Jammu and Kashmir: Vibrant Democracy

Added April 8, 2008: BASJAK’s statements:

  • HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL, 7th session, Geneva, written statement 03-28 MARCH 2008;
  • UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW, Submission by BASJAK, related to: Pakistan, for the session scheduled in May 2008.

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REPORT ON THE STUDY TOUR OF BEERSMANS PAUL, PRESIDENT OF THE BELGIAN ASSOCIATION FOR SOLIDARITY WITH JAMMU AND KASHMIR TO THE INDIAN STATE OF J&K FROM 31 JANUARY TO 16 FEBRUARY 2008

Linked with Paul Beersmans – Belgium, with the Belgian Association for Solidarity with Jammu and Kashmir BASJAK, with JAMMU AND KASHMIR: A SMOULDERING CONFLICT … , with … again Kashmir, with DE-MILITANT-ISATION FIRST – Conclusions (and K.N. Pandita’s whole Kashmir blog) and with DE-MILITANT-ISATION FIRST – Meetings.

Published on BAJAK.org, by Paul Beersmans, April 2008, 17 pdf-pages.

UPDATE April 26, 2008: the text here after is manipulated

Excerpt: … 3. CONCLUSIONS

Following conclusions can be drawn, based on the experiences of this study tour to J&K State:

a. Regarding the performance of Congress-PDP coalition Government, the participation and outcome of the next Legislative Assembly elections, due in September/October 2008:

  • This Government was better than the previous under Farooq Abdullah. Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is perceived to be an honest, hardworking politician who achieved a lot although he could not fulfil all his promises and not complete his programme. The fact that he was able to receive a lot of financial support from the Centre allowing him and his Government to setup a lot of projects in many fields gave this Government a positive image among the Kashmiris.
  • Corruption and a heavy administration don’t seem to be that important in the eyes of the Kashmiris. In fact they are used to it and in addition, to a certain extent, many of them are profiting from this situation.
  • Positive is the fact that this Government could make it for the full term of six years notwithstanding all problems among the coalition partners, having a different agenda (PDP gave priority to regional aspects, Congress to national aspects) and notwithstanding the transfer of Chief Minister after three years between Mufti Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad. Three years back, not many people believed that it would happen and if it would happen, nobody believed they would make it for a full term.
  • People are to a certain extent happy with the situation. They are politically engaged: they want to take part in the elections. The separatist leaders and the United Jehad Council announced they will not use violence to boycott the elections. This will make free and fair elections possible and this is favouring the democratic process.
  • The outcome of the elections is difficult to predict as yet, but most likely not a single party will have a majority. So a coalition has to be formed and most likely Congress will be one of the coalition parties. Depending on the outcome, on the repartition of the seats, it will be a big coalition (two main parties forming a coalition: Congress with PDP which is liked by the Centre, Congress with NC which is less likely or PDP with NC which is very unlikely) or a small coalition (if one party is strong enough and comes close to the majority only a few outsiders must be found to obtain a majority. In this case smaller political formations or a few independents could be enough to form a new Government for the next six years). We will have to wait some eight months more to see what will be the result.
  • APHC-M and other separatist leaders are very unlikely to participate. It is said that they would support covertly proxy candidate. This could happen but only on a very discrete manner, almost invisible. The only separatist leader who could come forward is Sajjad Lone.
  • The holding of these elections, the good organisation and the outcome are very important for the near future of J&K State. If there is a clean handling, without incidents and with a large participation of the Kashmiris in all the regions of the State, it will strengthen the position of the mainstream parties, it will give a boost to the democratic setup and it will create a new situation on the negotiation table between India and Pakistan. In this case it will be a positive evolution for the position of India.

b. Regarding the impression of the actual situation regarding violence, militancy, support from Pakistan, prospects;

There is no doubt: violence went down and infiltration remains, since the last years, at the same level (500 – 600 per year). It is probably due to a mixture of different reasons:

  • the internal situation in Pakistan resulting in lack of clear directives coming from across the border,
  • the multiplicity of crises in Pakistan has diluted its capacities to sustain high level terrorism in Kashmir. A large proportion of troops had to be pulled back from the LoC and the international border in order to contain the violent theatres in Balochistan, North West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas,
  • international pressure on Pakistan to do something regarding terrorism,
  • fast declining local support because of the changing attitude and perception of the Kashmiris on the Indian side as a result of the visits to the other side,
  • the ongoing peace process notwithstanding the fact that here, for the time being, no progress is made,
  • recent successes of the security forces by eliminating militant cadres in encounters and difficulties to replace the losses.

- As the infrastructure, logistics and human resources of the militants are still there it is too early to reduce security forces. They can be withdrawn from public place: reduce their visibility, pull them back to the barracks but keep them in the area ready to intervene if the militants should decide to come into action again. The security situation remains uncertain and the authorities have to remain vigilant. In addition, it is becoming clear that terrorism in the rest of India is linked to militancy in Kashmir.

-The United Jehad Council proclaimed not to use violence to disturb the election process. It has to be seen if hardcore organisations also will stick to this decision.

c. Regarding the peace process and the impact of the internal situation in Pakistan including the murder of Benazir Bhutto;

  • Internally in J&K State the recommendations of the Working Groups are being implemented step by step. This has lead to a change in mind of the people who are more and more joining the political process for solutions for their day to day problems. This strengthens the democratic process in the State.
  • The peace process between India and Pakistan seems to be stopped for the time being due to the unstable internal situation in Pakistan. No progress in the peace process can be expected until the situation in Pakistan becomes clear.
  • Trade relations between India and Pakistan don’t seem to be affected by the present situation.
  • Notwithstanding all difficulties both countries stay on the track of peace and confirmed to be willing to continue the peace process.

d. Regarding the solution for the Kashmir-issue;

- It becomes more and more clear that the status quo will be maintained. There can be given more autonomy, there can be installed a federal setup, there can be porous/soft borders between the divided parts of J&K but it is clear that neither India nor Pakistan are willing to make territorial concessions.

- More and more voices are indicating that a solution must be found in a larger geo-political framework. More and more it is emphasised that SAARC should play a more important role and move into the direction the European Union did: open borders with free flow of people, facilitate trade, etc. This is of course an ideal way of dealing with this problem as in that case the problem vanishes in thin air, would be no more. But, the situation in South East Asia is totally different and much more complex than the situation in Europe. As someone stated: for the time being we don’t see moving the situation in that direction.

- Since there is not a clear cut solution, this solution must be found through peaceful means at the negotiation table: let all parties concerned sit together and a solution will emerge automatically is the opinion of many Kashmiris.

- It is often emphasised, especially by the separatist leaders, that there are three parties concerned: India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris. Finding and accepting representatives for India and Pakistan are not a problem.

- A huge and complex problem however is to find out who the representatives of the Kashmiris are and what there expectations and aspirations are:

  • An overwhelming majority of Jammu Province is in favour of full integration in the Indian Union;
  • Ladakh is claiming Union Territory status within the Indian Union;
  • The problem lies in the Kashmir-Valley. There we find different aspirations: the democratic, mainstream parties are in favour of remaining with India, the separatist leaders are divided: some want total independence, some want accession to Pakistan;
  • In Azad Kashmir (a part of J&K within the 1947 borders under Pakistani administration) people are not free according to the survey of Freedom House, a neutral think tank. As they are not free, it is difficult to know exactly what they want. However, it can be assumed that some people will be in favour of accession to Pakistan and others in favour of total independence. We would not be surprised that also people will be in favour of accession to India;
  • The Northern Areas, under Pakistan (historical name: Gilgit-Baltistan), are deprived of basic fundamental juridical, political, democratic rights. This is amply documented and highlighted in the report on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir of Baroness Emma Nicholson, Member of the European Parliament and Vice Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the EU. This report was adopted by the Parliament of the EU with an overwhelming majority in 2007. Also here it is difficult to find out what their real aspirations are. The full text can be found at http://europa.eu;
  • Aksai Chin, under Chinese administration, is virtually not permanently inhabited. Here it is only a territorial problem.
  • In addition to all this, there are cultural, linguistic, religious, etc. differences between the different parts of J & K.

- Taking into account all these aspects it is very difficult to define who the representatives of the Kashmiris are. This remains a problem on the way to negotiations and to a solution.

- A solution is not for the near future. It becomes difficult to define what exactly the problem, the issue is. Floating ideas and projecting solutions are nice exercises but they don’t bring anything. Before coming to a solution one should first redefine what exactly the problem is.

- For the Kashmiris, mainly in the Valley, the most important is that violence should stop. Only in a non-violent atmosphere negotiations will have a chance to lead to a solution. Stopping the use of violence is in the hands of the militants (or terrorists, or freedom fighters, or jehadis, or fundamentalists, or extremists, or whatever name they could be given) and those who are supporting them. The conflict has crossed the threshold from a high-intensity to a low-intensity level but this is not enough. A solution, a compromise must be found but this is made difficult because there are hidden agendas and vested interests: a solution is certainly not for tomorrow.

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