Shared Sovereignty May Be Answer to Kashmir Problem

 by India Abroad

Though marked by terrorism, Kashmir is not just a terrorist problem, South Asia specialist Teresita C. Shaffer said.

The former State Department official who is now director of the South Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a leading Washington think tank, was speaking at the Upadhyaya Lectures 2003: Democracy and Terrorism, which was co-hosted by the Asia Society and the Upadhyaya Foundation.

"It is at once a domestic, regional and international issue," she said, offering a s a possible solution the proposal that had emerged from the Kashmir Study Group, which recommends the Kashmir valley be reconstituted as a legal entity but without an international personality, with free access to and from India and Pakistan.

Schaffer said the present border, of Line of Control, is unlikely to be altered and the issue is basically one of people rather than territory. And so, the solution has to be one that takes into consideration the interests of the three parties,: Indians, Pakistanis and Kashmiris.

She said until there is some acceptable resolution, the India-Pakistani relationship would be tense and with recurrent crises.

Schaffer said, " a special status for Kashmir" could in principle encompass anything from autonomy within India and/or Pakistan to virtual independence.

She said the proposal circulated by the Kashmir Study Group was an option developed by a team of four former officials, two each from India and Pakistan, with assistance from four American members of the study group, including herself.

She said the proposal essential calls for the creation of a "sovereign entity without international personality" in Kashmir, with responsibility for domestic affairs but not for foreign affairs or defense.

The LoC would remain in place, the entity would be largely demilitarized, and all displaced persons, including Kashmiri Pandits, would have right to return.

She acknowledged the proposal omits many important details; it was intended purely "as a skeleton of a settlement, not a detailed plan."

Perhaps its most important idea is the concept of shared or partial sovereignty," Schaffer said, "and though this term sounds unfamiliar, there are many international precedents for it, including the powers of states in the United States, restrictions on land ownership in a number of places, including parts of India, and internationally sanctioned arrangements for parts of a number of countries."

Dr. Ved Prakash Nanda, Professor at the University of Denver College of Law, and Dr Kamal Kher, professor at the School of Medicine, George Washington University, made a joint presentation that was significantly different from Schaffer's. They argued the LoC should be accepted as the international boundary.

Nanda said the original UN resolutions regarding a plebiscite in Kashmir were now obsolete and superseded by the Shimla Accord. What was imperative now is that ground realities be recognized...

Walter Anderson, Associate Director, South Asia Studies, School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, who served as moderator, said the Kashmir issue has to be discussed "calmly, regardless of the question of violence carried out by one side to the other and the goal of everyone should be to bring such violence to an end...A recitation of history does not get us very far because each side has its own interpretation of history and each side has its own set of atrocities to mention."

"Rather," he said, " we need to address ways to reduce violence within Kashmir and the potential for violence between India and Pakistan, which means responding to the interests of all three parties: India, Kashmiris and Pakistan."

Schaffer echoed similar sentiments, "People see history in different ways and that leads to different interpretations of the same facts. However, wrapping the debate in historical facts doesn't really get us anywhere.

"You are not going to have a solution unless each party is willing to put themselves in the other's shoes and willing to make compromises," she said. "This, of course, is painful and difficult to do. But having said that, there are also people on both sides of the Kashmir debate who are willing to take that painful step."...

Schaffer said while initially the reaction to the Kashmir Study Group proposal was "not surprisingly, hostile from both Pakistan and India," the Pakistanis had come around to it, with President Pervez Musharraf saying 'It is an interesting idea that needs to be studied.'

"But the Indian have been more unperceptive," she said. "Their main objection is that the proposal aims to divide Kashmir based on religion. That is unacceptable to India."...

Oct. 10, 2003


Posted October 12, 2003