I have discussed Kashmir with my South Asian Friends; Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi over a long time in the Middle East and South East Asia…They all have differing opinions over the matter..Indians claim total rights over the disputed Himalayan region, Pakistani’s want to turn Sirinagar into Islamkot and my friends from Dhaka wish that Kashmir would be another independent Muslim majority nation in Southern Asia. There are 600.000 troops based in Kashmir, more than total coalition forces in Af-Pak and Iraq. Kashmir or atleast the Indian controlled territorial part has been a bleeding would since the British left the Sub Continent in 1947. India and Pakistan have fought 2 wars and several low level conflicts, killing and wounding millions of soldiers and civilians. Kashmir to India is what Kosovo is to Serbia, a nationalistic propaganda instrument, sans any economic usefulness although its geopolitical ramifications in the chess game of South Central Asia is critical.
Kashmir was never an organic part of India actually, a Muslim Majority state ruled by a Hindu King who decided to cede to India after Partition on agreeing on to a special constitutional package (Article 370 for instance) which was never honored by India sadly. India has conveniently ignored the numerous resolutions by the UN for a plebe cite in Kashmir. The integration into India was the result of the Machiavellian genius of Sardar Patel, the first Home Minister of Independent India. This is a well acknowledged fact that in the Media that Elections in Kashmir in the 1980’s were rigged in favor of pro India factions. The separatist uprising in 1989 in Kashmir which lead to the genocide and displacement of innocent Kashmiri hindus from their mother land is a human tragedy not acknowledged completely. The cross border militancy into Indian Kashmir bled Indian security forces by a thousand cuts, a phrase coined by former military ruler of Pakistan General Zia ul Haq.
Years of dialogue by the Indian and Pakistani Governments with each other as well as with the separatist Hurriyat elements, which hold an observer status in the Organization of Islamic Conference Organization have not yielded anything. This has resulted in the balkanization of Kashmir from a Kali (delicate petal in Hindi-Urdu) drawing from the title of the Hindi Phillum- Kashmir Ki Kali in the 1960’s to a fallen and dried part of a flower. Kashmir is a cartographic minefield as well, Jammu being Hindu and Ladakh being the only Buddhist region in India.. The trouble lies in only a few districts of the Kashmir Valley region. The non Muslim regions will not accept independence or a merger with Pakistan, already in a mess of its own. Kashmir is a cancerous tumor for India, it needs to be given urgent chemotherapy. The LoC needs to be acknowledged as an international border as soon as possible. The latest intefada in Kashmir is a sign of discontent and a call for change in the status quo. The Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy is being tried in Indian Courts for sedition for calling for Kashmiri Independence. In my view, Economic pragmatism should hold precedence over futile nationalistic sentiment. India as an emerging power should not be felt tied down by a historical cartographic error of judgement. Its as complex an issue as Palestine, but the right first state should be the granting of autonomy to Kashmir under the Indian Constitution for the cooling to take place in a heated scene.