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On 21 April 1948, a resolution on Kashmir was adopted by the UNSC. According to that resolution, India should hold a referendum in Kashmir.

Given the current chaotic situation in Kashmir, why doesn't India hold a referendum?

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    In most cases, it is impossible to say why something didn't happen. Was there a debate or proposal to have a referendum? If there was, there might be public statements about why the government chose not to have one. May 10, 2017 at 17:05
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    A referendum seems like a good solution to me. This would be the case if the country was in a peaceful and democratic context. In a highly tended, violent and conflict-crippled context, a referendum only makes things 10 times worse, and is therefore an awful "solution".
    – Bregalad
    May 11, 2017 at 8:32
  • @Bregalad it's not necessarily any better in a peaceful and democratic context.
    – Jontia
    Aug 7, 2019 at 9:06

5 Answers 5

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Because of the fear of losing the territory.

India (as a state) has no chance of getting a favorable outcome from a referendum.

  1. Kashmir consists of 60% Muslim, more percentage than that of any other major region of India.
  2. Unlike other parts of India, Kashmiri people are mostly racially and culturally unmixed. There is also strong Pakistani influence on Kashmiri people.
  3. Indian Army has already done a lot of human rights violation in Kashmir which can't be recovered or erased from the minds of Kashmiris ever.

There has been even a suggestion from within the Indian government to de-populate Kashmir to reverse the possible disfavourable outcome.

The UNSC Resolution.

According to the UNSC resolution, Kashmir is a disputed territory. That resolution talks about three points,

  • Part I calling for a complete cessation of hostilities.
  • Part II asked for a complete withdrawal of Pakistan's fighting forces, including the army, tribes and other Pakistani nationals, and stated that the evacuated territory would be administered by local authorities under the surveillance of the Commission. Following the Pakistani withdrawal, India was expected to withdraw the "bulk of its forces" reducing them to the minimum level required for maintaining law and order.
  • Part III stated that, after the acceptance of the truce agreement, the two countries would enter into consultation with the Commission for settling the future of the state in accordance with the will of the people.

Now, there are multiple issues with this resolution,

  1. It asks Pakistan to withdraw its army first. Now, India demands Kasmir as their integral part, not a disputed territory. So, there is no guarantee that India will abide by the UNSC resolution if Pakistan withdraws its army first. So, there is a heavy risk for Pakistan to suffer a strategic defeat.

  2. This resolution doesn't directly say anything about arranging a referendum. Rather it talks about forming a commission and settle the dispute by bilateral discussions. India is not even interested in talking about Kashmir. That means India can keep the matter dangling for years. That means a de facto Indian win.

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    This answer, while slightly true, is highly flawed. 1) Lakshadweep has a 98.58% Muslim Population which is much higher that that of Kashmir. 2) Pakistani Influence mostly comes as a product of the Population being mostly Islamic. The people racially and culturally are very similar. 3) The man who stated that Kashmir needs to be depopulated (Subramaniam Swamy) is not a part of the government and the Union government has made no such declaration or intention officially.
    – Rohit Hari
    May 13, 2022 at 4:19
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    @RohitHari 1) Lakshadweep has a 98.58% Muslim Population which is much higher that that of Kashmir. --- Lakshadweep has only 63,000 people. Also, it has no shared history with Pakistan.
    – user366312
    Oct 28, 2022 at 20:08
  • @RohitHari, 2) Pakistani Influence mostly comes as a product of the Population being mostly Islamic. --- Unclear and self-contradictory! Are people of Lakshadweep un-islamic? If they are 98.58% Muslim, how are they un-islamic? ....... The people racially and culturally are very similar. --- with whom?
    – user366312
    Oct 28, 2022 at 20:10
  • @RohitHari, 3) The man who stated that Kashmir needs to be depopulated (Subramaniam Swamy) is not a part of the government and the Union government has made no such declaration or intention officially. --- The quote is from Subramaniam Swamy's Tweet in 2017. Subramaniam Swamy was a BJP MP in 2017.
    – user366312
    Oct 28, 2022 at 20:12
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While democracy is one of the best-liked forms of government, that doesn't mean it is always the best-suited tool to make decisions.

An important property of modern democracies is that while adhering to the choice of the majority, it respects the rights of minorities as well.

If a democracy doesn't do that, it effectively becomes a "tyranny of the majority".

What if a referendum would show that 51% wants to stay with India? That means that 49% will then suddenly stop wanting to be part of Pakistan? It means that Pakistan suddenly will accept the result of that Indian referendum when they feel almost half the people in Kasmir are being mistreated by being forced to live in "the wrong country"?

Vice versa, if 51% votes to be with Pakistan, should India ignore the 49% that wants to stay in India?

In short, chances are that such a referendum would cause more problems than solve.

Then there is the other thing about such referenda: they can be influenced. When Russia held a referendum in Crimea, asking people there wheter they wanted to be part of Ukraine or Russia, there were many allegations that the referendum was rigged. There were reports of armed (Russian or pro-Russian) military overseeing the voting, accusations were made about the referendum being rigged because of ethnic cleansing by Russia in the past (if you remove those who want to vote A, the majority of those who remain will vote B). Whether these allegations were (all) founded in truth seems irrelevant, they did contribute to the general feeling that the referendum was a hoax.

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  • Then, what can be the solution of Kashmir situation ?
    – Student28
    May 12, 2017 at 5:35
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    @Student28 If I knew I'd be on my way to solve it, probably stopping by the Middle East to bring peace as well. The fact that I understand why something would probably not work does not (alas) mean I have a working solution ready.
    – oerkelens
    May 12, 2017 at 7:40
  • Do you have anything to show that this is actually the reasoning the Indian government is using? May 15, 2017 at 17:34
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As per the UNSC resolution, there were three steps, of which the first was:

  1. In the first step, Pakistan was asked to use its "best endeavours" to secure the withdrawal of all tribesmen and Pakistani nationals, putting an end to the fighting in the state.

However, this did not happen. Pakistani military, or the tribesmen or Pakistani nationals did not leave Kashmir.

The Plebiscite was the third step in that resolution. Since the first step was not completed, next steps were not taken. This was India's official reason for not conducting the plebiscite.

Since 1948, however, long time has passed, and new equations have emerged in International relations. All those resolutions are now ineffective, in practice. The following is as per an agreement between India and Pakistan :

The "Kashmir issue" is bilateral, there is no scope for interference by third party (including the UN )

India's position is:

Things wrt to the Indian region of Kashmir (now the UTs of J&K and Ladakh) are "internal affairs" of India, and thus the principle of non-interference should be applicable.

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Kashmir is the 5th largest state of India in terms of area and is strategically very important. It shares borders with two Chinese provinces namely Tibet and Xinjiang. Secondly 4 out of 5 Pakistan's major rivers flow through Kashmir and India can easily threaten Pakistan by threatening to stop the river water.

Now we will come to what will happen if a referendum happens. Kashmir has a Muslim majority population with 68% people being Muslim and also India has done many atrocities in Kashmir with death toll in Kashmir rising every year so it is obvious that Kashmiris would vote for separation from India, either joining Pakistan or making separate Kashmiri country and as I have talked about importance of Kashmir to India.

India would never want to lose such an important piece of land and so it doesn't hold a referendum in Kashmir

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The Indian Subcontinent doesn't operate with the same values and systems as the west. The unwritten rule is that disputes and conflicts related to separatism are settled through violence and not elections/referendum. India does this in Kashmir, Pakistan does this in Balochistan and Sri Lanka does this in Tamil Eelam.

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    The questioner seems to be from Pakistan. Spain and Ireland have had some regional independence based violence.
    – user9389
    May 10, 2017 at 19:58
  • True about Spain and Ireland, but the key difference is that the state doesn't react with brutal force (Pakistan and Sri Lanka use/used aerial bombing and India uses conventional brute force). May 10, 2017 at 20:14
  • *The revised draft was studied, and different proposals from the Quaid-i-Azam, Pundit Nehru and Sir Geoffery Prior, the Agent to the Governor General (AGG) in Balochistan, were put up to the HMG. Finally it was decided to hold a referendum in Balochistan on June 30, 1947 in Shahi Jirga. To the dismay of the Congress, 54 members of the Shahi Jirga and Quetta Municipality, voted en-bloc to join the new Constituent Assembly to be set up in Pakistan. Reference : m-a-jinnah.blogspot.com/2010/05/…
    – Student28
    May 12, 2017 at 5:30

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