AN AGENDA FOR PEACE IN KASHMIR AND SOUTH ASIA
May I, at the outset, express my thanks to the organizers of this conference for inviting me to participate and record my appreciation for the important work being done by the Landau Network - Centro Volta to promote world peace and a healthy global environment
The Kashmir dispute, on which today's meeting focuses, is the principal stumbling block on the tortuous road to a durable peace for South Asia as a whole. It is also a problem for the rest of the world. It figured prominently in the politics of the Cold War period and re-emerged as a major global concern when India and Pakistan became nuclear powers in May 1998. No nuclear war can be fought without its having a profound effect on countries other than those directly involved in the struggle, whether because of the atmospheric effects of nuclear fallout, of the humanitarian obligation to come to the aid of the victims, or of the profound economic dislocations to which a nuclear war would lead. Some military and political strategists will argue that the risk of a nuclear war is slight but in my view, even a 10% probability is unacceptably high. In any event, even a new conventional war would entail a host of unacceptable negative consequences. Hence, it is now entirely appropriate for countries outside the South Asian region, including those of Europe and the United States, to engage India and Pakistan cooperatively and constructively in working for peace and an honorable resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
In what follows I shall first make some general observations on prerequisites for peace in Kashmir. I will then briefly note some possible confidence-building measures that could lay a foundation for a more serious peace initiative. In the heart of my presentation I will outline a logical series of steps that could lead up to the creation of the one or two sovereign Kashmiri entities without an international personality, as recommended in the 1998 Livingston Proposal of the Kashmir Study Group (KSG). I will next touch briefly on the question of rationalizing the de facto, but largely dysfunctional border, the 1972 "Line of Control." Finally, I shall indicate the gains to all parties that would derive from acceptance of the recommendations of the Livingston Proposal.
In presenting my remarks l am assuming that my listeners have some familiarity with the Livingston Proposal as well as substantial knowledge of the parameters within which the Kashmir dispute has unfolded over the period since 1947. I must note, however, that some of the details of my presentation have not been reviewed by other members of the KSG and may not necessarily reflect consensus within that group
PREREQUISITES FOR PEACE:
A major obstacle to peacemaking in South Asia is that the key decision makers have been guided more by considerations of domestic electoral politics, by the desire to control "real estate," and by international Realpolitik, than by concern for the welfare of the ordinary people who will have to live with the consequences of their diplomatic failures. Thus, funds that could much better be spent for education, health, and other constructive purposes are diverted to support bloated military establishments and 99% of the combined population of India and Pakistan, roughiy 13 biilion people are, in effect, hostages to the struggle to control the destiny of the one per cent who live in Kashmir. This is morally unacceptable. Not until the needs of the people are made paramount, will a lasting peace be forged. While all Indians and Pakistanis bear the cost of confrontation in Kashmir, it is the Kashmiris themselves who suffer most from its perpetuation and it is essential that they be given a significant voice in determining their own future
A second fundamental problem in respect to resolving the Kashmir dispute is the state's heterogeneity. In language, religion, culture, economy and terrain, the area of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir - to use its proper name - is exceedingly diverse. Yet, India, Pakistan, a great many Kashmiri nationalists, and even, initiaily, the United Nations have all been largely disposed to treat the area as an indivisible entity, assuming that the whole of it would somehow one day become the prize of one or another party to the dispute. The fact that any such outcome would inevitably fail to satisfy a large proportion of the state's population was recognized as early as 1953 by the UN mediator, Sir Owen Dixon, of Australia, who wisely proposed that portions of the state be assigned outright to India and Pakistan and that the UN-proposed plebiscite be limited to the Vale and some adjacent areas. Happily, there have been numerous signs in recent years of willingness to accept a more realistic regional approach.
In place of playing an essentially zero-sum game, peacemaking requires devising a solution in which all parties to the dispute gain significant portions of their most vital goals, even if none achieves all that it seeks. Such a win-win-win solution (for India, Pakistan, and above all, the people of Kashmir) is a sine qua non for success. It is also necessary to acknowledge the legacy and depth of distrust between India and Pakistan, engendered by the Kashmir dispute, and the legitimate security considerations that each confronts, and to build into any peace resolutions the safeguards necessary to allay those security concerns. All this is achievable if the requisite will for peace truly exists.
Finally, it is in order to pave the way for peace negotiations on Kashmir by implementing one or more confidence-building measures (CBMs) to alter the present climate of enmity and distrust and to create a platform from which new initiatives can be launched.
POSSIBLE CONFIDENCE-BUILDING MEASURES:
Among possible CBMs are many more or less generic and obvious measures that require little elaboration: restoring direct Indo-Pakistani trade by land, sea, and air; negotiating new commodity trading agreements; increasing the number of border crossing points and extending the hours when they are open; restoring and expanding international rail, bus, and air links; reopening consulates closed down during periods of heightened tension; simplifying the processes of obtaining visas; mutual easing of restrictions on journalists and representatives of other mass media; sponsorship of cultural, athletic, and scientific exchanges and cooperation; withdrawing troops from advanced, high-alert positions along the Indo-Pakistani border; and, most urgent of all, signing a mutual no-first nuclear strike pact and establishing other safeguards against nuclear war.
Additionally, let me suggest some less conventional ideas worthy of serious consideration. I begin with a proposal for a low-cost, easy-to-implement measure that could reap substantial international goodwill and economic benefits for both India and Pakistan, namely to convert a contested area in and around the Siachen and Baltoro Glaciers into a Karakoram Peace Park. The area in question contains the earth's greatest assemblage of peaks over 6,000 meters in altitude, inciuding K2, the world's second loftiest peak. It has, since 1984, been the locale of an exceedingly costly mini-war between India and Pakistan, the highest armed conflict in the annals of military history and, arguably, the most inexcusable in that the area contested is uninhabited and lacking in strategic value. By demilitarizing the area and converting it into a UNESCO "world natural heritage site," open freely to the people of all nations, India and Pakistan would burnish their international image and dramatically ameliorate the present climate of mutual hostility.
In terms of benefits to the people of Kashmir, the CBM that would undoubtedly be most welcome would be to convert progressively larger portions of the state into areas of free trade and movement (AFTM.) Beginning with the Vale, the understanding would be that people and goods from either India or Pakistan could enter the AFTM, but not go beyond it into the other country, unless one had the appropriate visa, or in the case of commercial goods, unless applicable tariffs were paid. Additionally, residents of the AFTM would enjoy the right to move freely in or out of both India and Pakistan and to ship their goods freely to either country.
Other CBMs in the economic domain might include the following:
In the political realm, I would suggest two CBMs:
The latter task, which is important, cannot be accomplished without prior accomplishment of the former, which is actually quite trivial.
My suggestive list could, no doubt, be extended considerably. While the timing of the measures suggested would be negotiable, the earlier the actions the better. Those agreed to prior to the proposed referenda on the proffered sovereignty package, which I will shortly discuss, would be particularly helpful
PHASING OF ACTIONS LEADING UP TO THE CREATION OF ONE OR MORE SOVEREIGN KASHMIRI ENTITIES:
Several detailed dialogues will have to take place in order to bring about a workable accord on a peace process in respect to Jammu and Kashmir. At the outset, it is essential that India and Pakistan jointly commit themselves to a sustained effort to resolve the dispute. Additionally, both countries should seek and give weight to the views of leaders and ordinary people living in all parts of the state.
Before proceeding, it is in order to recapitulate the essential features of the Livingston Proposal. First and foremost, it recommends that "a portion of the former princely State of Jammu and Kashmir be reconstituted as a sovereign entity (but without international personality)", or, conceivably, as two such entities, one on each side of the line of control (LOC.) In the former case, the area might either lie astride the LOC or be on the Indian side of the line only (although, for the sake of simplicity, I shall henceforth generally refer to the area or areas to be so reconstituted as the "Kashmir entity" in the singular, it should be understood that the ultimate dispensation could relate to two territorially distinct areas). The extent of the Kashmir entity would be determined through an internationally supervised ascertainment of the wishes of the Kashmiri people. Its status "would be guaranteed by India, Pakistan, and appropriate international bodies: it would have its own secular, democratic constitution, … citizenship, [and] flag" and a legislature empowered to deal with "all matters other than defense and foreign affairs." Its borders with both India and Pakistan would be "open for the free transit of people, goods, and services." While the Kashmir entity would be demilitarized, transit of troops through it to meet legitimate security concerns would be permitted. All persons displaced from any part of the Kashmir entity would have a right to return to their former homes.
Should India and Pakistan recognize that the Livingston Proposal does in fact offer the most workable basis for a lasting and honorable peace, it will then be their responsibility to demonstrate, to the representatives of the people, the many advantages that the proposal offers and to win their support for popular referenda on it. Minor modifications in the details of the proposal might be in order at this stage. On obtaining concurrence with the general outline of the proposal, further quadripartite discussions involving representatives from India, from Pakistan, from Indian-held Kashmir, and from Pakistani-held Kashmir should be held to work out a timetable and set of rules for phased referenda on the proposal in various parts of J&K. While a case can be made for balloting throughout the erstwhile state, it might also be agreed to exclude those areas where it is virtually certain that a large majority of the population would prefer full integration with either India or Pakistan to becoming part of a Kashmir entity. Such areas would include all of the Indian-held districts of Jammu, Kathua, and Ladakh, most of the district of Udhampur, and the Pakistani-held Northern Areas.
In the event that India and the representatives of the ethnic Kashmiris and other ethnic groups in the Indian-held portion of J&K fail to reach an accord on how to proceed, the most promising opportunity ever put forward for a lasting peace in Kashmir and in South Asia will, in my opinion, have been lost. I do not believe this will happen, but if it does, the peace process would probably have to be put on indefinite hold. Kashmir and South Asia would then almost surely suffer the serious consequences of renewed violence and domestic and international turmoil.
Failure by Pakistan and Azad Kashmir to reach an early accord along the lines of the Livingston Proposal would be less consequential than would any such failure in India. Should no such accord be reached, referenda on sovereignty in the Indian-held portion of the state only could still be carried out. The referendum in the Pakistani-held area could come later or never at all. In the latter event, what are now Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas would presumably soon be fully absorbed into Pakistan.
Prior to holding referenda on accepting whatever proposal for a Kashmir entity emerges, several conditions would have to be met. First, to insure an informed choice, there would have to be a reasonable period for public discussion of the pros and cons of the offer. The specific question to be put to the voters for a simple "Yes" or "No" response, would have to be framed in unambiguous language and circulated to every village and urban mohalla in the area in which voting would take place. To demonstrate the merits of the proposal, for those considering the establishment of a Kashmir entity, it would be helpful to prepare and widely show in Kashmir a moving picture depicting life and government in the politically free and prosperous Aland Islands, a territory of Finland in which the ethnically Swedish population lives under a regime similar to that recommended in the Livingston Proposal. One might also include scenes from Italy's own Trentino Alto Adige region, about which l am less well informed, but which, I gather, enjoys a similar political system
A second prerequisite for a fair referendum is the selection of neutral observers to attest to its having been conducted honestly and in an atmosphere free from significant intimidation. The UN has abundant experience in this respect, but other agencies, might also be called upon for the job: SAARC, the European Union, or the Carter Center, headed by the most recent Nobel Peace laureate, Jimmy Carter. Also needed would be a panel of arbiters to adjudicate the territorial outcomes of the voting Assuming that tahsils were to be the units to be allocated, the arbiters would have to be given some discretion in the disposition of isolated tahsils in which the outcome was not overwhelmingly one-sided so as to avoid the creation of messy territorial enclaves.
Further, to maximize the people's faith in a truly free referendum, Indian and Pakistani military forces in J&K would have to be thinned out considerably and those remaining in the state would be confined to their barracks during the period of actual polling and until such time as all ballots are counted. Law and order during this period would be maintained by the local Kashmiri constabulary.
The logical region in which to commence the proposed referenda is the Vale of Kashmir. Given the demographic conditions obtaining in the state, this densely settled area of relative ethnic homogeneity would inevitably form the core of any conceivable Kashmir entity to which the initial referendum might lead. In the unlikely event that the referendum in the Vale failed to result in a majority favoring the establishment of a Kashmir entity, continuation of the exercise in adjoining areas, that have hitherto manifested less of a sense of Kashmiri nationalism, would be essentially pointless.
But if, as expected, a large majority in the Vale do vote for the Kashmir entity, the referendum process might next be extended, a month or so later, to the adjoining Indian-held districts of Punch, Rajauri, Doda, and Kargil, as well as to one largely Kashmiri-speaking tahsil of Udhampur district. While the outcome of a referendum in these areas is less certain, it seems likely that substantial majorities, especially in the tahsils closest to the Vale, would opt to be included in a new Kashmir entity.
Whether there would be any point in extending the process even further to the remaining Indian-held areas is moot. I deem it highly unlikely that any of these ethnically diverse and primarily non-Muslim areas would vote to join a Kashmir entity in which ethnic Kashmiris were, by far, the leading group. Nevertheless, to make it clear to those Kashmiri nationalists who presume that the inhabitants of the areas in question would rather cast their lot with the people of the Vale than to be fully integrated with India, it might be salutary to resort to a referendum to eliminate any doubts about the matter.
The referendum in areas held by Pakistan should, in my view, be delayed until after the results from the voting in India are made clear. The reason for this is that the willingness to create a Kashmir entity in what is now Azad Kashmir will very likely depend largely on how the inhabitants of that region would see their future welfare in association with their neighbor to the east as opposed to their being fully integrated with Pakistan; and that issue will hinge largely on their perceptions of the ethnic mix and calculus of future power-sharing under a new regime. Finally, whether or not to extend the referendum process to the Northern Areas is, as previously noted, a moot question
The proposed referenda would, of course, be more the beginning than the end of a long political process. Once the territorial outcomes of the voting are determined, a new government or governments will have to be established. Elections to one or two new constituent assemblies will have to be held. One or two new constitutions will have to be drafted, while, in the case of India and Pakistan, the existing constitutions will have to be appropriately amended. One or two new parliaments will have to be elected and one or two new prime ministers and cabinets installed. Finally, the details of political and economic intercourse among the one or two new Kashmir entities, the remaining parts of the erstwhile state, and India and Pakistan will have to be worked out.
RATIONALIZATION OF THE BORDER:
Many observers are of the opinion that the present Line of Control should be converted into a permanent international border. While doing so is certainly a possibility, my own view is that it would not be too difficult to delimit a much more rational border and, in the process, provide significant benefits to both India and Pakistan, in terms of security, resource management, and the joining together of ethnically compatible groups. The changes that such rationalization would require are not especially great and are specified in the Kashmir Study Group's study, Kashmir: A Way Forward.
The timing of border rationalization, if it were at all to occur, would be negotiable, but on no account should that issue stand in the way of resolving the more fundamental issue of creating one or two Kashmir entities.
Assuming border rationalization were to occur - whatever the timing or method of accomplishing that task might be - it would result in placing certain cohorts of people within countries in which they would prefer not to reside. While the number of people so affected would not be large, no person should be forced into such a situation. Fairness, then, would require establishing a system whereby individuals and families would receive relocation assistance in both money and kind.
I spoke earlier of the need to devise a win-win-win set of recommendations. Let me, then, close by indicating the advantages, that adoption of the agenda set forth in this paper, would confer on each of the main parties to the Kashmir dispute.
First, for those committed to creating a politically free Kashmir, that goal would be obtained, even if the new dispensation within the proposed Kashmir entity fell slightly short of full independence. Kashmiri dignity would be restored; people could conduct their lives free from the fear of government or anti-government violence; and the stage would be set for a resurgence of tourism, an expansion of trade (with both India and Pakistan), and a new burst of economic, social, and cultural development. For those portions of Jammu and Ladakh where a majority of the population do not identify strongly with the idea of Kashmiriyat, separation from the nascent Kashmir entity would spell an end to the sense of political subordination to the state's Kashmiri majority that many have felt since the ascension to power of the Kashmir National Conference in 1947.
For India and Pakistan, the proposed settlement would eliminate the only compelling rationale for their continuing military confrontation, and the awful prospect of a nuclear war that would have no winners. It would enormously reduce the need for high levels of unproductive military spending (proportionally higher in Pakistan than in India), and permit a much larger share of the national budget to be expended for the public good. It would create a political climate that would be much more conducive to foreign investment and tourism. It would open new avenues for trade and cultural exchange. It would facilitate visits between family members and friends long separated from one another by partition, as well as pilgrimages to presently inaccessible shrines of Hinduism, Sikhism, and Islam and it would add luster to the international image of both countries.
Several additional benefits for India may be noted. First, in that the proposed resolution of the Kashmir dispute would be predicated on a popular sense of Kashmiri national identity, rather than on the basis of religion, India's status as a secular republic would not be compromised. Second, the principal cause of South Asian communal hatred, of trans-border terrorism, and of recruitment to terrorist organizations would be eliminated. (In this respect, the whole world, and not just India, would be the beneficiary.) Finally, provisions in the Livingston Proposal which I did not have time to spell out in this presentation would respond to India's legitimate security needs until such time as a final boundary settlement with China is reached.
The most significant benefit to Pakistan would flow from the establishment of the proposed Area of Free Trade and Movement. Pakistanis, including many of Kashmiri origin, would thereby have unfettered, peaceful access, not merely to the relatively impoverished area that Pakistan presently controls or to the new Kashmir entity, but ultimately to the whole of the pre-1947 area of Jammu and Kashmir. Additionally, a peace accord would eliminate the fearsome possibility of India's tampering with the absolutely vital flow of the Indus and its tributaries out of Kashmir and into Pakistan. I have also alluded, in passing, to other possible benefits from suggested minor adjustments to the present Line of Control.
The manifold tasks of setting one or more new ships of state afloat will be daunting and complex, but none should be too great a challenge for the peoples in whose interests the proposed political process would unfold. Difficult though the tasks may be, the alternatives - the political subordination of peoples yearning for freedom, the attendant domestic political strife, the promotion of international terrorism, the needlessly high cost of maintaining the military, and the risk of nuclear war - can no longer be countenanced. The chance for a lasting, honorable, and people-centered peace made possible by acceptance of the fundamental terms of the Livingston Proposal should now be grasped.
The foregoing paper was prepared for the international seminar, "Local Conflicts in the World: The Kashmir Conundrum Case- The KSG Proposal," held in Rome on February 3-4, 2003 under the auspices of the Landau Network - Centra Volta with the assistance of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.