The Future Of Kashmir & Gilgit-Baltistan?
Kashmir has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan for more than 60 years. Currently a boundary – the Line of Control – divides the region in two, with one part administered by India and one by Pakistan. India would like to formalise this status quo and make it the accepted international boundary. But Pakistan and Kashmiri activists reject this plan because they both want greater control over the region.
Pakistan has consistently favoured this as the best solution to the dispute. In view of the state’s majority Muslim population, it believes that it would vote to become part of Pakistan. However a single plebiscite held in a region which comprises peoples that are culturally, religiously and ethnically diverse, would create disaffected minorities. The Hindus of Jammu, and the Buddhists of Ladakh have never shown any desire to join Pakistan and would protest at the outcome.
Kashmir joins India
Such a solution would be unlikely to bring stability to the region as the Muslim inhabitants of Pakistani-administered Jammu and Kashmir, including the Northern Areas, have never shown any desire to become part of India.
The difficulty of adopting this as a potential solution is that it requires India and Pakistan to give up territory, which they are not willing to do. Any plebiscite or referendum likely to result in a majority vote for independence would therefore probably be opposed by both India and Pakistan. It would also be rejected by the inhabitants of the state who are content with their status as part of the countries to which they already owe allegiance.
An independent Kashmir could be created from the Kashmir Valley – currently under Indian administration – and the narrow strip of land which Pakistan calls Azad Jammu and Kashmir. This would leave the strategically important regions of the Northern Areas and Ladakh, bordering China, under the control of Pakistan and India respectively. However both India and Pakistan would be unlikely to enter into discussions which would have this scenario as a possible outcome.
An independent Kashmir Valley has been considered by some as the best solution because it would address the grievances of those who have been fighting against the Indian Government since the insurgency began in 1989. But critics say that, without external assistance, the region would not be economically viable.
This plan, first suggested in the 1960s, would see Kashmir divided along the line of the River Chenab. This would give the vast majority of land to Pakistan and, as such, a clear victory in its longstanding dispute with India. The entire valley with its Muslim majority population would be brought within Pakistan’s borders, as well as the majority Muslim areas of Jammu.