“Kashmir banega Pakistan”, vow Pakistanis in support of their Kashmiri brethren.
This sentiment comes from two very separate places. Sometimes it comes from a place of true love and empathy, lacking in any possessiveness – a place of solidarity and humanity. But equally, if not more, often, it comes from a place of nationalistic possessiveness which strips the Kashmiri people of their autonomy and individuality.
Make no mistake – If the people of Kashmir ultimately elect to be a part of Pakistan, then that is precisely what should happen. But this decision can only take place under the auspices of a neutral authority – perhaps the United Nations – and if for any reason the people of Kashmir decide to pursue independence, they should be allowed it.
The problem with the slogan “Kashmir banega Pakistan” is that it robs the people of Kashmir of their decision-making and automatically adopts the belief that Kashmir wishes to be a part of Pakistan. This may certainly be true – there are studies affirming this belief – but until a neutral plebiscite or referendum takes place, Pakistan cannot be certain of what Kashmir wants.
Certainly, there is little evidence that it wants to be a part of India. India’s treatment of Kashmir is horrific, practically tantamount to the treatment of the Palestinians at the hands of Israel, as expressed by President Arif Alvi earlier today. But, there is no way to guarantee that the people of Kashmir would adopt the slogan “Kashmir banega Pakistan” instead of “Kashmir banega whatever Kashmir wants to be”.
Granted, the state would never accept the idea of Kashmir choosing independence. It probably seems unfathomable to them that the Muslim-majority region would choose anything other than amalgamation into Pakistan. But it remains a distinct possibility.
There are some that would argue that Kashmir as an independent nation is impractical and it would become a battlefield between Pakistan, India and China. There’s also the argument that it is a landlocked country with limited economic resources and cannot possibly prosper without Pakistan’s support.
But these arguments miss the critical fact that limited economic resources or an uncertain future cannot possibly override the fundamental right of self-determination – a right Prime Minister Imran Khan himself has emphasized. It also does not take into account Kashmir’s massive potential as a tourism-hub. There are also numerous resources that could be tapped into, especially on the hydro-electric front. All these factors taken into account, it cannot be argued that Kashmir as an independent nation is impractical – and even if it was, that does not mean it does not have the right to self-determination.
The facts remain despite what people desire them to be. If, theoretically speaking, Kashmir elects to be independent instead of joining Pakistan, would Jinnah’s country be fine with it? If not, then it should start wondering if its aspirations for Kashmir comes from a place of genuine love and empathy or if they come from a place of nationalistic possessiveness.