Tag Archives: Kashmir dispute

Name changes: POK or POJ&K? 12 June 2014

Name changes: POK or POJ&K?   12 June 2014

India’s new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government is apparently contemplating changing the term ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK)’ to ‘Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJ&K)’. This move has upset some people, including Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, who considers it an attempt to polarise the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)—or J&K-ites, as I call this divided and disputed population. Terminology is an important issue, including in relation to disputed J&K, the nomenclature for which I have sometimes found to be confusing, unclear and problematic.

In my experience, when Indians and Pakistanis use the term ‘Kashmir’, they often mean different things. For an Indian, ‘Kashmir’ generally refers to the region known as the Kashmir Valley—or Kashmir, for short—which, along with Jammu and Ladakh, comprises what I call ‘Indian J&K’: the area of J&K actually under India’s control. For a Pakistani, ‘Kashmir’ often refers to most of the former princely state of J&K. I say ‘most’ as Pakistan has been able—very cleverly since General Zia’s time—to suggest via maps and diplomacy that the Gilgit-Baltistan region in J&K’s north (known as the Northern Areas until 2009) is neither part of J&K, nor of the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan’s tactic, in which India seemingly sometimes acquiesces, arises because the British directly controlled the Gilgit Agency from the 1880s and the Gilgit Leased Area from the 1930s. Islamabad’s suggestion is that the two areas were not part of princely J&K. This is incorrect. Both areas actually belonged the Dogra maharaja as part of J&K’s Frontiers District Province. Furthermore, as was publicly recorded, the British returned the Gilgit Agency and the Gilgit Leased Area to Maharaja Hari Singh’s direct control and administration on 1 August 1947. Gilgit-Baltistan therefore is part of the India-Pakistan dispute over J&K.

Confusingly, ‘Kashmir’ also is used by historians and international relations scholars in the term ‘the Kashmir dispute’ that has existed since 1947 between India and Pakistan over which should possess the former princely state of J&K. J&K comprises five regions: Azad Kashmir; Gilgit-Baltistan; Jammu; Kashmir; Ladakh. However, the former princely entity was popularly called ‘Kashmir’ after its highest profile, best known and most celebrated part: Kashmir. This famous region essentially was/is the Kashmir Valley. Because the princely state was popularly called Kashmir, so we have ‘the Kashmir dispute’. More correctly, this issue should be called the ‘Jammu and Kashmir dispute’, or ‘the India-Pakistan dispute over Jammu and Kashmir’, or ‘the dispute over the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir’. However, because these terms are a mouthful and given the former princely state’s popular name, the Kashmir dispute has come to be commonly used.

Ethnically-speaking, differences also exist. For an Indian or someone from Indian J&K, a ‘Kashmiri’ is a resident of the Kashmir Valley. Most, but not all, ethnic Kashmiris in J&K live there, although Azad Kashmir also has some small populations. For a Pakistani, a Kashmiri could be anyone from the former princely state of J&K. In Azad (Free) Jammu and Kashmir—or Azad Kashmir, for short—as this region has formally called itself since 1947, a Kashmiri is a person from Azad Kashmir who, most probably, is not an ethnic Kashmiri. Azad Kashmiris call themselves ‘Kashmiris’ because their forebears were subjects in the former princely state of J&K commonly called ‘Kashmir’. Similarly, some ‘Pakistanis’ in the United Kingdom, a large percentage of whom actually are from Mirpur in Azad Kashmir, increasingly are calling themselves ‘Kashmiris’ in order to distinguish themselves from other British Pakistanis. These Mirpuris are not ethnic Kashmiris. Their links arise from the former princely state.

Then we get to the loaded terms, such as India’s ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK)’ and Pakistan’s ‘Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK)’ or ‘Indian Held Kashmir (IHK)’. (Another term for New Delhi to consider is ‘Chinese-Occupied Kashmir’, which refers to Aksai Chin and Shaksgam.) Confusingly, when an Indian uses the term ‘POK’, he/she can be talking about three things: ‘POK’, which I call ‘Pakistan Administered J&K’ (comprising Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan); Azad Kashmir; or Gilgit-Baltistan. Such unclarity is made worse because some Indians cannot bring themselves to use the term ‘Azad Kashmir’. It sticks in their craws that these pro-Pakistanis are ‘free’, particularly as both Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan supposedly are an ‘integral part of India’ due to Maharaja Hari Singh’s accession to India in 1947. Interestingly, Azad Kashmiris do not consider themselves free in the sense of being independent. Rather, they became free from the maharaja’s control in 1947, then, post-accession, they were free from Indian control.

The terms ‘IOK’ and ‘IHK’ also confuse, chiefly as many Pakistanis don’t appear to be interested in obtaining possession of Indian J&K’s Jammu or Ladakh regions. Remembering that the ‘k’ in the acrostic ‘Pakistan’ stands for ‘Kashmir’, Pakistanis want the Kashmir Valley. Here there is an important aside: despite what many Indians and others believe, Pakistan does not officially claim all of J&K. Rather, it wants the United Nations plebiscite held so that the people of J&K can decide whether J&K, in its entirety, will join either India or Pakistan. Meanwhile, Islamabad is administering ‘its’ portion of J&K until this poll is held. Pakistanis’ hopes for a plebiscite are forlorn, however. Since the 1950s, India has been unwilling to have this poll held.

And, finally, to India’s proposed use of the term ‘Pakistan Occupied J&K’. It is easy to change a term, although the change may not have much relevance. However, for two reasons, the term ‘POJ&K’ is more correct than ‘POK’. First, as noted, the India-Pakistan dispute over J&K should actually be called ‘the Jammu and Kashmir dispute’, not just ‘the Kashmir dispute’. Second, most of Azad Kashmir comprises western areas of the former Jammu Province, chiefly Mirpur, Kotli and Poonch. The problem remains that, whatever term New Delhi decides to use, it does not reflect the confusing fact that ‘occupied’ Gilgit-Baltistan also is part of the Kashmir dispute. We need a new, more inclusive, term for this dispute!

The opinions in this blog are mine. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organisations, professional or otherwise, with which I am involved or associated.

Christopher Snedden
12 June 2014


Has the Kashmir dispute been temporarily resolved? 29 January 2014

Has the Kashmir dispute been temporarily resolved?     29 January 2014

Having been in Islamabad for a few days, I have been pondering whether the Kashmir dispute has been temporarily resolved. In the last few years, we have seen little substantial diplomatic movement by either India or Pakistan to actively try to resolve this vexed and seemingly intractable issue. Indeed, India-Pakistan relations have worsened in the last year due to some serious and unsavoury incidents across the Line of Control that have upset Indians, particularly some in the Indian Army. Most recently, in J&K itself, trade across the Line of Control has ceased due to India’s arrest of a truck driver from the other ‘side’ who allegedly has smuggled narcotics. In response or retaliation, Pakistan has detained 27 truck drivers from the Indian side. Trade has been suspended for two weeks as officials locally and in New Delhi and Islamabad try to resolve the matter.

More broadly and despite Pakistan’s new leadership, New Delhi has been occupied dealing with other international and domestic issues. Internationally, India is engaging with, and being wooed by, an array of nations seeking to couple their bilateral relations with, and to benefit from, India’s seemingly slow but inevitable progress towards being a great power. Locally, Indian politicians have been positioning themselves and their parties for the forthcoming Indian elections. Consequently, New Delhi seemingly has little time or interest to deal with Islamabad in a serious or substantive way on advancing any of the major India-Pakistan issues, with the possible exception of trade. Similarly, some Pakistanis are concerned that India’s potential prime minister, Narendra Modi, who they believe is a hardline anti-Pakistani, may not ‘give an inch’ on any issue, especially J&K.

It is too early to predict the outcome of the Indian elections. Furthermore, given the nature of politics, it remains to be seen how hardline Mr Modi will, or actually can, be, should he become India’s prime minister. Currently, however, Islamabad has not been able to advance the India-Pakistan relationship, except rhetorically. Nawaz Sharif has talked of wanting to normalise Pakistan’s relations with India, which has been helpful. Yet, despite being a businessman and politician, he has not been able to bring himself to grant India the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status that would normalise the India-Pakistan trade relationship. This is partly because some Pakistanis object to this terminology, believing (incorrectly) that such a move will grant India special privileges. Equally, Sharif’s seeming reluctance to deal positively with India may partially be explained because he is waiting to see which Indian leader with whom Pakistan will eventually have to deal.

Sharif’s reluctance also reflects some indecisiveness in Pakistan as it grapples with a number of other issues. These include whether to fight the anti-social Tehreek-e-Taliban (Pakistan Taliban) or to negotiate with them or to undertake both activities simultaneously; how to successfully, and as painlessly as possible, address Pakistan’s major internal economic, social and political woes, particularly in places such the ethnic and political hotspot of Karachi, the backward and Taliban-infested Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and in perennially disgruntled Balochistan; and, dealing with the inevitable tension and instability that will arise in post-ISAF Afghanistan and which invariably will impact on Pakistan, most probably negatively.

The serious matter of post-ISAF Afghanistan is, arguably, the issue engaging Islamabad’s strategic planners the most. It seems to me that they are very concerned about Pakistan having to deal with some potentially serious instability on its western wing while still having to confront a somewhat assertive India on their heavily-militarised eastern border. The recent United States-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue will make Pakistanis feel a little more comfortable with their strategic situation—but only a little. They remain terribly concerned about, and focused on, India, about which they obsess and to which they invariably, but unnecessarily, compare Pakistan.

As a result, we are seeing a short term, and somewhat clever, strategy by Pakistan in relation to the Kashmir dispute. This strategy involves seeking stability in the east by not pushing to resolve the J&K issue with India while, concurrently, saying publically and more often that Pakistan does not want J&K but that, instead, it wants ‘Kashmiris’ to be able to have an act of self-determination to decide their international status. By Kashmiris, the Pakistanis seemingly mean all of the people of J&K, although Islamabad’s focus appears to be on the Indian-controlled Kashmir Valley and the serious human rights violations there. This is the clever part of the strategy: Pakistan is attempting to take the ‘high moral ground’ by focusing on what it considers to be India’s serious and diabolical actions in the Kashmir Valley against ethnic Kashmiris. New Delhi is assisting Islamabad by not actively and openly pursuing human rights violations and by recently allowing the Indian Army to close an investigation into five soldiers accused of killing five supposed ‘terrorists’ in Anantnag in 2000.

Equally, clever, Islamabad is magnanimously wanting to empower the long-suffering but politically-expendable people of J&K (particularly those in the clearly non-pro-Pakistan regions of Jammu and Ladakh) to let them decide their fate. This makes Islamabad appear to be a paragon of virtue in relation to empowering ‘native’ peoples (i.e. J&K-ites) and their inalienable rights to self-determination. Nevertheless, only two options appear to remain available to J&K-ites: join J&K either with India or with Pakistan. Independence, which some, perhaps many, J&K-ites desire for J&K is not an option.

Pakistan’s strategy is likely to be in place until Afghanistan becomes sufficiently stable or until a regime emerges in Kabul that is to Pakistan’s liking. While clever, it could backfire as others highlight Pakistan’s own human rights violations and/or lack of allowing self-determination to people in places such as Balochistan. In relation to the Kashmir dispute, it means that we are unlikely to see very little movement in the next few years. This could change if there is a major post-election political and mindset shift in New Delhi. Otherwise, there is no pressing imperative for India and Pakistan to resolve their dispute over J&K. Therefore, effectively—although neither actually nor efficiently—the Kashmir dispute would appear to be ‘resolved’ for the next few years.

Christopher Snedden
29 January 2014

Some things never change—but they need to 15 July 2013


It’s been an interesting fortnight—and apologies for no blog piece last week. I had a few things going on in my life.

About a week ago, I received a wonderful and positive message on Facebook about my book Kashmir: The Unwritten History from a person whose professional expertise I admire. Anuradha Bhasin of the Kashmir Times seemingly accepts my analysis that people in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)—or J&K-ites, as I call them—instigated the dispute over J&K’s international status. Certainly, in her concluding statement on Facebook, Anuradha states “that this is one book that is a must read”. This, of course, is gratifying for me.

Conversely, a few days before this Facebook posting, I read a report titled Gilgit-Baltistan: Between Hope and Despair by an Indian analyst who has done considerable work on ‘Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir’, as Indians call those parts of J&K under Pakistan’s administration, and who has read and reviewed my book. Interestingly, in seeking briefly to explain the term ‘Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir’, Priyanka Singh states that Azad Kashmir “was usurped after [the] deceitful tribal invasion launched by the Pakistani army whereas Gilgit Baltistan was forced to accede to Pakistan after a mutiny by the Maharaja’s forces led by British Major William Brown”. Her statement totally denies that Azad Kashmir came into being as a result of people’s actions in Jammu Province: the anti-maharaja Poonch uprising that began soon after partition and some serious inter-religious violence that occurred in Jammu Province in September-October 1947. As for Gilgit-Baltistan, while Brown was certainly involved in this incident, so too were some enthusiastically pro-Pakistan Gilgitis.

A third event recently was a discussion about my book on 10 July at the India International Centre, New Delhi, which I unfortunately was unable to attend. The Chair was B.G. Verghese, an “eminent journalist and writer” who also reviewed my book in The Tribune on 28 April 2013. I am hopeful that an audio will be released about this session. It will be interesting to hear the discussion, especially as Verghese considered my book “useful … [but] sourced and seen entirely from Pakistan and Islamabad [with] virtually no Indian or international citations or analysis that questions or controverts this one-sided version”. The book and its Bibliography suggested otherwise.

I should not be precious. Since the release of my book about Azad Kashmir in June last year, I have learnt two things and I am reminded of a third. First, regardless of what one says, writes or does, people will generally always believe or disbelieve what they want to believe or disbelieve—even in the face of contrary facts and information. Second, one has little or no control whatsoever over what other people write or say about another person or their work. Third, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I accept these three ‘rules’, noting that politicians, who also adhere to them, must have incredibly thick skins at times.

These rules also suggest that the Kashmir dispute will be difficult to resolve. Indians and Pakistanis have totally different positions and understandings, certainly at the official level, on almost all aspects of the dispute, even though, in my opinion, some of these positions and understandings are inaccurate, or just plain wrong. As I state on p. 219 of my book, “the only point that I have found on which India and Pakistan agree in their entire dispute over possession of the former princely state is that neither J&K, nor any part of it, can become independent”. This does not provide a strong basis for resolving the Kashmir dispute. Nor does it offer much scope to involve the people in my “ridiculously utopian” suggestion—as Omair Ahmed disparingly (as I see it, although he is entitled to his opinion, of course) calls it in The Sunday Guardian of 1 June 2013—to enable J&K-ites to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

The question for me is: despite writing what I consider to be a truthful, non-partisan account of what happened in J&K in 1947, can these official and unofficial perceptions of the Kashmir dispute be changed? If so, how? Finding common ground, politically and metaphorically, is one of the greatest issues in relation to resolving the Kashmir dispute.

Christopher Snedden
15 July 2013

My suggestion to resolve the Kashmir dispute 18 June 2013

My suggestion to resolve the Kashmir dispute                      18 June 2013

As I see it, history tells us three things about the Kashmir dispute:
1) that the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)—or J&K-ites, as I call them—instigated the dispute over J&K’s status;
2) that J&K-ites have never been asked in any inclusive or meaningful way what international status they want for their state;
3) that India and Pakistan have not been able to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

In my book Kashmir: The Unwritten History (publication information below), I have detailed how people in J&K actually instigated the struggle over whether J&K should join India or Pakistan—and not outsiders as India and Pakistan have long claimed. These J&K-ites did so before the Maharaja of J&K acceded to India on 26 October 1947. This makes J&K-ites the first party to the Kashmir dispute, not the third. Certainly, J&K-ites are stakeholders in this dispute if only because it is actually over their lands.

Nevertheless, J&K-ites have never been consulted about J&K’s international status even though, after accepting the Maharaja’s accession in 1947, Indian officials proposed that there should be “a reference to the people” about this matter. In 1948, the United Nations resolved that a plebiscite should be held to enable the people of J&K to determine whether J&K, in its entirety, should join India or Pakistan. Officially, Pakistan still desires that this poll be held. Thus, at some stages, India and Pakistan have deemed that the people of J&K should be involved resolving J&K’s status.

The United Nations-supervised plebiscite for J&K-ites has long been ‘dead’. Pakistan couldn’t agree to its preconditions; India felt that it would ‘lose’. Equally, India and Pakistan have not resolved their dispute over possession of J&K. The only thing clear from their various discussions since 1947 is that both nations are prepared to divide J&K between them. The issue for them now is where this division should be.

The inability of India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute suggests that the involvement of a third party might be helpful. There are some useful historical precedents: the United Nations brokered the 1949 ceasefire that ended the 1948 India-Pakistan war; the World Bank helped India and Pakistan to agree their Indus Waters Treaty in 1960; the United Nations helped resolve the Rann of Kutch incident that preceded the 1965 India-Pakistan war, with this resolution occurring in 1968.

A feasible third party that could help resolve the Kashmir dispute is the people of J&K. Under Section 1.ii of the 1972 Simla Agreement, India and Pakistan agreed to “settle their differences … through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon”. Both nations therefore could “mutually agree” to allow J&K-ites, who certainly have sufficient knowledge and will, to try resolve the Kashmir dispute.

I call this process “Let the People Decide”. It is fully detailed in the Conclusion to my book. Essentially, it involves India and Pakistan allowing delegates from each of J&K’s five regions* that want to be involved, to cross the Line of Control as required and have meetings in various locations throughout J&K. The aim is for them to discuss the Kashmir dispute and, eventually, to offer a solution, or solutions, to resolve it.

*(J&K’s five regions are: Azad Kashmir; Gilgit-Baltistan; Jammu; Kashmir (the Kashmir Valley); and, Ladakh.)

There should be no timeframe for these discussions. Rather, J&K-ites’ representatives should take as long as they need to resolve the issue of their state’s international status. India and Pakistan should be kept informed about the discussions, and of any progress. J&K-ites should ratify any solution/s that are finally proposed. If J&K-ites’ representatives can’t resolve the Kashmir dispute, then it should to revert to India and Pakistan.

The term “Let the People Decide” comes from a speech with this title given by Jawaharlal Nehru in August 1952. He stated that “we will give [J&K-ites] a chance to decide [the future of J&K]. We propose to stand by their decision in this matter.” While Nehru was talking about conducting the UN plebiscite in J&K, the title and thrust of the speech are, I believe, still applicable.

The great challenge is to get India and Pakistan to agree to this approach. However, as noted, involving J&K-ites in resolving the Kashmir dispute is not a new idea. Rather, it is a lapsed proposition. Certainly, after almost 66 years, all parties to the Kashmir dispute would benefit from having this matter resolved. J&K could then become a bridge between India and Pakistan—rather than a bitter item of contestation and hostility. Let the People Decide!

(Kashmir: The Unwritten History was published by HarperCollins India in February 2013. It was first published by Hurst and Co., London, and by Columbia University Press, New York, as The Untold Story of the People of Azad Kashmir. It was republished using this latter title by Oxford University Press, Karachi, in January 2013.)

Christopher Snedden
18 June 2013

Is generational change the key to resolving the Kashmir dispute? 11 June 2013


Is generational change the key to resolving the Kashmir dispute?    11 June 2013

Recently, I returned from New Delhi where I launched a book I have written called Kashmir: The Unwritten History (published by HarperCollins India). To my pleasant surprise, my book has been well received in India. Since its release, it has been on India’s ‘Top Ten Non-Fiction Best Selling List’, rating as high as three at one stage.

My book may be popular because it is controversial. Using primary sources, I have discussed how people in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) started the dispute over J&K’s international status (the so called ‘Kashmir dispute’) in 1947—and not outsiders, as India has long claimed and in which claim Pakistan surprisingly has acquiesced.

The people of J&K instigated the Kashmir dispute by undertaking three significant acts in 1947:

  • soon after partition on 15 August 1947, some Muslim ‘rebels’ living in the south-western Poonch and Mirpur areas of the Jammu Province of J&K mounted an uprising against the ruler of J&K;
  • in September-October 1947, residents of Jammu Province (‘Jammuites’) engaged in serious inter-religious violence throughout Jammu Province, as a result of which many people in all communities (Hindu, Sikh, Muslim) were killed, or were forced to flee to other areas;
  • Poonchi and Mirpuri ‘rebels’ created the Provisional Azad (Free) Government in those areas that they had successfully liberated or ‘freed’ from the ruler’s control, with this area quickly becoming known as ‘Azad (Free) Kashmir’.

Significantly, all of these three actions by the people of J&K (who collectively I call ‘J&K-ites’) occurred before the ruler of J&K, Maharaja Sir Hari Singh, acceded to India on 26 October 1947. Surprisingly, they have received scant—or even no—attention in most histories about the Kashmir dispute.

Nevertheless, these three actions importantly confirm that the people of J&K not only have long been stakeholders in the long-running Kashmir dispute, but also that they actually instigated this serious, ongoing, matter. This conflicts with the official Indian version that Pukhtoon tribesmen from Pakistan instigated all of the violence and troubles in J&K in 1947 when they invaded Kashmir Province on 22 October. Most Pakistanis also have ignored the significant events that preceded the embarrassing (for Pakistan) tribal invasion.

While some Indians have called me a rebel, or they think that I am pro-Pakistan, or that my ‘revision’ of history will empower Pakistan, many subcontinentals are pleased to hear that there is more to the Kashmir dispute than has been enunciated in Indian and Pakistani histories. In particular, J&K-ites have been pleased to see their forebears’ side of the story revealed in a comprehensive way for the first time. Some have informed me that they have found my book empowering.

One Indian reviewer believes that my book was based on a false premise: that the Muslim League and Muhammad Ali Jinnah were responsible for organising whatever negative (that is, anti-maharaja or anti-Indian) events happened in J&K in 1947. Interestingly, he did not provide a shred of evidence to support his position. This reviewer also stated that my book ‘flies in the face of historical facts’. I agree with him. Indeed, this was always my intention: to provide a more complete picture of what happened in 1947, rather than to selectively relate historical ‘facts’ advantageous to India (particularly) or to Pakistan.

Another reviewer claims that I have not accessed any Indian documents about these events. I did actually do so, including some that show that Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel were aware in late September/early October of what was happening in J&K, including in the Poonch area, and, more pointedly, that they both knew that the Pukhtoon tribesmen were planning to invade Kashmir Province.

Interestingly, there seems to be a generational issue involved in people’s acceptance or rejection of my book. Many younger people—those under about 45 years old—appear more prepared to consider the book’s contents on its merits. People older than 45 tend to want to apportion blame for what happened in J&K in 1947.

This possibly suggests that, in terms of resolving the Kashmir dispute, a resolution may happen more easily when the older generation that directly experienced or that strongly remembers partition in 1947 has moved on. In Pakistan, most such people have passed away. In India, there are still many alive, with some serving in important political positions. This includes the current Indian President, Prime Minister and Defence Minister.

My sample has been small, but perhaps younger people in the subcontinent might be more amenable to resolving the Kashmir dispute than the older generation?

(Kashmir: The Unwritten History, published by HarperCollins India in 2013, was first published by Hurst and Co., London, and Columbia University Press, New York, as The Untold Story of the People of Azad Kashmir. The title was changed to take account of the Indian Government’s sensitivity in relation to the use of the term ‘Azad Kashmir’, which region India considers to be under Pakistan’s ‘occupation’.)

Christopher Snedden

11 June 2013