For: Greater Kashmir, Regional Council, Economic Integration, Native Governor, Local bureaucracy, demilitarization,
AGAINST: TRIFURCATION, PLEBISCITE, ELECTION UNDER INTERNATIONAL SUPERVISION
Naseer A Ganai
Srinagar, Oct 25: Ending long suspense over its self-rule vision for the resolution of Kashmir dispute, the Peoples Democratic Party today unveiled the much awaited document with the party patron, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, listing cross border institution of Regional Council for Greater Jammu and Kashmir, economic integration that transcends borders, and constitutional restructuring as the centerpiece of governance under the concept.
Releasing the document at a press conference at his official residence, an upbeat Mufti talked of ending the long “mental siege” of the people, by making Jammu and Kashmir and AJK a demilitarized free economic zone and an experimental ground for SAARC. He didn’t even rule out “one country, two systems” but he had caveat- sharing of sovereignty without compromising the political sovereignty of India and Pakistan.
Explaining the contours of the vision, Mufti said the regional council of Greater Jammu and Kashmir would replace the existing Upper House or Legislative Council of Jammu and Kashmir state legislature, a “kind of Regional Senate” whose members would be from both Jammu and Kashmir and AJK. It will have nominees of the governments of India and Pakistan as well and would serve as a major cross border institution to ensure long-term coordination in matters of the state.
Comparing self rule with National Conference’s autonomy, the document claims, “What sets apart self rule from autonomy is the political context in which they are conceived and operated.” It says the self-rule refers to autonomy from the nation-state of India whereas the autonomy connotes relative autonomy from the government of India. “The two are vastly different in substance and style,” it claims. “The change from autonomy to self-rule means a fundamental shift in the terrain of political discourse and the existing status of the Kashmir issue,” the document says.
The PDP doesn’t stop there and takes the National Conference head on. It says, “Autonomy refers to empowerment of the government of Jammu and Kashmir vis-a-vis the government of India. “As such it becomes a part of the centre-state debate in the Indian federal set-up. Self-rule, on the other hand, refers to the empowerment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir vis-a-vis the nation of India.” It says autonomy was for the institution of governance, self-rule for a region or geography. Unlike autonomy, which doesn’t have a territorial element, self-rule envisages territoriality.
For the resolution of Kashmir dispute, the PDP document offers the option of elected representatives of each part of Greater Jammu and Kashmir to hold negotiations with their respective country “within given parameters” as the most practicable and the least complicated.
New political structure or regional council:
Elaborating the broad features of the regional council of Greater Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti said at present 25 seats reserved for AJK should form part of the Regional Council, which would have 50 members with the respective state assemblies electing 40 and the remaining 10 members being nominated by India and Pakistan. The Council would ensure that the executive functioned smoothly in all “cross-LoC” matters and coordinated inter-government initiatives like dual currency, creation of common space with specific reference to joint management of water resources and creation of energy market.
The document describes the economic integration across the line of control as the critical element of self-rule without disturbing the extent of sovereign authority over delimited territorial space. It argues there is no need to negate the significance of the line of control as territorial division but it is imperative to negate what the document says, its “acquired and imputed manifestations of state competition for power, prestige or an imagined historical identity.” The idea is to retain the former and change the latter and describes it as key to Kashmir solution.
It calls for establishing of common space, instituting dual currency system, coordinating of economic policy as roadmap for the economic integration. It could start with preferential trade agreement. In the PTA, India and Pakistan would offer tariff reductions. The second stage would be to make Greater Jammu and Kashmir a “Regional Free Trade Area.”
For this purpose, an agreement would be needed to eliminate tariffs between the two parts of Jammu and Kashmir while maintaining their own external tariffs on imports from the rest of the world including India and Pakistan. Stage III eliminates tariffs between two parts of Greater Jammu and Kashmir and levies tariff on imports from India and Pakistan. This could be later applied to rest of the world, the document explains.
To facilitate the system, the document advocates “system of dual currency” where Indian and Pakistani rupees are both legitimate legal tenders in Greater Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistani rupee is allowed in Indian Jammu and Kashmir and Indian rupee in AJK.
Mufti called for an end to application in Jammu and Kashmir of Article 356 of Constitution of India under which the centre can dissolve state assembly and implement the governor’s rule. It also seeks roll back of Article 249 of the Constitution from Jammu and Kashmir.
Elected native Governor
The document seeks repeal of sixth amendment of the state constitution. Mufti said the governor should be elected and he should be a native of the state. He said the governor should be elected for six years from regions of Jammu and Kashmir on rotational basis.
Local civil services
The self-rule calls for rolling back of All India Service Act, 1951 and Article 312 arguing that this could provide clear and unhindered opportunity to local human resource to develop their full potential and it should be trusted to manage state affairs.
Demilitarization of mindset and withdrawal of troops
The document calls for demilitarization arguing that it was imperative to create an enabling environment for resolution of the issue. It says the Indian nation-state must realize the only way forward is non-military. “There is no room for armed intervention in Jammu and Kashmir. It says the demilitarization is first about the mindset and then about withdrawal of troops from all civilian areas, which will enhance the stakes of the people in the peace process.
The document calls for repeal of Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act terming it as “legislative demilitarization.” “There is no justification for this to operate any further and it must be repealed to enable the normalization to take root. Its operation and enforceability have no bearing to the level, scale and intensity of violence in the state.”
On plebiscite and elections under international supervision:
The document says the plebiscite held simultaneously throughout Jammu and Kashmir or in stages would not be acceptable, primarily because they are based on the plea of religious divide and two-nation theory. “India being a secular country with diverse religious communities can ill afford to accept another partition on religion,” it says, adding that even Pakistan recognizes the fact that the UN resolutions on this subject are not mandatory and are outdated. It further says such a solution could jeopardize the strategic interests of both the countries and a changing borders was not acceptable to either country. It says an election under the international supervision in both the parts of state to chose representatives for holding negotiations regarding the state’s future with both India and Pakistan, also doesn’t appear to be practicable. “This may not lead to an equitable or just conclusion-much less a consensus- because members of a particular religious community or region may dominate the outcome of the negotiations.”
The PDP opposes trifurcation saying “the unity of the state reflects the essence of our secular culture, and its preservation is of the utmost critical importance, both on principle and for legitimate strategic reasons. Its unity is also in the enlightened self-interest of the people of all the regions and also accords with their wholesome historical character and experience.” However, it suggests genuine sub-regional political and economic empowerment describing it as crucial component of self-rule. It says under the self-rule, institutional mechanisms are provided for which would convert unhealthy latent as well patent regionalism into effective region building.