India, Pakistan, Autonomy or Freedom: What is the Permanent Solution to the Kashmir Dispute?

Is granting autonomy the best solution to the Kashmir Dispute? Is freedom or merging with either India or Pakistan really an option? Former Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah recently asserted that granting autonomy is the most pragmatic solution the Kashmir crisis, while people in the Kashmir region have been raising slogans like “Azadi” or Freedom. 

Former J&K CM Abdullah said: “It is high time for the Government of India to implement the resolution of autonomy. “It is the only pragmatic solution to the age-old problem. J&K is a unique state and needs a special dispensation in terms of regional autonomy to satisfy the needs of the state,” said Omar, addressing a provincial meet of party functionaries.

Can Autonomy be Granted to Jammu and Kashmir

Kashmir dispute cannot be unfortunately resolved until and unless Pakistan is also included. But Pakistan, due to its terror policies, has been sponsoring terrorism in India and Indian Home Minister Rajnath Sigh has stated clearly: “Terrorism and Talks Cannot Go Hand-in-Hand”. India and Pakistan may engage in serious peace process and negotiations by end of 2019 when the Indian general elections are over.

Secondly, when we compare India with Pakistan, both nations are strikingly different. One one hand, Islamabad is in deep financial debt and facing a massive economic crisis, while India continues to be the world’s fastest growing economy. India has gradually emerged as the world’s economic powerhouse, while a small nation like Bangladesh has surpassed Pakistan in economic growth rate and human development index.

Pakistan is not in a position to negotiate with India on an equal footing and does not really expect India to make concessions on any matter, including Kashmir. Pakistan has been vehemently advocating for talks with India and if the Indus water treaty and Siachen matter can be amicably resolved, Islamabad may be forced to re-look at its Kashmir Policy.

Thirdly, granting autonomy might sound an interesting option to Omar Abdullah, but he is not in the power at present. Abdullah knows and understands that an independent Kashmir may become a breeding ground for radicals which will eventually result in a massive civil war in Kashmir just like Syria or Iraq.

Kashmir may be troubled, no doubt, but the majority of people who get injured or killed are either militants, paid recruits or violent stone pelters. However, innocent people are still living safely in the valley and once the Indian Army leaves, there is a strong possibility that violent mobs will create havoc in the valley and do irreversible damage to the situation. New Delhi will never let that happen.

Lastly, what people do not understand that both India and Pakistan have somewhat agreed to the fact that there will be no redrawing of the boundaries and independence is not an option on the table for Kashmir.

Regions like Jammu and Ladakh will never want to unlink themselves with India and have supported the trifurcation of the state. The minority community in Kashmir will also not support Kashmiri Sunni Muslims for their quest (including Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs and Shia Muslims – who vehemently oppose Pakistan). There is a limited influence of “Azadi” in Northern Kashmir and Gujjar-Bakarwal community who live very close to the border areas with Pakistan.

Also, don’t forget, if India has to grant autonomy or freedom to Kashmir, then Pakistan will also have to reciprocate by granting autonomy/freedom to Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and other occupied regions where Chinese CPEC project is passing through (worth a whopping $60 Billion USD).

What will Islamabad do in case the new Kashmir / GB Government decides to block the Chinese CPEC project? Clearly, Pakistan will not put their country at stake for the Kashmir cause and will prefer to stick to the status quo just like India.

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