The history of Kashmir has shown that any solution that does not include all three parties and the wishes of the people themselves is neither acceptable nor viable. Many bilateral talks between Kashmiri representatives and Indian leaders have taken place but all have failed to resolve the Kashmir Question, including the agreement between Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1952; the pact between Sheikh Abdullah and Indira Gandhi in 1975; and an agreement between Farooq Abdullah and Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 which sought to bypass Pakistan – all leaving the basic issue of Kashmir unsettled. Likewise, the Tashkent Agreement of 1966 between India and Pakistan; the Simla Agreement of 1972; and the Lahore Declaration of 1998 sought to bypass the people of Kashmir and resulted, perhaps inevitably, in failure.
So how can the Kashmir Question be ultimately resolved? The answer to this predicament is simpler than one might imagine. For all the politicking that has gone on since 1948 – the key to a just solution is to ensure that the collective will of the people of Kashmir is part of any process. The Right of Self-Determination, as enshrined in International Law, must be at the cornerstone of determining the region’s future.
To ensure a just and peaceful solution meaningful to the people of Kashmir and the South Asian region as a whole, there are certain steps that India in particular must take with immediate effect:
- Stop Human Rights Violation: repealing all barbaric laws including, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA) which provide impunity to the armed forces, allowing them to commit mass human rights violations;
- Restore democracy, release all prisoners of conscience and allow them to express their views on the future of Kashmir freely, both locally and internationally;
- Safeguard Lives, allow international aid organisations, media, and other NGOs to work freely in the areas occupied by India;
- Begin the process of demilitarisation, allow the inhabitants of Kashmir to live a life free from fear and persecution, and ensure that the conditions agreed through the UN mechanism relating to the presence of armed forces are adhered to in accordance with that agreement;
- Conduct the plebiscite as mutually agreed, in Jammu & Kashmir via UN Security Council Resolutions and respect the democratic decision of the people of Kashmir.