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Kashmir: Paths to Peace

Chatham House Opinion Poll

What do Kashmiris want, "Pakistan, India or Independence?"

"This opinion poll was commissioned by Dr Saif al Islam al Qadhafi in May 2009 and administered in September-October 2009. This is the first poll to be conducted on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) that has separated Indian and Pakistani controlled Kashmir since the UN-brokered ceasefire on 1 January 1949. The ongoing dispute has poisoned relationships between the two countries, led to thousands of deaths, and blighted the lives of millions of Kashmiris, and in the first decade of this century been a source of terrorist-led violence with a reach well beyond South Asia. The purpose of the poll was to establish current attitudes in Kashmir on both sides of the LoC to alternative scenarios for the resolution of the conflict. The poll took as its starting point the assumption that Kashmiri opinion represents a vital foundation for the region’s political future peace and stability, and for wider global security."

Conclusion

"...Despite the complexity, some conclusions are clear. 81% say unemployment is the most significant problem facing Kashmiris (66% in AJK, 87% IN J&K). Government corruption (22% AJK and 68% J&K), poor economic development (42% AJK, 45% J&K), human rights abuses (19% AJK, 43% J&K) and the Kashmir conflict itself (24% AJK, 36% J&K) are all seen as major problems. 80% of Kashmiris say that the dispute is very important to them personally.

The two questions envisaged under the UN resolutions of 1948/49, which proposed a plebiscite, were restricted to the choice of the whole of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir joining India or joining Pakistan. This poll shows that preference for those options is highly polarized. 21% of the population said they would vote for the whole of Kashmir to join India, and 15% said they would vote for it to join Pakistan. Furthermore, only 1% of the population of AJK say they would vote to join India, while only 2% of the population in J&K said they would vote to join Pakistan. There is further polarization between the districts.

The option of independence has been widely promoted on both sides of the LOC over the last twenty years. However, although 43% of the total population said they would vote for independence, in only five out of eighteen districts was there a majority preference for independence of the whole of Kashmir.

These results support the already widespread view that the plebiscite options are likely to offer no solution to the dispute. Nor is there evidence that an independence option could offer a straightforward alternative. Any solution will depend on the Indian and Pakistani governments' commitment to achieving a permanent settlement. The poll suggests that such a settlement will depend critically on engaging fully with all shades of Kashmiri political opinion.

The poll shows that most Kashmiris see economic problems as high on their list of priorities, most notably unemployment. Given that the conflict is likely to be exacerbating the economic problems of Kashmir, a resolution will be critical to improving the day-to-day lives of Kashmiri people, the vast majority of whom think, as this poll demonstrates, that the conflict is 'very important' to them personally."

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Individual views espoused in this article/paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the Portmir Foundation and have been included to represent the variety of different opinions that may exist on a single issue. In accordance with our democratic charter, the Portmir Foundation values debate in a spirit of mutual tolerance and understanding, even when such views contradict those of the Foundation. 

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