Saturday, October, 01,2022

TIME TO CONSOLIDATE INDIA’S POSITION ON KASHMIR & PoK

Kashmir finds mention in ancient texts of India and has remained part of ancient Indian Empires for ages but the Indo - Pak dispute emerged after partition when Pakistan sponsored militia-invaded Kashmir in September 1947. To save the state from this invasion the then ruler Maharaja Hari Singh placed Kashmir under the dominion of India by executing an Instrument of Accession on 27 October 1947. Later a UN brokered cease-fire came into effect in 1948, a Line of Control (LoC); a de facto border was established separating Indian and Pakistani administered regions of Kashmir. Since then, India and Pakistan have fought three wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999 over Kashmir (in 1971, Kashmir was perhaps the peripheral issue) and they had been involved in several skirmishes on both sides of LoC. Tensions between the two countries escalated in the 1990s after Pak sponsored terrorism took a devilous shape in Kashmir. As it stands India holds 60% of Kashmir, Pakistan has occupied 30% and 10% has been illegally acceded to China.

KASHMIR
The Modi- Shah plan of annulment of Article 370 and the formation of two new union territories in 2019 has triggered the change and stabilising with time. The concerted effort by team Chinar Corps, other security forces and local people under the guidance of Lt Governor has definitely stimulated the change. The government’s reconstruction plan for Kashmir with an outlay of approximately Rs 24,000 crore, in the fields of infrastructure, education, health, civil amenities, industrial promotion, employment and income generation seems to be working for good. If over six lac tourists pouring into valley since 2021is an indication, then definitely the valley is witnessing winds of change. There is a need to consolidate the changes and some constructive efforts to encourage cross-border trade, rein in the militants by Pak, initiate tourism between Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and establish proper rules of engagement in relation to conduct comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan should pave way for lasting peace in Kashmir.

PAKISTAN-OCCUPIED KASHMIR (PoK)
While India is implementing several new projects in Jammu and Kashmir to meet the demands of the post-Covid economy, PoK on the other hand has suffered many budgetary cuts with the government favouring corrupt politicians as well as China making inroads into the territory and using the land to fulfil its own ambitions. PoK has been under Pakistan’s control for over seven decades and is now incrementally falling under China’s sphere of influence; India must carefully evolve a prudent strategy on PoK that could materialise into territorial claim on the region just as the rest of the Jammu and Kashmir. India needs to cogently argue out its position on PoK by putting out a comprehensive proclamation based on documents like The Instrument of Accession.

The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir carries a provision of 24 seats in the state’s legislative assembly for representatives from PoK so why not a rethink on allocating seats for PoK in the Lok Sabha. The Indian government needs to address near complete apathy of the Indian media with respect to developments in PoK and counter Pakistani media’s obsession with Kashmir with appropriate Indian rebuttals. Exposing the militant training camps in PoK and diminishing the malicious propaganda and subversive activities unleashed by Pakistan. In addition to the existing routes, India needs to consciously insist on opening up more points across the LoC for movement of people and goods, especially the Kargil- Skardu route. Encouraging constructive engagement between PoK driven think-tanks, academics and communities with those in India will lead to cross-fertilization of ideas and forge partnership on significant issues of mutual interest. Chinese presence in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan further limits India’s options in Kashmir. The presence of PLA soldiers in PoK will deny Indian military the comfort window in a twofront war strategy propagated by Pakistan. Worse, once hostilities stop, China will emerge as a more powerful stakeholder for Kashmir resolution.

WAY FORWARD
While measures to deal with discontent within Kashmir have been initiated, there is a need for more innovative measures to undercut Pakistan’s gross indulgence in fanning the issue. A robust and coherent approach to reshape the domestic as well as external discourses on PoK to pursue Indian claims in a firm and consistent manner. Indian agenda must focus on empowerment and Self-Rule political package challenging Pakistan’s locus standi on introducing changes in a contested region of Gilgit and Baltistan where people have been denied their basic political rights. Need to exploit China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) placed under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by India by siting the principle of territorial sovereignty and integrity to stake its claim on PoK and this position was rescinded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to the territory during his Independence Day address in August 2016. There is greater need than ever before to retrieve the subject of PoK from the backburner and bring it head on during strategic discussions and policy formulations. The Instrument of Accession, signed in India’s favour by the Maharaja of Kashmir in October 1947, is the most authentic and significant legal backing, based on which India must leverage its claim not only on Jammu & Kashmir but also Pak occupied Kashmir.

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

COL RAJESH BHUKAR
  The author has been Head Security Rajasthan Operations of Cairn Energy and DGM HR in Jindal Saw Ltd

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