- In an interaction with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is on a state visit to the United States, US President Donald Trump stated that the Indian Prime Minister had sought his intervention in the Kashmir issue.
- Trump’s unexpected statement over Kashmir was quickly rebutted by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which stated that Prime Minister Modi has never asked Trump to intervene in the Kashmir dispute.
- MEA reiterated India’s longstanding position that there is no room for mediation in Kashmir or on any other India-Pakistan issue and that all outstanding matters between the two countries would be resolved through bilateral dialogue.
- India recently took the harded position with Pakistan that an bilateral dialogue will happen only when Pakistan ends cross-border terrorism in India.
- Leaders across the political divide in India cited the Simla Agreement of 1972 and the Lahore Declaration of 1999 to stress that Kashmir is a bilateral issue.
- In the aftermath, the US State Department has also resorted to damage control.
- The Kashmir dispute dates back to 1947. The partition of the Indian sub-continent along religious lines led to the formation of India and Pakistan.
- Because of its location, Kashmir could choose to join either India or Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, was Hindu while most of his subjects were Muslim. Unable to decide which nation Kashmir should join, Hari Singh chose to remain neutral.
Accession to India
- But his hopes of remaining independent were dashed in October 1947, as Pakistan sent in tribesmen who almost reached capital Srinagar. Hari Singh appealed to the Indian government for military assistance and signed the Instrument of Accession, ceding Kashmir to India on October 26.
- Indian and Pakistani forces thus fought their first war over Kashmir in 1947-48.
- India referred the dispute to the United Nations on 1 January.
- In a resolution dated August 13, 1948, the UN asked Pakistan to remove its troops, after which India was also to withdraw the bulk of its forces.
- Once this happened, a free and fair plebiscite was to be held to allow the Kashmiri people to decide their future.
- Pakistan ignored the UN mandate and continued fighting, holding on to the portion of Kashmir under its control.
- In 1949, a ceasefire was agreed, with 65 per cent of the territory under Indian control and the remainder with Pakistan.
- The ceasefire was intended to be temporary but the Line of Control (LoC) remains the de facto border between the two countries.
- Since then, the Kashmir issue has remained a bone of contention between India and Pakistan.
Dealing with the Kashmir issue
India’s insistence of bilateralism
- Mistrurst: The Indian position has historically stemmed from its mistrust of outsiders meddling in its internal affairs, the strongly felt need to protect its secular nationhood project, and suspicion that mediators viewed Kashmir through Pakistani eyes.
- UN Missions: The UN missions flowing from the resolutions, including the Dixon Mission, which led to the Dixon Plan of 1950 for partition of some areas of Jammu & Kashmir between India and Pakistan (Ladakh to India, PoK and Northern Areas to Pakistan, with Jammu divided between the two), plus a plebiscite in the Valley, strengthened India’s determination to shut the door on international mediation.
- Bilateral Framework: The framework for bilateral resolution of problems between India and Pakistan was written into the 1972 Simla Agreement and reiterated 27 years later in the 1999 Lahore Declaration.
Pakistan’s efforts at internationalization:
- Pakistan has continued to view the “internationalisation” of the Kashmir issue as its best bet towards reversing J&K’s accession to India, and has used every global forum to criticise India’s alleged “illegal occupation” of Kashmir.
Attempts at external mediation in the past
- International interest in Kashmir has usually happened whenever there’s been pauses in India-Pakistan engagement, and especially if the Kashmir issue is also on the boil in the same period, as it has been over the last five years.
- In 1993, Robin Raphel, who headed the US State Department’s newly created South Asia division in the first Clinton Administration, sought to junk the Instrument of Accession, and asserted that for the US, Kashmir was “disputed territory”, undermining years of Indian diplomatic efforts.
- As New Delhi’s post-liberalisation economic clout grew, Raphel’s influence in the State Department faded and second Clinton administration embraced the Indian stand on bilateralism.
- Kargil War
- In 1999, the year after India and Pakistan went nuclear, it was US intervention that brought the Kargil crisis to an end.
- Pakistan had to agree to an unconditional withdrawal of Pakistani forces back to the Line of Control.
- It reaffirmed the US commitment to the bilateral Lahore Declaration as the best way forward to resolve Kashmir and other issues.
- The United Kingdom, which has a large diaspora from the PoK, has also shown interest in being a mediator.
- Norway’s long history of mediation in conflict situations prompted much speculation over former Norwegian Prime Minister Bondevik’s visit to Kashmir and PoK in 2018.
India seeking international intervention
- Uprising in the valley in 1990s: As Pakistan’s hand in the 1990s uprising in Kashmir and cross-border terrorism became apparent, India sought outside help to rein in Pakistani meddling in the Valley.
- Under new UNSC regime: After 9/11 attacks on the US ushered in the UNSC-backed international legal regime against terrorism, India has looked increasingly to the world for help in dealing with Pakistan.
Only sought help against terrorism:
- India seeking international support was only for the purpose to put an end to the terrorist groups that flourish on Pakistani territory, to put pressure on the Pakistan Army and political leadership to desist from permitting anti-India terrorist activity on its territory, and to censure it when such attacks took place.
About: SIMLA AGREEMENT, 1972
- The Simla Agreement was signed by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on July 2, 1972, in the capital of Himachal Pradesh.
- The agreement was a peace treaty signed by the two nations after the end of the 1971 Bangladesh war. It sought to reverse the consequences of the 1971 war i.e. to bring about withdrawals of troops and an exchange of prisoners of war (PoWs).
- Most importantly, the Simla Agreement established that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. India has, on multiple occasions, cited the Simla Agreement to deny any third-party intervention in the Kashmir dispute, including that of the United Nations.
- The agreement was ratified by the parliaments of both the nations in the same year.
- The agreement resolved that the two countries put an end to the conflict and confrontation that have marred their relations and work for the promotion of a friendly and harmonious relationship.
- Established a mutual commitment to the peaceful resolution of all issues through direct bilateral approaches.
- Both sides to always respect each other’s national unity, territorial integrity, political independence and sovereign equality.
- It converted the cease-fire line of 17 December 1971 into the Line of Control (LOC) between India and Pakistan and it was agreed that “neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations”.
About: LAHORE DECLARATION, 1999
- The Lahore Declaration was a bilateral agreement and governance treaty between Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
- The treaty was signed on 21 February 1999, at the conclusion of a historic summit in Lahore, and ratified by the parliaments of both countries the same year.
- The accord was vital to Indo-Pak relations at it came at a time when both countries had established themselves as atomic powers through publicly performed nuclear tests in 1998.
- Under the terms of the treaty, a mutual understanding was reached towards the development of atomic arsenals and to avoid accidental and unauthorised operational use of nuclear weapons.
- It recognized that the nuclear dimension of the security environment of the two countries adds to their responsibility for avoidance of conflict between them.
- Committed both to the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and the universally accepted principles of peaceful co-existence.
- Committed both countries to the objectives of universal nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.
- Reiterated the determination of both countries to implementing the Simla Agreement in letter and spirit.
- Was meant to intensify India and Pakistan’s composite and integrated dialogue process for an early and positive outcome of the agreed bilateral agenda.
- It stressed on India and Pakistan’s resolve to combat terrorism and mutual non-interference in internal affairs.