January 1, 1949, the ceasefire was agreed upon, and Kashmir became a disputed territory. Over the next 70 years, India and Pakistan fought three wars over Kashmir.

In Indian-administrated Kashmir, India maintains around 600,000 troops in Kashmir, who have committed human rights violations like rape, torture, and enforced disappearances that continue today. The number of people killed in Kashmir is estimated to be between 50,000 and 100,000, which shows the ruthlessness of the so-called largest democracy in the world.

Situation after the abolishment of articles 370 and 35A

On August 5, 2019, the Indian government abrogated Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian Constitution, which granted Jammu and Kashmir a special status and autonomy. The Indian government enforced a curfew, disrupted communication connections, arrested political leaders, and deployed extra soldiers in the area, generating widespread resentment and demonstrations.

Since the abolition of Articles 370 and 35A, human rights abuses and violations in Kashmir have increased significantly, with claims of widespread mass arrests, torture, and extrajudicial executions by Indian security personnel. The Indian government has also restricted freedom of speech, assembly, and the press, making it impossible for citizens to openly express their thoughts and report on the state of the area.

In addition, the Indian government has been accused of fostering demographic changes in the area through the settlement of Hindu migrants, which has resulted in a fall in the percentage of the Muslim population and degradation of the Kashmiri people’s distinctive cultural and religious identity.

International human rights groups have shown concern about the situation in Kashmir and demanded an independent investigation into the reported human rights breaches and abuses. About 87 civilians have been killed by the Indian forces since the abrogation of Article 370. The international community has also advocated for a peaceful settlement to the issue that takes the Kashmiri people’s rights and interests into consideration.

The situation in Kashmir remains severe, and the continuous violence and human rights violations continue to provide the international community with a formidable task. The region’s political future is still unknown, and a sustainable resolution to the war has not yet been found.

Pakistan’s Advocacy for Kashmir

Pakistan has made several attempts to resolve the ongoing conflict in Kashmir and has sought international backing for its stance on the matter. Pakistan has repeatedly discussed the Kashmir issue at the United Nations and other international forums, stressing the need for a peaceful settlement of the conflict based on the self-determination principle and the right of the Kashmiri people to choose their destiny. Pakistan has also made diplomatic attempts to garner international support for its viewpoint, notably via the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Pakistan has also endeavored to provide political, diplomatic, and moral assistance for the Kashmiri resistance movement. India has accused Pakistan of financing terrorism in the area based on information that Pakistan supports separatist organizations in the region. Pakistan has denied these allegations and advocated for a peaceful settlement according to UN Resolution 47 (1948), which calls for a ceasefire, and UN Resolution 51 (1948), which calls for a plebiscite to be held in the region to determine the will of the Kashmiri people.

Despite these attempts, the situation in Kashmir remains unresolved, and a permanent resolution to the conflict has not yet been reached. The issue remains a significant source of conflict between India and Pakistan and a problem for the international community.

Conclusion:

Kashmir’s political future remains uncertain and is the subject of ongoing discussion and negotiation between India and Pakistan, as well as international engagement.

Currently, the territory is split between India and Pakistan, with India administering the greater part and Pakistan the smaller. The Line of Control (LoC), which divides the two managed territories, has often been the scene of tension and bloodshed.

There have been appeals for a peaceful conclusion that takes the rights and interests of the Kashmiri people into consideration. Some have suggested the concept of “self-determination,” in which the people of Kashmir would have the right to choose their destiny through a referendum or a negotiated solution between India and Pakistan.

Kashmir’s political future is unpredictable and vulnerable to the continuous dynamics of the war as well as the shifting political and strategic objectives of the major regional countries. The international community still has a big part to play in finding a solution, and India, Pakistan, and the other countries in the area are likely to have to be involved and support any lasting solution.

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Sri Lankans deserve a clean break from the past

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The decision of former president Maithripala Sirisena to run for president pits two unpopular, establishment candidates against one another. With both Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe involved in past political turmoil and the current economic crisis, Sri Lankans deserve a clean break.

While a presidential election cannot be held until 2024, the Sri Lankan Electoral Commission recently announced local elections for February. With no popular mandate and as the only member of his party, President Wickremesinghe is expected to face an embarrassing defeat in the poll, but it is unlikely to bring down the government.

The announcement that Sirisena would run as president comes at a pivotal time for Sri Lankans.

Wickremesinghe warned this week that the Sri Lankan economy could contract by up to 4% this year, after shrinking 11% last year.

Last year, the island nation descended into turmoil, with an economic collapse leading to its worst crisis in years. Foreign currency shortages, runaway inflation and a recession left the government unable to make debt repayments and left Sri Lankans desperately short of food and fuel.

This led to unprecedented unrest, particularly in the capital Colombo, resulting in the deaths of protesters and police, with hundreds more injured or detained. The protests culminated in the storming and occupation of the presidential palace, forcing Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country, with Wickremesinghe replacing him as president.

Sirisena has a chequered history in Sri Lankan politics.

Sirisena was part of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cabinet before defecting to the opposition and winning a surprise election victory against Rajapaksa in 2015.

As President, Sirisena formed a close partnership with Wickremsinghe, appointing him Prime Minister, before the two spectacularly fell out. This culminated in the sacking of Wickremesinghe in 2018, replacing him with Mahinda Rajapaksa. At the time, Wickremesinghe claimed that the move was “unconstitutional”.

This led to a constitutional crisis and power struggle between Wickremesinghe, Rajapaksa and Sirisena, with the former President dissolving parliament and calling snap elections. Sirisena then decided to not seek re-election, leaving office in early 2019. He was replaced as president by Mahinda’s brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Recently, the Sri Lankan supreme court ordered Sirisena and several other top government, police and intelligence officials to pay millions of rupees in compensation to the victims of the 2019 Easter bombings in Colombo. The court found that Sirisena, as former president, ignored multiple warnings about an imminent terrorist attack weeks before the deadly event took place.

But Wickremesinghe is also no saint.

Wickremesinghe, a six-time prime minister, won a parliamentary vote with the backing of the Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party to replace Gotabaya Rajapaksa in July 2022. For this reason, he is accused of owing his position to the family.

Upon gaining the presidency, Wickremesinghe immediately cracked down on protesters, condemning the protests as “against the law” and calling protesters “fascists”. Under his watch, more than 140 protesters have been arrested and its leaders driven into hiding.

In August 2022, the United Nations condemned his government’s crackdown on protesters. The UN also criticised the repeated use of emergency measures, such as curfews, calling them a “misuse of emergency measures”.

The president has also been accused of delaying this poll, claiming the economically crippled country cannot afford to spend 10 billion rupees on a local election. However, the election commission decided to proceed despite the president’s request. Nonetheless, this raises doubts about Wickremesinghe’s respect for the democratic process.

What Sri Lankans desperately need is political stability and good economic management so the country can dig its way out of its worst crisis since independence.

Sirisena and Wickremesinghe offer neither. The former is struggling to finalise a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund and both are notorious for poor political decision making and unpopular with a public desperate for change.

Therefore, Sri Lankans are faced with two establishment candidates who only offer more of the same.

The solution, at least for the time being, is for Wickremesinghe to call a presidential election so the next president has a clear mandate by the people. This will assist in forming a stable government and in bailout negotiations with the IMF.

Power also needs to be decentralised through ambitious political reforms that allow for wider participation and decision making in parliament. While, admittedly, this would be difficult under both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe, it is the first step in dealing with corruption and nepotism in Sri Lankan politics.

Presidential candidates serious about solving the countries problems also need to focus on key issues, such as rebuilding the economy, accountability for human rights and rebuilding political integrity and public trust.

Only once this is achieved, and Sri Lanka has shed itself of its dysfunctional political past, will it be able to recover.

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South Asia

A Hybrid Political System for Pakistan: A Proposal

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The political system of Pakistan is an amalgamation of Islamic, British, and Indian influences, shaped by a multifaceted array of religious, ethnic, and regional factors, making it a culturally rich and ever-changing landscape. Pakistan is renowned for its powerful military establishment, which has traditionally wielded significant influence in determining its political direction. The nation’s political history is characterized by cycles of military rule, punctuated by several coups, followed by phases of democratic rule, though the military has continued to exert a significant degree of influence in the country’s politics. Furthermore, Pakistan has had to contend with the pernicious threat of extremism, with various militant groups operating within its borders and perpetrating terrorist attacks, which have destabilized the nation’s political, social, and economic stability.

This article aims to shed light on the challenges faced by the political system in Pakistan, specifically concerning the current political turmoil the country is experiencing. It also suggests a potential solution to stabilize the system and bring about a revolution in the way politics is conducted in Pakistan

The challenges faced by Pakistan’s democracy are compounded by the elite classes’ actions. The country is currently facing significant upheaval, which can be attributed to several factors. The lack of solid democratic institutions, frequent military takeovers, and the involvement of powerful military and civilian elites are among the underlying causes of the country’s political instability. Additionally, ethnic and regional conflicts, poverty, and economic growth issues further exacerbated political instability. The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, as well as political unrest in neighboring countries, have also had an impact on the country. Furthermore, Pakistan’s history of military control, political corruption, and a lack of a deeply ingrained democratic culture have all contributed to the volatility in its political system.

The current political quagmire that plagues Pakistan is multifaceted, primarily stemming from a dearth of political acumen and a paucity of commitment on the part of leaders to prioritize the exigencies of the populace over their own personal and factional interests. This has led to a diminution of public confidence in the political system and government officials. Furthermore, the military’s prolonged political intervention and sway history has exacerbated a lack of democratic stability and accountability. Another critical conundrum that has impeded the country’s political evolution is the preponderance of corruption and nepotism in every government agency, rendering it difficult for citizens to repose trust in government officials. As a result, there is a burgeoning loss of faith in institutions of all varieties, with people losing trust in the government, corporations, and political leaders.

Furthermore, the failure of successive governments to address the issue of corruption has further undermined public trust in the political system. The permeation of corrupt practices in every government institution has made it difficult for citizens to have faith in government officials, leading to a general disillusionment with the political system. Additionally, the lack of transparency and accountability in government operations has enabled corrupt officials to operate with impunity, further eroding the public’s trust in the political system. The aforementioned issues have resulted in a political climate marked by a lack of stability and continuity, hindering the country’s economic and social development. It is imperative that the political class and other stakeholders work towards addressing these issues to ensure that the political system can effectively serve the people’s needs and promote the country’s long-term stability and prosperity.

Proposing A New Way to get stability in Political System?

A hybrid political system combines characteristics of many political systems, such as democracy and autocracy. Two examples are a semi-presidential system, which combines a prime minister and a president, and a federal system, which combines a central government with regional administrations. Hybrid systems can also include components of other kinds of democracy, such as a parliamentary system combined with a robust presidential system. These systems are frequently viewed as a compromise between competing political ideologies or as a means of balancing the strengths and shortcomings of various systems

If the official replaces the current political system with a hybrid one, it could be very beneficial. One of the main advantages of a hybrid system is that it allows for a balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government. In a presidential system, the executive branch is separate from the legislative branch, with the president having a lot of power. In a parliamentary system, however, the executive branch is accountable to the legislative branch. In a hybrid system, the executive branch has some independence from the legislative branch but is still responsible for it. This helps to prevent too much power from being concentrated in one person or group and also helps to protect citizens’ rights and to avoid abuse of power.

An additional benefit of implementing a hybrid system is that it may facilitate more efficient decision-making by leveraging the strengths of both presidential and parliamentary systems. In a presidential system, the separation of powers can result in stalemates and prolonged indecision, while in a parliamentary system, the government can swiftly collapse if it loses the legislature’s support. A hybrid system, on the other hand, can offer a balance of stability and agility, allowing for more prompt decision-making while maintaining the accountability of the executive branch. Furthermore, considering Pakistan’s history of military involvement in politics, a hybrid system can provide a mechanism to hold the military accountable to the civilian administration and reduce the likelihood of military intervention.

It is imperative to acknowledge that a hybrid system may not be the ultimate remedy for all of Pakistan’s issues, and its successful operation would require meticulous planning and execution. Nevertheless, this system could potentially provide a glimpse of sustained stability in Pakistan’s political landscape, and it is incumbent upon the authorities to consider this system as a viable option to circumvent further obstacles.

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