The Kashmir Conflict: Unveiling Complexities and Exploring Solutions

by Christopher Sneden

As we delve into the exploration of ‘Pathways to Peace: Examining Solutions to the Kashmir Conflict,’ the complexity of the situation is apparent, presenting at least five conceivable scenarios. The prevailing status quo is one scenario, where one might argue that the Kashmir dispute is quasi-resolved due to a lack of significant developments or foreseeable changes. Notably, there appears to be a disinterest, particularly on the Indian side, in proactively addressing this issue. Ambassador Basit rightly underscores the formidable challenge of exerting pressure on India to engage in talks with Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir. India’s perceived contentment with the current state of affairs, as highlighted by Dr. Schofield, adds a layer of intricacy.

The dispute, in territorial terms, centers around control and possession of the Kashmir Valley, a contention articulated by Mr. Nehru in 1947. This focus on the Kashmir Valley, commonly referred to as the ‘real Kashmir,’ underscores the historical significance attached to this region. The first scenario suggests a continuation of the status quo, with the possibility of change contingent upon factors such as a shift in government or an external catalyst, such as an Indo-China conflict. The latter introduces an unpredictable element, given China’s strategic interests and its potential role as a diplomatic wildcard.

International pressure may emerge as an incentive for India to reconsider its stance, although mobilizing global interest in the Kashmir dispute remains a formidable task for Pakistan, with only a limited number of nations, chiefly OIC members and potentially China, displaying current interest in the matter. Few international leaders explicitly advocate for India’s involvement in resolving this dispute. Even China, Pakistan’s great ally, equivocates somewhat on this issue. The ‘Joint Statement’ of China and Pakistan after Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s visit to Beijing in November 2022 emphasizes the relevance of the United Nations Charter, UN Security Council resolutions, and bilateral agreements, suggesting a nuanced position rather than unequivocal support for a plebiscite.

The second conceivable scenario is the United Nations plebiscite. India did promise this plebiscite in 1947, making both Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir parties to this conflict. However, by as early as 1955, India’s Home Minister, Mr. G. B. Pant, was expressing reservations about the plebiscite. By about 1957, the UN was becoming disinterested, given the inability to secure an agreement between India and Pakistan on crucial issues related to the plebiscite.


The chief issues included the demilitarization of Jammu and Kashmir, law and order after demilitarization, and the administration of the plebiscite. The distrust between India and Pakistan played a significant role in these issues. The question of Plebiscite Administrator further complicated matters, and by 1958, India reversed its stance, deeming the plebiscite irrelevant amid heightened security concerns. Subsequent UN Security Council resolutions in 1965 focused on achieving a ceasefire rather than conducting a plebiscite.

The complexities surrounding the plebiscite lead to a consideration of alternatives. Sir Owen Dixon suggested in 1950 a regional plebiscite in the contentious Kashmir Valley, where the sentiments about the preferred nation were unclear. However, his report acknowledged the failure to secure an agreement between India and Pakistan, emphasizing the need for bilateral negotiations to resolve the issue. This historical perspective suggests that the plebiscite is an outdated and problematic proposal, lacking significant global support.

Another scenario revolves around the Line of Control, especially after the 1972 Simla Agreement. In 1974, Pakistan made changes in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly to align it with legislative bodies in its provinces. It also unilaterally removed state-subject status for people in Gilgit-Baltistan. While there have been suggestions, notably by Ahmad Faruqui, to convert the Line of Control into the international border in Jammu and Kashmir, this proposal faces challenges, particularly regarding Pakistan’s need for access to the Kashmir Valley.

Recent statements by Indian military commanders indicate a shift from considering the Line of Control as the international border to reclaiming all of Jammu and Kashmir, including Gilgit-Baltistan. This assertion, if translated into action, poses significant challenges and potential opposition from Pakistan, China, and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Musharraf ‘four-point formula’ is another potential solution. Musharraf’s proposal gained significance during the discussions between him and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the 2000s. However, internal political changes and the challenge of sustaining discussions impeded progress. The lack of clarity on demilitarization and differing perspectives on Gilgit’s status added complexities to Musharraf’s four points.


Considering the Simla Agreement as a resolution mechanism is also an option. The Agreement emphasizes settling differences through bilateral negotiations or any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon. While some historical UN resolutions mentioned arbitration, India has consistently rejected third-party involvement in resolving the Kashmir dispute.

An idealistic solution could be devolving the issue to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, as allowed by the Simla Agreement. The people of Jammu and Kashmir are parties to the dispute, as historical events preceding Maharaja’s accession involved actions initiated by them. Representative bodies, such as the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, Legislative Assembly in Gilgit-Baltistan, and various councils in Ladakh, exist to voice the aspirations of Jammu and Kashmir residents.

If India and Pakistan find it challenging to resolve the dispute, devolving it to the people of Jammu and Kashmir could be a viable alternative. Clause 1. ii of the Simla Agreement allows such devolution: ‘The two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them.’

Despite the historical intricacies discussed, the trajectory of the Kashmir dispute appears to be one of continuity. A considerable diplomatic challenge for Pakistan lies in persuading India to initiate dialogue and make even incremental progress in resolving the longstanding issue. The prospect of meaningful discussions might hinge on potential shifts, such as a change in government in either country following upcoming elections. However, the overarching hurdle remains the profound distrust between India and Pakistan, a formidable barrier that demands concerted efforts to surmount. Overcoming this deep-seated mistrust stands out as a significant and enduring challenge in the intricate landscape of the Kashmir dispute.

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