Kashmir has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan since the two countries gained independence in 1947. Although 71 years have passed since then, this long-stretched issue still occupies a paramount position in India-Pakistan relations. The seeds of conflict were sown at the time of partition of the Indian Subcontinent because there were 565 princely states at that time and they were given the choice to join either India or Pakistan. The state of Jammu and Kashmir, with a majority population of 77 percent Muslims, was being ruled by a Hindu Maharaja. The populace wanted to join Pakistan whereas the Raja had a tilt toward India.
Kashmir, a landlocked territory located in the southwestern part of the Indian Subcontinent, occupies a total area of 85,806 square miles of which 31,643 square miles is controlled by India while Pakistan controls over 12,387 square miles. Owing to Indian stubbornness and intransigence, Kashmir issue has become a burning issue between the two South Asian neighbours. For bringing peace to this part of the world, solving this issue is inevitable as it has become a nuclear flashpoint between India and Pakistan.
Currently, India controls Jammu and Kashmir – Jammu division, Kashmir division and Ladakh division – whereas Pakistan controls a portion of western Jammu and Poonch, Skardu of Ladakh area and Gilgit-Baltistan. The proposals which are being presented hereunder can help create an atmosphere of mutual trust and harmony that will, ultimately, lead to the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
India deals unfairly with Pakistan in sharing of water resources. It is important to remember that water has the potential of becoming a new ‘core issue’ of even greater severity than Kashmir; hence, it calls for urgent attention. Pak-India relations during the past decade have been affected by crucial disputes on water-sharing. This concern needs to be taken seriously and should be jointly studied not only at governmental level but also at academic and expert levels. For the time being, we can freeze the Kashmir issue, to be resolved in the future by the regional pressure or in the name of human rights or any other reason whatsoever, but water issue shall remain the core bone of contention between both states due to conflicts emerging out of India’s water-based hegemony. So, first of all, both states need to address water issue and sign accords regarding geographic location, surface characteristics, political boundaries of water, population and settlement, domestic scenarios, external relations and water supply.
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Pakistan should continue efforts in three prongs to find out a political solution: (1) enhance interaction with Kashmiris; (2) carve out a well-articulated foreign policy; and (3) ensure Pakistan’s own economic and political stability. It is necessary for Pakistan to become strong in order to ensure equality when it comes to a strategic dialogue with India. Pakistan should also focus on softening of borders.
Pragmatic Kashmir Policy
Pakistan should focus on mobilizing international opinion. For this, media should play a positive role. Pakistan should avoid dependence on other countries for its socio-economic development and political harmony. Strong socio-political and socio-economic initiatives should be taken so as to ensure systematic, visible and sustainable development of AJK and northern areas. Student unions, lobbying groups, study groups and think tanks should also be made in international media wherein Pakistani and Kashmiri scholars should be encouraged to present realities of Kashmir to the world. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) should also be reinvigorated in order to increase cooperation between the two countries
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