09/12/2015 9:18 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Why India Should Give Up Claim On Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - OCTOBER 27: Pakistani demonstrators hang a banner written 'Justice to Kashmiris' during a protest against the presence of India in the Himalayan region, at Constitution Avenue where government buildings exist along the road in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 27, 2014. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan by a de facto border known as the Line of Control but it is claimed in full by both countries. 27th of October is known as Black Day since the Indian armed forces occupied Jammu and Kashmir territory on 27th October 1947. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Earlier this year, Pakistan raised the issue of India building a wall along the LOC in the UN Security Council. Pakistan said that India has plans to "convert the LoC into a "quasi international border". According to the Security Council resolution of 1948, J&K is recognised as a disputed territory with both Pakistan and India laying claim to it. Adding to this mix is the Kashmiri populace, some of whom are advocating a separate state.

The area, in general, has been referred to as a potential flashpoint between two nuclear powered nations with one post-nuclear conventional war fought between the two countries in 1999 -- Bill Clinton famously referred to this area as the most dangerous place in the world.

Declaring the LoC as an international border will end the disputed status of Kashmir in both the countries.

The problem with the current arrangement is that the LoC is not a recognised international border. Pakistan lays claim to the entire Kashmir region in accordance with the Pakistan Declaration of 1933, while India cites the instrument of succession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir during partition. Both the countries control roughly half of the disputed territory with the Aksai Chin area under Chinese control. Despite the Simla Accord, where both countries accepted the demarcation, the LoC is not an internationally recognised border.

This state of confusion pushes both parties to keep their claim on all of Kashmir alive. Pakistan openly supports the Hurriyat Conference, a self-styled "separatist" organisation. The Hurriyat, in turn, does not let the Valley return to normalcy. They do not have any legitimate claim to be the leaders of the Valley except for the fact that they provide money believed to be drawn from various sources in the fight against India.The BJP government has tried to keep the Hurriyat at bay by questioning their legitimacy and trying to prevent them from meeting with the Pakistani leadership. However, it does not stop them from fomenting trouble in the Valley.

To look for long-term peace and prosperity in the Valley, the Indian government should relinquish its claim on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. This would put international pressure on Pakistan to give up the counter claim on the Indian territory. As it is, even though a Parliament resolution proclaims all of Kashmir as Indian, India will never attempt to take over PoK forcibly (for fear of a nuclear reprisal), and to expect a peaceful surrender is a day dream. Declaring the LoC as an international border will end the disputed status of Kashmir in both the countries.

In a stroke, it will also remove any legitimacy that the Hurriyat enjoys in Kashmir since Pakistan will have to endorse Indian sovereignty over the existing J&K. The Hurriyat leadership enjoys close ties with Pakistan with many of their family members living in the neighbouring country. A change in Pakistan's stance would force the Hurriyat to blend in to the new system to gain legitimacy. They would have to fight the elections that they have been boycotting for the last many years. The terrorist organisations operating in the Valley will also have to rethink their fight since they will no longer be able to get funding as mercenaries of freedom.

In a stroke, it will also remove any legitimacy that the Hurriyat enjoys in Kashmir since Pakistan will have to endorse Indian sovereignty over the existing J&K.

What this would do for the Valley? Surely, the hopes of all independence-seekers in Kashmir would be dashed, but the idea of a small landlocked independent nation between three nuclear powers is a non-starter. Kashmir does not have any economic/military strength of its own that would help it to keep its own. As for Kashmiris being divided, they have and will always be divided under the current arrangement. It is better for the people to be a part of either country and enjoy the growth that has been denied to them.

An assimilation of J&K into India followed by political normalcy in the state would allow industries to set up shop in the area. Youth, many of whom are unemployed and have no hopes for the future, will have access to opportunities and move towards creating a peaceful paradise. Trade relations between the two countries can open up and they can benefit from the smaller distances. Perhaps, travel restrictions can be lifted and people allowed to cross the border for work or meeting family.

If such an experiment succeeds, maybe India can do the same with the LAC in the Aksai Chin area to settle the long-standing border dispute with China along the entire eastern front.

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