Dear Mr Vaish,
Thank you for this insightful and detailed response. I enjoyed reading it. I agree with almost all of your characterizations, but have three short responses.
One, Kashmir’s accession was signed by the ruler and ratified by Governor-General Mountbatten but is disputed by a large segment of Kashmiri political leaders. And of course by Pakistan. When prominent indigenous Kashmiris have disputed it, the issue does merit a review. This very act of disputation may turn out eventually to be right or wrong, but the right of Kashmiri subjects to question it exists, and if it is in large numbers then the issue of accession needs to be examined for veracity. And the best way to do it today is through a referendum, and that’s my next point. By the way, the Pakistani invasion happened because there was no transparent way of verifying that the accession to India was indeed normal and natural.
Second, plebiscite/referendum can still be held, and Pakistan has no problem with withdrawing forces if there are guarantees. This is an issue of trust deficit that can be resolved in many diplomatic ways. Why it exists? Simple. It does because an instrument of accession by the Kashmiri ruler was immediately followed by India landing its forces in Srinagar. That too is an invasion from the perspective of a large segment of Kashmiri population.
Third, Pakistan did not change the demography in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. I personally tried to buy property in AJK and was denied being a non-State Subject. Pakistan has gone out of its way to keep the status of Kashmir separate from Pakistan in terms of government, bureaucracy, laws, leadership, judiciary, etc. Some overlap in minor areas over time is inevitable but it is easy to delineate Pakistani and Kashmiri sovereign domains. Not so now in India.
Fourth, Pakistan did use groups inside Kashmir and also inside Pakistan to channel its support to Kashmiris, but it resorted to this ugly option because of India’s long history of delaying conflict resolution, taking unilateral actions, and sometimes negotiating a final agreement and then withdrawing in the end, torpedoing the whole effort.
Those were my four observations.
I will just conclude by saying that, through my research and interviews with Pakistani officials, I can safely say that Pakistan is ready to abide by UNSC requirements in Kashmir in letter and spirit, including withdrawal of troops. The only problem is the guarantees. There is no trust in India. Let’s say it: India has a seven-decade record of delay tactics on Kashmir, which in turn are used to buy time and create other issues to complicate conflict resolution and delay the inevitable action or solution. This is why a multilateral intervention in Kashmir has become necessary because of India’s (and Pakistan’s) failure to resolve it bilaterally.