At the time when India and Pakistan are celebrating diamond jubilee of their Independence, there is a need to look at Jammu and Kashmir, caught in crosshairs of rivalry between the two nuclear powered countries in south Asia. It has to change. This is the need of the hour, for permanent peace in the region. This vision can be fulfilled by according a new look and perception, cemented in the collective psyche about the LoC - Line of Control – that divides the erstwhile princely state between the two neighbouring countries. This line can be as much a hurdle as the two countries would like to, and at the same time, it can herald a new chapter of peace and prosperity in the region, depending on how they devise their outlook.
The LoC, owing its origin in the ceasefire line drawn as per the agreement between India and Pakistan in Karachi on July 27, 1949, to end the conflict caused by the tribesmen’s invasion of Jammu and Kashmir in October 1947, has emerged in three perspectives. India wants the whole of the erstwhile state as it existed in 1947 under the last Dogra king Maharaja Hari Singh. This claim is backed by historical, political and legal facts; the state had acceded to India under the signature and seal of the king, the Muslim majority state had negated the two-nation theory and endorsed the accession, raising their voice and support in the streets which continue to resonate till date – “Azad Hindustan Zinadabad”. This was not a mere slogan. Its reverberation is far deeper than it is understood. Here, the historical aspect has to be connected to it – it was an independent princely state till the time it was invaded by the tribesmen in pursuit of Pakistani agenda of annexing its territory to validate its two-nation theory that the people of Kashmir summarily rejected. They saw their future in India at that time. That has been reiterated by all leaders who matter in the politics of Kashmir, though of course, some elements who disputed it were also there. They were in a minuscule minority.
Pakistan lays its claim because its stale two-nation theory, that got defeated in 1971 when East Pakistan parted ways with it forever and became Bangladesh. Pakistan has sought to, though failed, annex the territory through military means - wars, proxy wars and so on.
There is a third vie, held by many, that let LoC be converted into an international border, free of military presence and skirmishes. There also was a consensus that borders can be reduced to mere lines on map. All this requires lot of hard work, statesmanship and most important of all, a will to translate the visions into reality. At this time, there is no need to draw comparisons between India and Pakistan, because the world knows it better where these two countries stand as on August 2022.
Today when Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh (though as two union territories separated from each other in October 2019 as per re-organisation of the state) join the rest of the country in celebrating the 75th Independence Day anniversary, they are saying that they are inseparable part of India. This fact gains extraordinary significance against the backdrop of ugust 15, 1947 – J&K was not part of India that time, though the spirit of independence of the country of Gandhi, Nehru, and Patel, held out a lot of hope and promise for the people in this Himalayan territory. They became part of this spirit on October 26, 1947 – the day of the accession.
Historically, it also is time to recall that Maharaja Hari Singh at no stage indicated that he wanted his state to be part of Pakistan. He had only signed a stand-still agreement with Pakistan on August 15, 1947. That agreement was breached with the invasion of the state in complete violation of the international law. The Dogra king, faced with a critical situation because of the Pakistan-backed invasion, sought the help of India and acceded the Himalayan territory under his rule, to the country. Had Pakistan not done what it did, the script of the history would have been different. The historians have not taken into account the fact that given the situation that has emerged in the two countries – India and Pakistan – it can be easily said that the Maharaja took a right decision.
One of the celebrated Pakistani economist Dr. Niaz Murtaza asked a pertinent question: “Why did a state (Pakistan) created with huge hopes as a haven for tens of millions come to this point ?” He continued, “Both the state we broke from ( India) and the one that broke from us ( Bangladesh) are doing better,” and asks yet another question: “Why did the same DNA not deliver for us?
He traces the trajectory of the fault lines of his nation, and the crucial one among them is that how it failed the Muslims identity. “In Pakistan’s case, even a common Muslim identity was underpinned by huge ethnic and sectarian divides. However, we hoped to become a cultivated nation after the birth by addressing these divides via democratic devolution, as the wise regional autonomy focus in the 1940 resolution (Qaradad-e-Lahore of March 1940) showed.” The writer also traced a prenatal factor of the uneven capacities of three mother national institutions i.e., the freedom parties. Though Congress and Muslim League had existed for decades before 1947, and Awami League before 1971 (Bangladesh became independent nation on December 16, 1971), the Muslim League faced a heavier burden of cultivating nationhood: the other two had greater grassroots reach. Rulers here (in Pakistan) pretended we were a natural nation not in need of any cultivation and saw regional aspirations as a disease to be crushed. These political gaps at birth were compounded by postnatal threats in the form of political autocracy and the rise of non-civilian forces and a security orientation which stoked numerous fires given the huge national diversity.’
There are many other comparisons drawn by the political and economic commentators, but what needs to be understood is the direction in which things can move forward in the region of South Asia. The LoC, as it exists today, where peace is determined by the pledges to silence the guns by the militaries under the ceasefire agreement of November 2003, reiterated on February 25, 2021. The LoC has seen many phases of being a Line of Confrontation, and line of Conciliation; but deep in the minds of the people, especially those who had to flee their homes and hearths in 1947 from Muzaffarabad, Kotli, Mirpur and other places, which are now on the other side of the LoC, this dividing line represents a permanent hurt no less than the brutalities and displacement that Partition caused 75 years ago. Their case is almost forgotten – some cheques and some talk of reservation of seats in the Assembly will not wipe out their tears.
This is time for real-time politics. It should be comprehended. And for Pakistan, it should be more than clear that it is a state in search of its identity and survival. There is no need for others to talk about it, concerned Pakistanis themselves are talking about it. This is time when Pakistan should recognise what defines its best interest – that is friendship with India, and the only thing that it needs to do is to stop living in illusions, work out a mechanism, sans guns, grenades and elimination of all elements of proxy war, to make LoC, a line of peace which travels to the hinterlands, in which Delhi and Islamabad talk to each other in their capitals and not at each other in the world capitals.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.