Tag Archives: plebiscite

Actual and Perceptional ‘Borders’ in J&K 22 January 2014



Map above from The Economist, 8 February 2012, www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/05/indian_pakistani_and_chinese_border_disputes


Actual and Perceptional ‘Borders’ in J&K     22 January 2014

The dispute over the international status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is old, complicated and convoluted. India and Pakistan have been engaged in this matter emotionally, diplomatically and militarily from before the British left the Indian subcontinent in August 1947. J&K was then important to them because the princely state—commonly called ‘Kashmir’ after its most famous region—was prestigious. In 1947, J&K was India’s largest princely state. It had international borders with Afghanistan, China and (then independent) Tibet; the USSR’s Tajikistan Republic was nearby to the north. Some major rivers flowed through J&K: the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. Finally, J&K would share post-partition borders with Pakistan and India, albeit short with India, with both nations wanting to include the princely state in their territory.

In the finish, neither nation secured all of J&K. Since 1947, the former princely state has been militarily-divided between India, which controls Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, and Pakistan, which administers Azad (Free) Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. China controls two areas nominally under J&K’s control in 1947: Aksai Chin and Shaksgam. Officially, India claims all of the territory ‘occupied’ by Pakistan and China because the ruler of J&K, Maharaja Sir Hari Singh, acceded to India on 26 October 1947. For New Delhi, all of J&K is an ‘integral part of India’. Pakistan is administering ‘its’ areas until a United Nations-supervised plebiscite can be held to determine whether the people of J&K want ‘their’ state, in its entirety, to join India or Pakistan. India and China, as part of their ongoing territorial and border negotiations, are discussing Aksai Chin. Beijing has said that it will renegotiate its control of Shaksgam should India and Pakistan resolve their dispute over J&K.

Interestingly, but problematically, India and Pakistan each has a different perception as to what comprises the former princely state. Official Indian maps show all of J&K as being Indian territory, even though civilian Indians have never set foot in areas outside India’s control: Azad Kashmir; Gilgit-Baltistan; Aksai Chin; Shaksgam. Official Pakistani maps show the Gilgit Agency as not being part of the ‘disputed territory’ of J&K. (Such maps also often show Junagadh and Manavadar, whose rulers acceded to Pakistan in 1947, as being Pakistan’s.) Although the British controlled the Gilgit Agency from the 1880s, they publicly returned (or retroceded) control of this territory to the Maharaja of J&K on 1 August 1947. Therefore, Gilgit is part of J&K, and of the Kashmir dispute.

India is fussy about maps of J&K, with New Delhi sometimes insisting that publications must use its official map of the former princely state. In 2012, New Delhi censored editions of The Economist that included a map showing the actual situation on the ground in disputed J&K  (like the map above), rather than showing all of J&K as being Indian territory. For this reason, I chose not include any maps in my book about Azad Kashmir that was published internationally in 2012, and in Pakistan and India in 2013.

Another issue is terminology. The India-Pakistan dispute over J&K is known as ‘the Kashmir dispute’ because, when the princely state was created in 1846, the most prestigious and reasonably autonomous part of the entity was Kashmir. Fairly quickly thereafter, both J&K and its rulers came to be called ‘Kashmir’. For this reason, although the dispute over J&K should be called the ‘Jammu and Kashmir dispute’, it is known instead as the ‘Kashmir dispute’. Otherwise, when Indians use the term ‘Kashmir’, they are referring to the Kashmir Valley that India controls and which Pakistan desires. For Indians, residents of Kashmir are ethnic Kashmiris. When Pakistanis use the term ‘Kashmir’, they may be referring to the Kashmir Valley. More often, they are referring to the entire former princely state. Similarly, when Pakistanis use the term ‘Kashmiri’, they may be referring to an ethnic Kashmiri. More often, they are referring to a resident of the former princely state. Pakistanis also talk of an ‘Azad Kashmiri’. This is a resident of the ‘Azad Kashmir’ region who, more often than not, is not an ethnic Kashmiri.

Neither India nor Pakistan knows how—nor seemingly is prepared—to resolve their dispute over J&K. Pakistan officially wants the UN plebiscite held, which is untenable for India. Conversely, India wants it and Pakistan to resolve this bilateral matter, although unofficially Pakistan might like mediation by a third party, possibly the United States, which also is untenable for India. However, the Kashmir dispute already has trilateral aspects. J&K-ites (my term for the people of J&K) are the third party to this dispute. Furthermore, in 1963, Pakistan ceded territory that India considers to be its to China; since 1948, the UN Security Council has been involved with India and Pakistan re J&K and could, if desired, re-open this matter sidelined since 1965; and, the UN has its Military Observer Group that monitors the Line of Control that divides J&K into Indian and Pakistan-administered areas.

Having been involved analysing the Kashmir dispute since 1984, I know that this issue generates considerable argument among Indians, Pakistanis and J&K-ites. Surprisingly, I have found only one matter about which India and Pakistan agree in their entire dispute over J&K: that neither J&K, nor any part of it, can have independence. This ‘agreement’ is counter to the azadi (independence) that some, perhaps many, J&K-ites living in places such as Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Mirpur, may desire. That said, we don’t know what status, or statuses, J&K-ites actually want as they have never been asked this question in any inclusive or conclusive way. Indeed, J&K-ites are the forgotten element of the Kashmir dispute—even though they actually instigated the fight over J&K’s international status before India or Pakistan was officially involved in the state and even though this fight is over their lands. This makes J&K-ites the first party to the Kashmir dispute—a fact not recognised, or forgotten, by India and Pakistan. When it comes to J&K, there is little agreement between anyone, it seems.

Christopher Snedden
22 January 2014


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