Two US based research institutes (the Program on International Policy
Attitudes and the WorldPublicOpinion.Org) have conducted a survey in
Indian and Pakistani Kashmir regions on what Kashmiris want. The
survey, which the groups say is the first of its kind on both sides of
the de facto border, shows that Kashmiris feel they are being used by
rivals India and Pakistan to advance those countries' agendas. For
both India and Pakistan, Kashmir is strategic and has become a matter
of prestige over the years.
Clashes between angry protesters and police are frequent in Indian Kashmir.
latest was on June 19. Kashmiris were protesting an alleged rape
of two women by Indian troops deployed to quell a 20-year-old Muslim
separatist bid. India says the campaign is aided by Pakistan, but
Islamabad denies the charge.
India controls two-thirds of
Kashmir and Pakistan the rest. The UN line that divides the region is
called the Line of Control or LOC.
Both sides claim the entire
region, and several Muslim separatist groups in Indian Kashmir, are
fighting for either independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Public opinion survey
A recent public opinion survey on both sides of the LOC shows that Kashmiris feel they are being used by India and Pakistan.
people there think that India and Pakistan are using Kashmir to advance
their own political agendas, their own political interests whatever
they may be," said Colin Irwin, a senior fellow at the
University of Liverpool and the survey's chief investigator. He did
similar work for peace builders in Northern Ireland.
He says it is crucial to ask the Kashmiris what they want. "In
Northern Ireland we got to a solution by actually asking people what
they wanted, and what they would accept and what they would put up
with," Irwin said.
India and Pakistan began a peace process
about five years ago but the dialogue was stalled by last year's terror
attacks in Mumbai. India blamed the attacks on militants of the
Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba and wants Islamabad to
bring them to justice.
Yashwant Deshmukh of the New Delhi-based Center for Voting Opinion also took part in the survey.
says the most acceptable solution to Kashmiris is a confederation with
open borders and local control in all regions. "Something which
Pakistani Kashmiris would be really keen to talk on," Deshmukh said.
"Indian Kashmiris probably would not be that keen but they can do with
He says an autonomous Kashmir is also acceptable to both. "A
majority of them are actually leaning into the direction that this
might be a probable solution of that entire state being autonomous,"
But, he says there is a disconnect between what
the two governments think Kashmiris want and what the populations
He says as the neighbors try to reach a
solution, they should realize how the conflict is affecting the
day-to-day lives of the Kashmiris, and provide better governance.
them more opportunity to talk to each other, interact with each other
across the Line of Control, having more economic ties, having more
cultural ties," Deshmukh said.
He says more people-to-people exchange across the LOC should be encouraged if the two neighbors are to reach a solution.