The long-standing conflict of Kashmir has resulted in fierce horrific wars and continuous border tensions between Pakistan and India. The two countries which were carved out of the subcontinent in 1947 also conducted nuclear tests because of the more-than-70-years-old dispute, which has become a nuclear flashpoint.
A lasting settlement of the most militarized region in the world is need of the hour. Forces of both the neighbouring countries stand eyeball-to-eyeball along the Line of Control (LoC), where skirmishes take place quite often. Two full-fledged wars have been fought apart from Siachen and Kargil clashes. The issue has strained the bilateral relations between Pakistan and India for decades as it is at core of their foreign and security policies.
On the other hand, India’s brutal occupational forces have committed (and continue to do so) a plethora of inhuman grave felonies in the Himalayan valley, but Kashmiris’ resilience is remarkable.
In January 1948, India’s Jawaharlal Nehru had taken the issue to UN accusing Pakistan of committing aggression. Pakistan counter-charged India of illegally annexing Kashmir and proposed a ceasefire.
Following this UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) was established to investigate claims and play mediatory role; a number of UN resolutions were passed which demanded both the sides to exercise restraint and end hostilities; withdraw non-Kashmiri residents and troops; and hold a plebiscite under the UN supervision.
Both Pakistan and India had accepted the UN proposal of plebiscite, but India never let it materialise. Over the period of time different solutions have been suggested by different entities on this tardy conflict.
Eight viable solutions:
1. Plebiscite/Self determination
Plebiscite/ self determination is the most coveted and sensible solution to let people of the Kashmir territory decide what they want. Pakistan firmly believes that Kashmir would choose to join Pakistan, while India fears that it would lose the region. Therefore, it has been entirely unacceptable for India.
The residents of the valley support the option of plebiscite to be held under the UN. Some factions like (Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front) want option of a Kashmir free from Pakistan and India both to be included in the plebiscite.
2. Status Quo
Only the Narendra Modi-led BJP government wants to illegally Indianise Kashmir, while India has generally preferred status quo on this issue. But status quo is unacceptable to Pakistan as it wants self-determination in the territory.
3. The Third Option (complete independence)
A group of people in Kashmir want complete freedom and a separate state with its own sovereignty which is also known as the Third Option. This has not been accepted by Pakistan and India for their own reasons.
4. Chenab Formula
Chenab Formula states that the Muslim-majority areas comprising the Kashmir Valley, Poonch, Rajouri and Doda which are on the right side of Chenab River should join Pakistan and rest of the Kashmir should fall under India. This solution was discussed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1962-63 with India, but the talks ended in no result.
5. Owen Dixon Plan
The UN had assigned an Australian jurist Owen Dixon a task to explore options to resolve the dispute. He had proposed that people of Kashmir valley should be consulted for their wish, while northern areas would be annexed with Pakistan and Jammu and Ladakh would become part of India.
Pakistan adopted silence on this, but India blatantly rejected it.
6. Kashmir Study Group Proposal
According to Criterion Quarterly, the Kashmir Study Group comprising experts on the region was funded by a US-based Kashmiri mogul Farooq Kathwari to find a solution. It proposed a ‘United Sovereign Entity’ according to which the region should be given sovereignty without an international status, having free access to and from India and Pakistan.
7. UN Trusteeship Proposal
A Pakistani professor Dr Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema had proposed that “the areas of Jammu and Ladakh would join India while the northern areas and Azad Kashmir would join Pakistan, leaving the Kashmir valley to be put under UN Trusteeship for 10 years following which a referendum would be held to determine whether the people want to join Pakistan or India or become independent.”
None has supported this idea.
8. Yousaf Buch Formula
An ex-Pakistani UN official of Kashmiri descent, Yousaf Buch floated a two-phased approach. Firstly, violence within Kashmir should be stopped and ceasefire be exercised on LoC from both sides then the UN would divide the region into five parts and hold elections in each part to decide their fate separately.
No party has shown willingness to adopt this idea.