Since the dawn of independence, the issue of the status of Kashmir has been a toxic thorn in the side of free India which has poisoned the body politic and stymied the national development effort. And even today shoot-outs, stone-pelting youth and violent deaths and destruction in the Kashmir valley are recurring headlines of daily newspapers and television broadcasts. Clearly, the gangrenous limited war being fought in Kashmir cannot endure and the time has come to consider all options, including excision of the Kashmir Valley, whose people — particularly youth — have been thoroughly brainwashed by extremist clerics irreconcilably opposed to the modernisation ideals and secular values of the Constitution, from the Indian Union.
While weighing this loss option, it’s instructive to recall the chequered history of Kashmir since 1948, when the princedom’s Hindu Maharajah signed an instrument of accession to the Indian Union even as Pakistan army-supported irregulars and tribals were hammering the palace gates. But even though the Indian Army was able to save Srinagar and the Kashmir Valley, the Pakistan army and irregulars seized Gilgit-Baltistan, now known as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). And just as India was poised to wrest PoK, a ceasefire was proclaimed following intervention by the United Nations. It’s also important to remember that at that time, independent India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru promised a UN-supervised referendum in Kashmir to ascertain whether its people wished to accede to India or Pakistan, or opt for azaadi.
To finally resolve the Kashmir issue, it needs to be forthrightly accepted that successive governments in Delhi have respected the UN Resolution of 1949 more in the breach. The promised referendum hasn’t been held and the constitutionally mandated autonomy of J&K has been steadily eroded to the extent that currently, there is a national consensus that “Kashmir is an integral part of India”, an amalgamation process which — it must be admitted — has been continuously opposed by neighbouring Pakistan and the Muslim majority of Kashmir. Moreover, notwithstanding the promise of a referendum under UN auspices, there’s a consensus in India that the Kashmir issue has to be resolved bilaterally by Pakistan and India. The result is a stalemate and a prolonged undeclared war which is draining India and Pakistan — both desperately poor countries — whose annual defence budgets are in inverse proportion to their allocations for public education and health.
A newly elected government in Pakistan offers the opportunity of early resolution of the Kashmir issue. Perhaps the time has come for the people of India to acknowledge that excision of the 600 sq. km Kashmir Valley and expulsion of its incorrigible religious majority from the Indian Union, is the best available option. It’s a small price to pay for the peace and prosperity of secular India (3.28 million sq. km).