Kashmir is fast losing the tag of 'Paradise on Earth', turning into a to a 'land of miseries'. Here populations, on one pretext or the other, are living life of a captive because of the fear let loose by those in power. Precisely, at the moment it's apparently the element of fear driving the crisis.
Even as in the continued unrest which is now in the fourth month, there's nothing developmental which meets the eye, Line of Control (LoC) seems a possibility to bank upon for harvesting peace. Despite India and Pakistan coming close to a war like situation, the official movement of trade and commerce continued without any hindrance. This is what suggests LoC a potential capital of peace in the region. Though there are various school of thoughts dishing out their proposals to end Kashmir imbroglio.
Before deliberating on the issue let me share an email of an unknown Kashmiri pandit. "Kashmir needs to be partitioned and Jammu and Ladakh separated to create a new state. Jammu and Ladakh should be stripped of the article 370 special status. Kashmiris should be made to obtain a visa if they want to come to India, and should not be allowed to buy land or live in India without permission, with the same stringent requirements, as Pakistanis have to comply with. Also Kashmiri pandits should be given refugee status in India, so that they do not have to comply with these requirements. The secessionists should be dealt with under the barrel of the gun."
Some time back I had quoted this statement here in this column. He had stated this in response to the suggestion of a mainstream political party in which the emphasis was laid on the unification of this part of Kashmir and the PaK administered Kashmir. However, it merits a revisit for the kind of situation prevailing at the moment in Kashmir.
Notably, some of the strong separatist cadres, even a section of local mainstream politicians, in the past portrayed unification of both the parts of the J&K state divided by the Line of Control as a solution to the vexed Kashmir problem.
Carving out a way to make Line of Control irrelevant for the people of the state, is a huge confidence building measure. Former foreign secretary M.K. Rasgotra's working group on strengthening cross-Line of Control relations had also laid out new possibilities for cooperation between the two parts of Jammu and Kashmir. It had suggested that "a joint consultative group or committee of 10 members each of the legislatures of both sides may be constituted to exchange views periodically on social, economic, cultural and trade-related matters of mutual interest." In addition, "joint consultative groups of professionals may be set up for horticulture, tourism promotion and environment protection."
However, one thing, which is most important, is that the solution to Kashmir does not rest in trading apples, onions and potatoes. But the LoC trade connections need to be broadened where all sorts of hassles are removed and the Kashmiris are allowed to travel without restrictions in both parts of the Kashmir. The trade link should not be only an economic confidence-building measure, but should be allowed to be a political confidence-building measure too.
India-Pakistan relationship is most brittle in nature and often falls apart once the political temperature changes. So it is a trend. But the political confidence building measures coupled with economic confidence building measures could only loosen the Kashmir knot.
Encouraging interaction between people on both sides of divided Kashmir will act as a bridge in the peace process. Isn't it possible to organize a dialogue with the elected representatives of both parts of Kashmir? Even a team of professionals like doctors and engineers from both parts should be allowed to interact in a free atmosphere.
Some time back, a study sponsored by the US Institute of Peace had also concluded that the Kashmir issue could be resolved by making the Line of Control (LoC) irrelevant, thereby paving the way for free movement of trade and people.
Precisely, intra-Kashmir dialogue involving people from all segments should be encouraged. Now cosmetic measures won't help. Let exploring potential of LoC trigger unification and do what international resolutions and three wars have failed to do.
(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)