Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India’s assertion that ""Kashmir is an integral part of India” needs to be supplemented by some observations from the viewpoint of the people of Kashmir. This deserves to be borne in mind by all those who wish the conflict to be justly resolved once and for all.When the Kashmir dispute erupted in 1947-1948, the United States took the stand that the future status of Kashmir must be ascertained in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people of the territory. The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution on 21 April 1948 which was based on that unchallenged principle. So the idea that ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’ is in contravention to India’s international obligations. Any such suggestion is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Kashmir. The people revolted against the status quo and status quo cannot be an answer? Also, Kashmiris wish to emphasize that their land is not a real estate which can be parceled out between two disputants but the home of a nation with a history far more compact and coherent than India’s and far longer than Pakistan’s. No settlement of their status will hold unless it is explicitly based on the principles of self-determination and erases the so-called line of control, which is in reality the line of conflict.
Secondly, under all international agreements, agreed by both India and Pakistan, negotiated by the United Nations and endorsed by the Security Council, Kashmir does not belong to any member state of the United nations. So, if Kashmir does not belong to any member state of the United Nations, then the claim that ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’ does not stand. And if ‘Kashmir is not an integral part of India’ then Kashmiris cannot be called separatist or secessionist. Because Kashmir cannot secede from a country – like India – to which it has never acceded to in the first place.
My opinion is confirmed by a poll conducted jointly by major news outlets on Aug 12, 2007: CNN-IBN and Hindustan Times in India and Dawn and News in Pakistan. A majority of those polled in Kashmir Valley (87% to be precise) preferred freedom (Azadi). The Azadi means the rejection of the idea that ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India.’.
However, there is but one fair, just, legal, and moral solution to Kashmir which was provided by the United Nations. The procedures contemplated at early stage of the dispute at the United Nations for its solution may be varied in the light of changed circumstances but its underlying principle must be scrupulously observed if justice and rationality are not be thrown overboard. The setting aside of the UN resolution is one thing; the discarding of the principle they embodies is altogether another. So the settlement has to be in accordance with the wishes of the people; impartially ascertained; in conditions of freedom from intimidation.
Kashmiris are open to a constitutional dispensation that answers all of India's legitimate national security and human rights concerns. With regard to the former, they are willing to explore permanent neutrality for Kashmir along the model of the 1955 Austrian State Treaty and a renunciation of war or the threat of force in international affairs along the model of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. They are willing to consider abandoning a military force like Costa Rica, Haiti, and Panama. Moreover, they hold no objection to providing community quotas in government offices along the lines of the 1960 Constitution for the Republic of Cyprus to safeguard against invidious discrimination of any religious or ethnic group, i.e., Pandit, Buddhist, Sikh, and Muslim alike.
With good faith by all parties common ground leading to a final settlement of the Kashmir tragedy can be discovered.
And an appointment of a special envoy by the United Nations or by President Obama, like Bishop Desmond Tutu will hasten the way of peace and prosperity in the region of South Asia.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai is Executive Director of Kashmiri American Council. Dr. Fai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org