Kashmir issue has been a bone of contention and source of acrimony between India and Pakistan for the last seven decades. All the bilateral attempts to solve the issue have hit the brick wall. The proposals by different commissions, individuals and organizations have also failed to address the burning issue. India and Pakistan have their own interests in the region. The issue can only be solved unless one side or both compromise their interests. However, they will never do it. Thus, the issue will remain unresolvable for more decades to come reducing the possibility of solution to almost zero. That being a case, the only prospect of possible solution is the change in the circumstances that force both the countries to sacrifice some of their interests and reach an agreement on the issue.
Kashmir issue began after the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. As per Indian Independence Act of 1947, the rulers of princely states were given an option to either join India or Pakistan based on the religion, culture and geographical proximity of their states. They were also allowed to remain independent with certain reservations. Because of its Muslim population and location, Kashmir must have joined Pakistan. However, the ruler of Kashmir at that time was Hari Singh. He was Hindu ruler, while most of his subjects were Muslim. He delayed the annexation with an aim to continuously rule the territory as an independent prince. But, his hopes were dashed when Muslims on the Western border of his state revolted and Pashtun tribesmen entered into his territory to overthrow him. When the situation went out of his control, he fled to India and appealed its government for military assistance. Indian government exploited the situation and got an agreement signed by Hari Singh to annex Kashmir to India. As a result, He signed the Instrument of Accession, ceding Kashmir to India on October 26. Pakistan rejects the agreement by calling it fraudulent.
Consequently, India sent its military to Kashmir to occupy it. As a result, first Kashmir war took place between India and Pakistan. India approached the United Nations asking it to intervene. The United Nations recommended holding a plebiscite to settle the question of whether the state would join India or Pakistan. However, India, despite taking the issue to the UNO, never accepted its recommendation of holding the plebiscite. The war ended in 1949, when India and Pakistan signed an agreement to establish a ceasefire line as recommended by the UN and the region became divided. Till today, Kashmir is divided into two parts: one controlled by Pakistan called Azad Kashmir and other held by India called Jammu and Kashmir.
Prospects of Possible Solutions:
At present, when the BJP-led extremist government is controlling the reins of India, there exist almost zero possibility of resolution of Kashmir issue. That being a case, the only prospect of possible solution is the change in the following circumstances.
Change in the BJP-led government of India:
Currently, the extremist government of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rules India. It has already annulled the special-status of Jammu and Kashmir by revoking Article 370 and 35A. Besides, it has clearly shown no interest in solving the issue through negotiation. Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said, “If there is talk with Pakistan then it will be on Azad Kashmir.” It is, therefore, no prospect of possible solution is expected as far as BJP-led government is in power in India. However, if the moderate government replaces it, the issue could be solved through negotiation because PM Imran Khan is keen to solve the issue.
Change in the mindset of Indian people towards Kashmir:
The current atrocities of Modi in Kashmir have already alienated some moderate elements of India. They have turned against his ill policies. Acclaimed Indian author Javed Akhtar and film director Mahesh Bhatt have slammed Modi for facilitating the rise of Hindu nationalism in India. Javed Akhtar said in an interview, “Of course, he is a fascist. Fascists do not have horns on their heads. Fascist is a thinking, and this thinking that we are better than others is fascism,” Thus, if the moderate elements are united in future, although they are limited in numbers, they may put pressure on their government to reduce their belligerence and let the Kashmiris decide their future.
Rise in freedom struggle of Kashmiri people after the revoking of Article 370:
Undoubtedly, the repealing of special-status of Kashmir has given fresh impetus to the freedom movement of Kashmiri people. It was seen that they took to the streets to protest against Modi’s sinister move with great power and energy. If they continue their struggle, they will not only liberate Jammu and Kashmir from India, but also mount pressure on Pakistan to handover its Azad Kashmir to form a new independent state on the map of the world. Only Kashmiris can win their freedom.
China’s replacing the US as a super power:
Only a super power country can solve the issue of Kashmir by acting as a mediator. These days, India is a major ally of the US in the region and is used as a tool to contain the influence of China by the US. It is a reason that India became the first major country in South Asia to reject Chinese vision of Belt Road Initiative (BRI). Hence, the US, being a super power, will never berate India over Kashmir issue, no doubt, how much New Delhi contributes to human rights abuses there. On the other hand, China wants peace in the region to succeed its BRI program. It is known fact that Kashmir issue is linked to extremism and terrorism in the region. Unless this issue is resolves, peace in South Asia will be a distant dream. Thus, China will participate in Kashmir dispute actively, after being a global power, and find the solution of this thorny issue even if it collapses with the interest of Pakistan because China prefers peace to everything.
Thus, keeping in view the current status of Kashmir dispute, the prospects of possible solutions are almost negligible. However, change in the existing circumstances may create some possibilities for dispute resolution.