Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
India confronts a Kashmir Rubicon on Sept. 16 when it commences a four-phase balloting process in the disputed territory to elect members to a Kashmiri Assembly.
If India boldly crosses the Rubicon by conducting free, fair and transparent elections reflective of the genuine sentiments of the Kashmiri people, then a final peaceful settlement of the 55-year-old Kashmir conflict will be in sight. If India balks at a crossing and continues its old bad habit of election rigging and denying Kashmiri self-determination celebrated in United Nations Security Council resolutions, then Kashmir will remain beleaguered by terrorism, repression, misery and destitution.
The United States by moral suasion is urging India to opt for boldness, and reap rewards like Egypt's Anwar Sadat for speaking reconciliation in the Israeli Knesset. The international community awaits India's choice with bated breath. Kashmir is the most dangerous nuclear hotspot on the planet and weapons proliferation in South Asia is its byword.
Free and fair elections in Kashmir would be a double blessing for India. They would marginalize extremists and unwanted interlopers who employ indiscriminate brutal violence to oppose India's occupation; and they would set the stage for negotiating a peaceful and final solution to the Kashmir conflict consistent with United Nations Security Council resolutions.
White hot tensions would then lessen in South Asia, terrorism would recede, prodigal arms expenditures would end, and economic development would blossom.
History speaks volumes about understanding the forthcoming elections.
In 1948 and 1949, United Nations Security Council resolutions stipulated that Kashmir's political destiny should be decided through a plebiscite conducted by the United Nations. India's flagrant dishonoring of its plebiscite obligation sparked indigenous convulsions and disaffection in Kashmir. India schemed to evade the Security Council's mandates by staged elections to a Constituent Assembly that it insisted was a plebiscite substitute.
The Security Council instantly denounced the subterfuge in a 1957 resolution. It reminded the concerned governments and authorities "of the principle embodied in its resolution that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations." The resolution further elaborated that "the convening of a Constituent Assembly ... and any action that Assembly may have taken or might attempt to take to determine the future shape and affiliation [of Kashmir]" would be no surrogate for Kashmiri self-determination.
India, however, persisted in its …