Heuristics is a subject, which involves problem solving in cases that do not have THE solutions, though there can be several optimised solutions.
Kashmir issue is one such case. No solution has so far emerged that satisfies all parties. And those parties do not include just India, Pakistan and Kashmir but all the ethnicities and the provinces within J&K. Autonomy is one of the solutions but not an optimal one.
Reason 1: Not a Win-Win proposition.
UN resolutions on Kashmir are an inconvenient truth for India. And that inconvenience is here to stay. A permanent UN seat is improbable if India ridicules the resolutions of the institution. Unlikely to satisfy the international community, autonomy wouldn’t give India any political mileage. Kashmiris on other hand will continue to feel unsafe under the clutches of an army that effected a near holocaust in Kashmir. Moreover, Pakistan will never be content with having no control over a region that compliments it geographically. Pakistan’s agriculture depends on rivers originating in Kashmir and it wouldn’t be happy being a lower riparian forever.
Reason 2: ‘Indian Dream’ may shatter.
Presently India is too intoxicated with the prospect of becoming a super power. Had it not been for the Mughals who consolidated much of present-day Indian sub-continent, and the British who reinforced that geographical entity, the Indian dream might not have evolved the way it has. The immutable idea of a closely knit India being a pre-requisite for the way forward has thrown up a nasty ethos of a highly centralized entity. Autonomy in J&K can trigger dissent in other states and set a dilutive precedent.
Reason 3: Jammu and Ladakh oppose autonomy.
In fact they want abrogation of Article 370. One could argue that Jammu also includes Chenab valley and Rajauri-Poonch belt that is likely to opt for some level of secession, so that there is an overall majority opting for autonomy type option. However, this majority is basically Muslim. India is unlikely to profile the state along those lines. Autonomy will be opposed by non-Kashmiris resulting in destabilization of the state. There will always be issues of discrimination, real and perceived, leading to wasteful regionalism. Half the time you are worried about equitable development rather than overall development. It is quite possible that autonomy would crystallize state’s division.
Reason 4: Kashmir sans a master.
The working group members were not consulted prior to the submission of the (Justice Shagir) report. In fact the group has not met for over two years. It’s worth noticing that no reports came during PDP’s rule. It seems that Delhi prefers NC to sell autonomy in Kashmir. Delhi has legitimized its rule in Kashmir through many including Sheikh, Bakshi, Sadiq and Qasim. But no one comes close to the mighty Sheikh who was supposed to have unquestioned mandate of the people. Nevertheless people here did not think much about Indira-Sheikh accord, supporting an armed insurgency 15 years later. While NC might be a safe bet for Delhi to implement the idea of autonomy, the party now is far from being the master of Kashmir’s destiny.
Reason 5: Seen it fail.
Didn’t we start with having a Prime Minister and all? Didn’t we have this special status before? What went wrong? Even an extremely talented legal brain would not be able to imagine all the future scenarios.
When prime minister Shiekh did not approve of some changes in the state’s constitution, which Delhi wanted, he was removed unceremoniously and a series of puppet regimes followed. No matter how much ironing out of centre-state relationship is done legal issues will remain. The autonomy given afresh can again be manipulated. And we have a precedent. In the short run it will create centre-state tensions impacting our development and in the long run, another insurgency.
(The author runs a telecom research group iLocus.)