(Full Disclosure: I submitted this exact post to a Pakistani news outlet a few days ago and it was rejected due to the subject matter; I was "welcome to blog on any other subject", however.)
As an American who has lived in Pakistan for three years, I am frequently asked my thoughts on Kashmir. Of course, I have my opinion. Many do. However, before I share my thoughts, it's important to clarify that I am a private citizen with no ties to the US Government, and my opinion is simply that – my personal opinion. And, because I am a gori chitti, I realize some will either resent my opinion - or defer to it. I actually hope neither will happen, and that the local people have the matter resolved in THEIR best interests as soon as possible. I share concerns for the safety and well-being of the Kashmiri people, and intend to remain as objective as practically possible in my writing.
I'll start by saying: many attempts to "shed light" on this long-standing dispute between Pakistan and India, wind up obfuscating the matter even further. Most Westerners have no idea what the hell is actually going on in the region, much less why the feud has lasted SO long, and our meager attempts to read lengthy diatribes issued from either side wind up being tossed aside as theatrical – almost Ecclesiastical – rhetoric. Which, for many of us, reminds us of long-winded Sunday sermons, where the preacher issued warnings of hell fire and damnation if we didn't heed God's word... followed up by not-so-subtle reminders to fill up the donation basket on the way out. You can almost hear our eyes rolling into the backs of their sockets, as it relates to anything involving this dispute. And because this is such a lengthy matter, my research will be reflected in several posts that – hopefully– won't cause the reader to slip into the arms of morpheus for a long nap.
This effort is an attempt to share what little tidbits of information I've gleaned from my travels across Pakistan, including remote areas such as FATA, GB, Baluchistan and Kashmir. And – for the record – since I have NOT traveled to Indian side of Kashmir as of yet (or what some Pakistanis call IOK - Indian Occupied Kashmir) I welcome an opportunity to do so, so that I may more accurately shed however dim a light on a region pockmarked with chronic conflict. And to clarify, I am not advocating for Kashmir to join either side; my goal is to convey a layman's objective perspective, and lend a voice to the Kashmiri people. I've traveled India as well – albeit not as extensively – and, frankly, I don't see much difference between the two nations - they are, in my eyes, neighbors in the same community. Same background, colourful histories, similar methodologies in disputes, battles (yes, I've read a few books on Indo-Pak military history, and spoken to more than a few military professionals, retired and active duty).
So please take my perspective as a lover of world travel, history, immersive cultural experiences, and perhaps with a bit of humour. I am a trained mediator and, so, my aim is to help reduce conflict and increase communication. To be clear, my aim is NOT to take sides unless/if/when I have an opportunity to hear India's side and visit Indian held Kashmir; and even if that did happen, my goal would be to tell the story of the people – the Kashmiris caught in a decades-long cross-fire.
One of the few differences between the two nations is that I am more likely to find delicious gobi naan in India versus Pakistan, and my beloved doodh patti in Pakistan rather than India. Ok, maybe it's not as easy as that, but I truthfully see more in common, rather than differences, between the peoples; and – privately – military professionals on both sides have expressed regret at previous wars, and often express remorse waging war against their neighbours.
First, as a neophyte to this whole matter, I think it's important to acknowledge that India, in fact, originally approached the United Nations' President of the Security Council to resolve this matter in a letter dated 1 January, 1948. Pakistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs would subsequently write a letter on 15 January, 1948. For some strange reason, I found it surprising that India initiated this matter; I'm not entirely sure why I was surprised, but I was.
The UN responded with a resolution on 21 April, 1948: "Having considered the complaint of the Government of India concerning the dispute over the State of Jammu and Kashmir... having heard the counter-complaints of the representative of Pakistan... being strongly of the opinion that the early restoration of peace and order in Jammu and Kashmir is essential and that India and Pakistan should do their utmost to bring about a cessation of all fighting... Noting with satisfaction that both India and Pakistan desire that the question of accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through a democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite...."
My question: what is taking so long? And why?
...to be continued.
Cynthia in Muzzafarabad, Kashmir
For those interested in meaningful contributions on this discussion an email may be sent to : UNFreeKashmir@gmail.com