Joint Sovereignty for Kashmir
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
The ideal way to resolve the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir would be for them to take the case to the World Court instead of massing millions of troops at the border (the Line of Control), and threatening a nuclear war. The ideal way for the World Court in the Netherlands to solve the problem is for India and Pakistan to have joint sovereignty over the territory.
Kashmir is the region in the north of India and Pakistan. The territory is split among India, Pakistan, and China. In British India, the state was under the jurisdiction of the Raja of Jamu. Pakistan claims all of Kashmir, which is 80 percent Islamic. In 1947, the princely states of India were to choose whether to become part of India or Pakistan. The majority of the people wished to belong to Pakistan, but the maharajah, under pressure, chose India during an interim period, subject to a plebiscite that did not take place. Since then there have been several wars and continuing conflict over the status of the territory.
After the war between India and Pakistan in 1947 following independence, with Kashmir remaining in dispute, the UN passed resolutions regarding the conflict in 1948 and 1949. The resolutions proposed a United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan which would supervise a settlement "in accordance with the will of the people" of the region.
But India has rejected a vote of the people because the outcome would be in favor of Pakistan. Ideally, people should be able to live under a government of their choice. But the fact is that India will not hand over Kashmir to Pakistan. The government of India argues that there are many Muslims in India, and nobody is calling for them to be under Pakistan, so why in Kashmir?
India bases its claim on the 1972 Simla Agreement, signed after the 1971 India-Pakistan war. That treaty commits the two states to settle their disputes "through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them." That, says India, takes precedence over a plebiscite.
Both sides fear taking the case to the International Court of Justice, since its decision is unclear. What is needed is for both sides to first agree in principle to joint sovereignty. This outcome would then be ratified by the World Court.
The government of the United States has a high stake in this conflict, which threatens to become a nuclear-bomb catastrophe that could kill millions of people. It is diverting Pakistani troops from the war along the border with Afghanistan. The U.S. president and secretary of state should call for joint sovereignty as the most mutually acceptable solution.
Joint sovereignty would mean that both India and Pakistan have equal jurisdiction over the territory. Both Indian and Pakistani currency would circulate, and the residents would have Kashmiri passports under the jurisdiction of both India and Pakistan. The state would have its own legislature, with as much governance as possible decentralized to the local cities and villages.
There have been several areas historically that had joint sovereignty, including Andorra in Europe, the New Hebrides islands in the Pacific, West Berlin before German unification, and the Sudan in Egypt under the United Kingdom and Egypt. It would not be a simple matter to implement, but if it can prevent a war, the price is cheap.
We need to put the concept of joint sovereignty on the table. It needs to be widely discussed and advocated. The U.S. needs to push it. This is a just and reasonable compromise that can solve this dispute, so that the people of India and Pakistan can finally live as neighbors in peace.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2002 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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