One has been guessing for more than 60 years what exactly the people of Kashmir themselves desire.
“Kashmir is a flashpoint and can trigger a fourth war between the two nuclear powers any time,” he was quoted as having said by the daily, Dawn.
War, and even to think of it seems so silly.
While calling for an early resolution of the Kashmir issue, Sharif said he dreamt of seeing “Indian” Kashmir free during his lifetime.
The Kashmir state is divided into two: one lies with India and the other with Pakistan.
Kashmir has been a thorny affair between India and Pakistan ever since 1947, when the subcontinent was partitioned. Pakistan claims that Kashmir belongs to it.
The conflict first arose when the Hindu ruler of the Muslim-majority Kashmir acceded his province to the union of India.
(Before Partition, there were some states in India which were ruled by kings and princes.)
But even as Kashmir’s accession was taking effect, Pakistan sent its soldiers into the state and occupied a part of it. India calls this segment of Kashmir as “occupied”, while Pakistan terms it “Azad” (Free).
The problem might have had an easier solution if India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had not promised a United Nations-supervised plebiscite in Kashmir. This never happened, and one has been guessing for more than 60 years what exactly the people of Kashmir themselves desire.
Do they want to be independent of India and Pakistan or join one of the two?
India and Pakistan, two poor countries, have fought three wars over Kashmir, and also had an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation in Kargil that the world feared could have led to a nuclear catastrophe. Both countries have nuclear arsenals.
The wars have only made both nations – whose citizens share common languages and cultures, and who once and for centuries had lived together in perfect harmony – poorer. Yet, New Delhi and Islamabad have not been able to put an end to the Kashmir imbroglio.
And ever so often when the Kashmir question crops up, both countries lock horns over it. Barbs flew thick and fast between the two after Sharif’s comment the other day.
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was quick to respond that Pakistan had no chance of winning a war with India during his lifetime.
Social networking sites began buzzing after this. Some said that Manmohan Singh (81) had only a few years to live. So he was looking at a very short period. Others quipped that in the event of a war, both China and the USA would back Pakistan – pushing India to a corner.
Sharif has now denied making the comment about the fourth war! If he did not at all make such a statement, why would Manmohan Singh have come out with a retort?
It has now become almost fashionable to shoot one’s mouth off, and deny it the next hour. The common excuse is that one has been misquoted or quoted out of the context. Politicians have been doing this despite being caught on television making a rash or controversial comment.
Be that as it may, the moot point now is, what do the people of India’s Kashmir want. Driven to desperation for decades, because of New Delhi’s neglect of the region, some men there took up arms and became terrorists – of course backed by Pakistan that provided the resources.
Armed insurgency still continues in Kashmir, but the common man is clearly tired of all this, and would want to carry on with his life – earning and living comfortably.
Broad indications are that Kashmiris would rather be part of today’s India – and not today’s Pakistan, which is plagued by too many problems. Nobody (except some politicians) wants Kashmir to be independent.
But war is no answer to the Kashmir issue.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at[email protected]