It is important to understand the changes that have occurred in political thought throughout the world in order to develop a strategy for Kashmir. Until some time ago, it was believed that a political system comes into existence through force and is practiced through the relationship of the ruler and the ruled. States and governments are established on this basis and they use this principle for their survival and stability. Thus, people rise, mobilize their forces and subjugate others at the point of the sword or barrel of the gun. All the big empires of the world have been created on the basis of this concept. European states have come into being in this manner. Muslims, too, have ruled over large areas similarly and the governments of the Mughals and the British in India were also a result of this principle.
This concept has changed now and has been replaced with ideas of self-determination and democracy. The ideas that nations have the right of self-determination and that political disputes are to be resolved through democratic processes have been accepted. Self-determination means that if people of a certain region demand an individual national identity based on their language, race, region, culture, religion or any other shared feature, they will be recognized as a separate nation. It will be recognized that they have the authority to take their own political decisions. Therefore, if they wish, they can secede from their state, they can accede with another state or they can form a separate state of their own. Democratic processes mean that all international and national matters of political significance will be addressed by agreement of the people.
These principles are now established norms in the world. There has not been much progress at the practical level, but it has been accepted theoretically that the relationship between the ruler and ruled has come to an end. Any state which is established will work on a democratic basis and if there is a nation that demands the right of self-determination, its views will be implemented through a plebiscite.
When we look at the issue of Kashmir in this context, it becomes clear that it is no longer necessary to view it against the backdrop of the partition of India. It should be seen in view of the change that has occurred in the world. Now, the foundation of the decision is not historical evidence, but the question is whether the people of Kashmir think of themselves as a separate nation and whether they wish to exercise their right of self determination in this capacity. If the answer to this question is in the affirmative, then it is their right that they should be given the opportunity to take their own political decision through a democratic process.
After 70 years of struggle and huge sacrifices of the Kashmiri people, there remains no doubt that a vast majority of them do not wish to remain with India. Over the past seven decades, they have told the world that they are not ready to accept integration with India. Hence, the debates about whether Maharaja Hari Singh had the authority to join India; whether the document of accession was legitimate, or whether the role of the British was partisan are meaningless. All these points are irrelevant. This is because even if we accept, for the sake of argument, that the matters related to accession were just as claimed by India, the right of self-determination of the Kashmiris as a consequence cannot be suppressed. When a nation has been demanding separation for 70 years, there can be no legitimacy of any historical argument or of any documentary evidence. Self-determination is their right by birth and their struggle has become a proven reality. When this is the situation, the conscience of the world should awaken, India’s conscience should wake up and Pakistan should raise the voice of its conscience.
The world should look at this issue not as an issue between the two countries, Pakistan and India, but as a global issue. It should be accepted that self-determination is the birthright of Kashmiris. This is the right which human beings obtain the moment they are born. The collective conscience of humanity has accepted this right. It should not be violated and if anyone is violating it, voices should be raised against this at every level. The nations of the world should redress the mutual contradiction of two values that the collective conscience of the world is faced with: it upholds the right of self-determination of nations and, on the other hand, it accepts the rule of non intervention in their internal matters. Both these values are mutually contradictory. Simultaneous recognition of both results in contradiction of thought and support to the right of self determination no longer remains possible. Therefore, the United Nations should develop a procedure as a result of which neither should a nation face barriers in asking for self determination, nor the UN itself hesitate in its support. This means that if a people fulfilling the requirements of a nation ask for secession from a country, or accession, or its independence and authority, a system should be in place to implement this demand. A clear and established system from demand to plebiscite and from plebiscite to implementation of results should be available. For example, according to a law in the US, if a given number of people in any state demand separation from the Federation, then a decision will be taken according to a plebiscite through an established procedure.
India should understand that this is not the age of the rulers and the ruled. Non recognition of self-determination of a people is not a matter of pride; it is a matter of condemnation. The times when overpowering a people and subjugating them was considered a matter of valour are gone. The 70 year long struggle of the Kashmiris cannot be kept hidden from the eyes of the world. Therefore, India is deceiving itself when it gives the impression that it is not a national struggle of the Kashmiris but is limited to a few groups only. If this is true, then what is the sense in keeping a military force of 0.7 million in a state with a population of 5 million? It should understand that in this age, it is not possible to run a government for a long time by using guns, shooting bullets, piercing bayonets into the chests of people and destroying their eyesight. If giving the power to rule to the Congress or the BJP based on the opinion of people is right, then how can it be wrong to resolve the matter of the Kashmiris through their views? The conscience of India’s writers, poets, journalists, scholars and pundits should also be awakened. Instead of following this wrong strategy of the government, they should explain that the times of “atoot ang” (unbreakable part) have gone. It is now the age of self-determination and democracy. India should understand that if the partition of Pakistan from India was legitimate and the breakup of Bangladesh from Pakistan is a reality, then the demand of the Kashmiris too is absolutely valid. Use of force is not the solution to a problem such as this. It results in the birth of terrorism. Hence the issue must be resolved democratically and whatever the results, they should be accepted with good will.
Pakistan, too, should accept the right to self-determination as a principle. It should be valid for Pakistan just as it is for India. Hence, if a nation, after fulfilling the elements of nationality, makes such a demand, Pakistan should offer the opportunity of plebiscite with good intentions. Its stance in the case of Kashmir should be that the people of Kashmir should be allowed to decide for themselves. It should not be viewed as a border dispute which the two countries should resolve. The concept of division of the region between the two countries is not correct at all. It is a matter of basic human rights. The status of the decision maker is not with Pakistan, India, any accession by Maharaja Hari Singh or any document of accession. This status belongs only to the people of Kashmir. If they wish to retain the acceded status with India, Pakistan should not have any objection. If they wish to accede to Pakistan, India should accept this and if they wish to create their own independent state, both Pakistan and India should agree. In this matter, the India-Pakistan dialogue should be on the process which should be used for the plebiscite in Kashmir to obtain their views.
As far as the people of Kashmir are concerned, it is their natural right that their political future be decided according to their wishes. This right should have been given to them at the time of partition of the Indian sub continent, but unfortunately, this did not happen. When this did not happen, they had only two options. One was to accept the situation forced upon them and integrate within the national stream of India and the second was that they begin a struggle for their self determination. Both options had their own demands, difficulties and consequences. The Kashmiris decided upon the latter option and they are committed to it to date. Since their destination is still not in sight, even after 70 years of continuous struggle, they still have the same two options in front of them. They should adopt the one which is of the greatest national benefit to them. If they prefer the first, they should accept accession positively and become a national part of India, just as the Sikh, the Tamils or other nationalities have had to become. If they adopt this route, they should then give all their attention to education and development of their new generations and economic prosperity and reduce the parameters of their struggle to the rights which they can attain according to the constitution and laws of India. If, on the other hand, they decide to continue with their struggle for self-determination, they should pause for a while and analyze their strengths and weaknesses and develop their strategy afresh. Three points are of primary significance in this context:
Firstly, they should develop their leadership and organize themselves into a single representative political party after ending their internal differences. When they gather under one leadership, there will be discipline within their ranks and they will be able to present their case to the world with one voice. If this point was to be explained in one word, it would be that they should produce their own Quaid e Azam and they should adopt the same strategy which the Muslim League adopted under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Chances of success after this will be bright.
Secondly, they should conduct their struggle for self-determination through a peaceful process. The decisions for the future of nations are taken not in anger and rage, but through a peaceful political movement. They should restrict themselves to a strictly political struggle based on non-violence. They should neither give a religious colour to their struggle, nor adopt extremist approaches. They should go to every forum in the world and obtain the moral support of all the nations of the world. They should make their paradise on earth such a cradle of peace that all the tourists of the world flock to their state and return to their homes, brimming with support for the cause of Kashmiris. If they take this approach, the majority of people in the world will come and stand with them. Even within India, they will find voices in their support and their struggle will produce results, God willing.
The third point is that their demand should be focused only on one point, and that is plebiscite. Whatever the world says, whatever problems India creates and whatever proposals are offered by Pakistan, they should not move away from this demand.
(Transcribed and adapted in writing by Manzoor ul Hassan / Translated into English by Nikhat Sattar)