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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
What should Kashmir's future be?

More than half a century after the last Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir signed up his princely state to be part of India, the issue of Kashmir's status has still not been resolved.

Over the past twelve years, at least 30,000 people have died as Kashmiri separatists - supported by Pakistan - fight to end Indian rule.

After all this bloodshed, should Kashmiris now be reconciled to Indian rule? Should India offer autonomy to Kashmir, the only part of the country to have a large Muslim majority?

Or should Kashmiris be allowed self-determination, as the separatists - and Pakistan - insist? And if so, what should they choose - India, Pakistan, or even independence? Tell us what you think.

The World Today's Andrew Whitehead visited both Pakistan-administered and Indian-administered Kashmir and hosted the debate live from Srinagar.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Having visited Kashmir several times in the past few years, I have been struck by the poor state of affairs there. Living conditions, environment and the law and order situation are all in an appalling state in a region once touted for its beauty and serenity. In my opinion, Kashmir can only improve when the people there realise that fighting for a cleaner environment, better economy, and improved living standards has to take priority over suicidal squabbling over the issue of independence.
Suhail Shafi, Malta

India needs to have an exit strategy

Raj, USA
I think it's about time that India stopped pouring money to stop the freedom movement in Kashmir. They have lost thousands of soldiers and it does not seems they have achieved anything yet. The moral of the army is very low and no-one in the forces wants to be stationed in Kashmir. India needs to have an exit strategy and try to save seven states in the North East, which are becoming another Kashmir.
Raj, USA

People sitting in Pakistan and talking of democracy in Kashmir, first let them think of their own democracy before getting involved in the internal matters of their neighbour.
Mahesh, India/ USA

If India is so democratic why does it not exercise this democracy in its largest state and listen to the people? Why are there tens of states in India fighting for their freedom? The truth is repression and continued annihilation for over half a century has resulted in the Kashmiris picking up the gun and their helpers coming from all over the world. Just like they did in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia. Only freedom can bring about peace in Kashmir which India will resist with all its might.
Salar Khan, UK

Why do all those who hanker after Kashmir independence never criticise the Chinese?

Mahesh, UK
Why do all those who hanker after Kashmir independence never criticise the Chinese who illegally hold nearly 20% of Kashmir? Could it have something to do with China's covert and overt military support for the Pakistani's, or could it be because this has nothing to with territorial independence and everything to do with religious intolerance and outright terrorism?
Mahesh, UK

Who gave India the right to interfere in Kashmiri affairs? It's absurd to blame Pakistan alone for any intrusion. Indian army atrocities are record-level in Jammu and Kashmir, funnily they call it a fight against terrorism.
M. Faheem Moor, Germany

Self-determination is a noble principle. It is also Utopian. Much as we would like it not to be so, the fact is that affairs of state are not governed solely by rules of morality and goodness. Even in the best of nations, they are conducted in a manner that ensures the best possible outcome for the maximum number of people. The ends justify the means. Both Pakistan and India work by this rule.
Haru, USA

We simply cannot allow this to happen

Sanjay, India/ Japan
India is the only country in the world which has so much of diversity of religion, races, castes and languages. It is like many nations united to form one country. We simply cannot partition it again just because of a religious issue. What will happen if other major communities ask for their cake. We simply cannot allow this to happen.
Sanjay, India/ Japan

Democracy's role is to respect the views and opinions of the majority of people, no matter how bitter and sad the outcome may be. The majority of people in India want Kashmir to stay in India, so it must stay. Plain and simple
James Jones, USA

I think the best scenario will be Kashmir as an independent Islamic republic with common defence and close economic co-operation and ties with Pakistan. That will take care of both Islamic and nationalistic forces and may unite the country (Kashmir).
Jamshed Kashkari, New Zealand

Justice will prevail and the truth will eventually come out

Murad Ansari, Pakistan
Let the people of Kashmir have their right of self-determination and see what happens. India cannot force a whole nation of Muslims to live under scrutiny forever. Justice will prevail and the truth will eventually come out.
Murad Ansari, Pakistan

Nothing should be done to Kashmir for the next 10 years as according to world scholars Pakistan is going to be fragmented by then and India will not only have Kashmir but also five more provinces currently known as Pakistan as bonus.
Allah Rakha, Australia

I am a Hindu Kashmiri from Jammu and I am currently in the USA. If Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan, there will be massive ethnic cleansing of the Hindus and Buddhists of Jammu and Ladakh. Does a fundamentalist country like Pakistan have the right to a region with such a substantial non-Muslim population? What the Taliban did to the Buddha statues, the Pakistanis will do to the Kashmiri Hindus and Buddhists.
Rishi Raj, India

Every state in India has the right for self-determination. India is not a country with communist, military or a king as an authoritarian ruler. In a democracy, people's mandate is important and that is what the constitution says. All the rulers are only servants of the people. Religion is for peace and not for revolution. It is better to remain united. As told by Christ, a country which breaks away has no stability. Therefore, get the people's mandate if Kashmir want to separate.
RTD, Australia

The issue is not essentially based on religion as India and Pakistan would have you believe. It is based around the founding ideologies of India and Pakistan. Pakistan cannot allow a Muslim-majority state to remain part of India because that would undermine the ideology on which Pakistan was created i.e. a separate Muslim nation. If India allows Kashmiris their right to self-determination they will surely be either completely independent or join Pakistan. In either case that will undermine the ideology of India, i.e. that all minorities can be part of one Indian nation.
Mohammed Nadeem Malhotra, UK

Democracy's role is to respect the views and opinions of the majority of people

Daniyal, USA
Democracy's role is to respect the views and opinions of the majority of people, no matter how bitter and sad the outcome may be. India should respect the democratic right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people as it was promised by the former Indian Prime Minister Nehro.
Daniyal, USA

Granted that Kashmir achieves freedom, who can guarantee that it won't become another Afghanistan? India might be a poor, developing country, but it is nevertheless forward thinking, secular and a potential economic power in the region. Kashmiris must concentrate on building up their state with the autonomy they already enjoy for the future of their children and all generations to come. Any other option will prove disastrous in history. The unification of Europe must be a inspiration and model to us all in the subcontinent.
Jagan Mohan, Russia/ India

I thought democracy was something in which people have the right to self-determination. Now that raises an interesting question. Is India really a democratic country? If it means self-determination for all ethnic communities in India resulting in 100 independent states, then so be it. That is what democracy is all about.
Numair, USA

I don't think self-determination is the solution

Arun Kumar Sinha, UK/ India
I don't think self-determination is the solution. This is because it is certain that some people would like Kashmir to be a part of Pakistan, others would like it to be a part of India and rest would prefer independence. How will this be sorted out? Will Kashmir be divided again? For God sake "NO".
Arun Kumar Sinha, UK/ India

India and Pakistan should allow an independent party to arbitrate - like the UN. That's why it was created!
Tim Blain, UK

As a Kashmiri, I believe it is my legal and fundamental human right to call for self-determination in the region. India refuses to abide by international law and continues its unlawful oppression of the Kashmiri people. All this is indicative of the country's hypocritical and undemocratic stance. How can it continue to claim to be a democracy when it blatantly disregards the rule of law.
Rahim Khan, Bradford, England

All I request is that the people of Kashmir be given their fundamental basic human rights

Mohammed Jamil, UK
As a Kashmiri living in the UK, all I request is that the people of Kashmir be given their fundamental basic human rights. The right to self-determination, the right to choose their own destiny, the right to choose, whether they wish to go with India, Pakistan or go it alone. Now that is not too much to ask is it?
Mohammed Jamil, UK

It is nice to talk about stuff like self-determination and so forth. But the reality is that a minority which constitutes around 20% of the population is vocal and willing to use every dirty trick in the book to achieve its aim. In the interim, India might want to take a leaf out of the Pakistani political system to create separate electorates to cut the gravy train of the Sunni fundamentalists.
Ashesh, USA

Yes, Kashmiris have the right to self-determination but only under peaceful circumstances. India however has every right to ensure that Pakistan does not end up creating another "Afghanistan" on our doorstep.
SR, India

How about a middle ground? Let Pakistan keep what it has and India keep what it has.
Sameer, USA

This is an extremely volatile problem

Kevin Fernandes, Canada
This is an extremely volatile problem created and left to fester by the British Raj. I cannot see either India or Pakistan compromising on this issue, sadly it is the innocent people of Kashmir who will continue to suffer. An ideal solution would be an independent, neutral Kashmiri nation with all disputed parts under Pakistani, Indian and Chinese control coming together as one nation.
Kevin Fernandes, Canada

The Indian constitution provides for equal rights to all its citizens irrespective of their religious background. I see precious little to be gained (by the separatists) by separating Kashmir from a functioning democracy.
Vijayasimha, Indian, USA

An honourable solution is what is needed which may not be what either India or Pakistan find easy to stomach but otherwise there is no other choice. How much more blood should be shed? Or should we wait until Kashmir has been burnt out completely?
Siraj, Pakistan

Pakistan and her Western backers have been harking on about self-determination for Kashmir for a long time. Yes, self-determination for Kashmir provided that it is also allowed for all those minorities - very significant, large minorities - who had been living in what is now Pakistan from ancient times and whom Pakistan has ethnically cleansed and evicted from the country - people such as the Vajpayees, Advanis, etc.
Mohansingh, India

In India there is so much diversity

Let's look at it from another angle. Which country in the past has let an ethnic group separate and live peacefully? In India there is so much diversity that we could practically end up with a good 100 extra nations. Amazingly silly. You can't just let people do as they please. The overseers of a country have to make sure something as destructive as another partition doesn't come about.

The Government of India should never autonomise or shall hand over Indian administered Kashmir to Pakistan. I am sure Kashmir can turn out to be a better place for all minorities and majorities living there if Pakistan stops interfering for its unjustified selfish interests.
Maulin Doshi, Germany

The Kashmiris have the right to self-determination, and India which regards itself as a large democracy, should give the people that right.
Tehseen Khan, England

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See also:

06 Apr 01 | South Asia
Kashmiri militants invited to talks
29 Mar 01 | South Asia
Kashmir militants confirm killing
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