Report on the study tour of Beersmans Paul, président of the Belgian Association for Solidarity with Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian State of J & K from 28 January to 16 February 2010
Published on the Belgian Association for Solidarity with Jammu and Kashmir, March 2010.
Excerpt: … 3. CONCLUSIONS
Following conclusions can be drawn, based on the experiences of this study tour to J&K State, especially to Jammu Province (for the study tour to the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh see the report of June-July 2009 on our website):
a. Jammu and Kashmir is a very difficult and sensitive State. It consists of three historically, politically, geographically, culturally, linguistic and economic distinct regions: Jammu including Azad Kashmir, Kashmir Valley, and Ladakh including Gilgit-Baltistan. The State houses people whose aspirations are more or less conflicting and mutually exclusive. This is a State where even a small issue culminates in major controversies and creates inter-regional tensions of extreme nature.
b. The conflict in the State is basically ideological. On the one hand, there are leaders in the Kashmir Valley whose demands range from independence to autonomy to self-rule to merger with Pakistan to India-Pakistan joint control over the State. On the other hand, an overwhelming majority of the people of Jammu Province and Ladakh stands for the State’s full integration with India and application of the Indian Constitution to the State in full. They also consistently complain that they have never been treated fairly by the powers that be in the State and New Delhi. What happened in Kashmir and Jammu Province in summer 2008 over the Amarnath land issue, established beyond any shadow and doubt that it was essentially a clash between two ideologies, one progressive and the other regressive.
c. According to the separatist leaders in the Valley, J&K must remain united within the 1947 borders. If they are serious, it is high time their representatives sit together with the representatives of the other regions of J&K as they also have their aspirations and expectations. Also they are state-subjects. Only through an open and sincere discussion in depth among them they can come closer to each other. If they want to remain united, a compromise must be found based on mutual respect and trust. This is made even more difficult because there are hidden agendas and vested interests.
d. Violence and militancy related incidents went down. According to the statistics, 2009 was the most peaceful year since the beginning of militancy in 1990. Also, infiltration was at a very low level but there are signs it is picking up the last few weeks. Nevertheless, as the infrastructure, logistics and human resources of the militants are still there it is too early to reduce security forces. They can be withdrawn from public places: reduce their visibility, pull them back to the barracks but keep them in the area, ready to intervene if the militants should decide to come into action again. The ideology of terrorism remains and as long as this is the case insecurity will remain unabated. The security situation remains uncertain and the authorities have to remain vigilant.
e. Any pressure on India to resume dialogue with Pakistan in connection with the Kashmir-issue is based on the illusion and misconception that this will wriggle out Pakistan of its internal crisis. Pakistan created and supported militancy in J&K and the Taliban in Afghanistan. It boomeranged on them. Terrorism has become a global problem, a global threat. It is foolish to think that there will be peace in the region if the Government of India gives in to the pressure of the terrorist. At the contrary, the Islamic fundamentalists will see this as a major victory and they will be emboldened to further their Islamic ideology. India has to behave as an assertive nation.
f. The State Government proposes to facilitate the return of youth who crossed the LoC to the Pakistani side and want to return home and live a normal life. The Union Home Minister declared to be ready to consider this proposal. The view is that there are arguments to oppose this demand but we must move forward and be prepared to give it a chance.
g. The peace process and the composite dialogue with Pakistan have been stalled since the Mumbai terrorist attack on 26 November 2008, involving Pakistani nationals. Notwithstanding the fact that the cooperation of Pakistan to fight terrorism and to punish the culprits is not up to the mark, India recently agreed to resume the stalled dialogue process at Secretary-level by the end of February 2010. In general, people are happy with this evolution.
h. People are in favour of a dialogue between the separatist leaders and the State Government and the Centre. The hardliners should not hamper this process. It can be a so called ‘quiet diplomacy’ but on the other hand it is emphasised this is not needed because India is a free, democratic and secular country.
i. According to the coalition partners the performance of the NC-Congress coalition Government (since 5 January 2009) is good. A lot has to be done, but they are on the job and hardworking. The opposition however doesn’t agree with this view: in their eyes there is no Government at all, promises have not been fulfilled, there is no cooperation among the coalition partners, there is no cohesion within the coalition parties because of internal rifts, people are not happy, there are every day demonstrations, the Government fails miserably.
j. Everyone, coalition partners and opposition as well, agrees that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, is energetic, his integrity is without doubt, is not corrupt, is honest, is straightforward, has good relations with the Centre and receiving a lot of support from that corner.
k. The Government faces a lot of challenges: high unemployment, rampant corruption, lack of transparency and accountability, weak law and order situation, bringing back peace and normalcy, bringing about decentralisation and devolution of power, meet the basic needs of the people, etc.
l. In Jammu Province, the Hindu-Muslim intercommunity relations remain as cordial as they were before the Amarnath agitation. Muslims of Jammu Province feel that the Kashmiri Muslim leadership has never treated them as part and parcel of their society. They are of the opinion that the Kashmiri Muslim leadership has not done anything substantial to regenerate their socio-economic and political life.
m. Control over and use of the water resources is becoming an important issue. Rivers like the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab flowing from India towards Pakistan are very important for both countries. Both need them dearly for power generation, for irrigation and for water supply for the fast growing population. The 1960 ‘Water Treaty’ regulates the use of these waters between India and Pakistan. Shrinking glaciers and less rain during the monsoon add to the problem. Control over the water resource becomes an important aspect in the framework of the Kashmir-issue.
n. As far as a solution for the Kashmir-issue is concerned it becomes more and more clear that maintaining the status quo is the only realistic approach for the years to come. There can be granted more autonomy or self-rule, there can be installed a federal setup, there can be porous/soft borders between the divided parts of J&K, there can be a kind of joint management, etc. as it is clear that neither India nor Pakistan are willing to make territorial concessions.
Since there is not a clear cut solution, this solution must be found through democratic, peaceful means at the negotiation table: let all parties sit together and a solution will emerge automatically is the opinion of many Kashmiris. It is often emphasised, especially by the separatist leaders, that there are three parties concerned: India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris. Finding and accepting representatives for India and Pakistan is not a problem. A huge and complex problem however is to find out who the representatives of the Kashmiris are and what are there expectations and aspirations:
- An overwhelming majority of Jammu Province is in favour of full integration in the Indian Union;
- Ladakh is claiming Union Territory status within the Indian Union;
- In the Kashmir-Valley we find different aspirations: the democratic, mainstream parties are in favour of remaining with India, the separatist leaders are divided: some want total independence, some want accession to Pakistan;
- In Azad Kashmir (a part of J&K within the 1947 borders under Pakistani administration) people are not free according to the survey of Freedom House, a neutral think tank. As they are not free, it is difficult to know exactly what they want. However, it can be assumed that some people will be in favour of accession to Pakistan and others in favour of total independence. We would not be surprised that also people will be in favour of accession to India;
- Gilgit-Baltistan, under direct rule of Pakistan, are deprived of basic fundamental juridical, political, democratic rights although recent developments indicate that some improvement is in the making, and
- Aksai Chin, under Chinese administration, is virtually not permanently inhabited. Here it is only a territorial problem.
o. The most important for the Kashmiris is that violence should stop. Only in a non-violent atmosphere negotiations can be result-oriented. To stop violence is in the hands of the militants (or terrorists, or freedom fighters, or jehadis, or fundamentalists, or extremists, or whatever name they could be given) and those who are supporting them. Terrorism should be replaced by tourism.
p. The Kashmiri Pandits are the original Kashmiri speaking inhabitants of the Valley. They were hounded out of the Valley by militancy in 1990: some 500.000 of them fled to safer places. This exodus changed drastically the demographic composition of the population in the Valley. After twenty years, the return of the Kashmiri Pandits is more and more blurred notwithstanding the package offered by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Nevertheless, they have their emotional attachment with their birth ground, their roots. They only can return when peace is there and when the rule of law, not the rule of majority is re-installed.
q. Pakistan has no stand in J&K. An interlocutor stated ‘Pakistan is the aggressor and aggressors have no rights’. Pakistan invaded J&K and as a result at the origin of the de facto partitioning of the State. As early as 13 August 1948 the UN Commission for India and Pakistan requested Pakistan to withdraw its troops from the State as a pre-condition for organising the plebiscite. The same Commission in its resolution of 5 January 1949 repeated this request. Until this date, Pakistan has not withdrawn its armed forces and consequently the plebiscite has not been held.
This conclusion is confirmed by the ‘Report on Kashmir: present situation and future prospects’ of Rapporteur Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, Vice Chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Union, and almost unanimously adopted by the Committee on Foreign Affairs (March 2007) and by the European Parliament. The report is in favour of negotiations with the following wording: ‘In conclusion, the report recognises the ancient and unique heritage of the Kashmiri people, and the rapporteur has nothing but praise for their tenacity. After so many decades of conflict and tragedy in this particularly beautiful and historic part of the sub-continent, it is heartening to see the two great powers, India and Pakistan, coming together with the people of Kashmir and that peaceful solutions are both on the horizon and being implemented, a familiar process which the European Parliament fully supports’.
( … full 22 pdf pages report text).