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The Neelam Plan

June 20, 2003

You've started hearing this constant nag of something called the Chenab plan to solve the Kashmir imbroglio.

In its essence, it is a plan being sponsored by Islamist extremists from Pakistan and some of their friends in the US. This generous 'Pakistan keeps whatever it has, but let's negotiate over what India keeps' plan aims to give all of the Indian Kashmir valley independence, while letting Pakistan keep all the territories it now illegally and forcefully occupies.

In other words, this is the same kind of odious thinking that has led to the ethnic cleansing of all minorities from Pakistan -- Kashmiri  Muslims cannot live with the infidels, hence they have to cleanse their territory and must make it a different country. You might prefer the  more politically correct rendition -- division along ethnic lines -- but make no mistake about its intent.

Unfortunately, it would seem this jihadi Islamist plan has gathered support within some US circles. Saleem Shehzad seems to confirm this report in Asia Times. 'Sources in the Foreign Office familiar with the agenda say that key decisions likely to be agreed on by Musharraf and Bush at Camp David include the following: A clear road map for resolution of the Kashmir conflict in which the "Chanab" formula, which envisages the division of Kashmir along religious lines, is likely to be adopted. Thus, the Muslim-majority areas would be allowed to join Pakistan, while the areas where Hindus and Buddhists are in the majority would remain with India.' 

The reason for such an obnoxious plan seeing the light of day? 

Simple. India has never bothered to propose anything better. Pakistan, you see, has consistently defined the Kashmir imbroglio over the last 57 years, they have defined the problem, they have defined the issues, they have taken a lead in actions and they now are defining the solution.

Starting with canards like 800,000 Indian soldiers deployed in Kashmir, to the rancid 'indigenous freedom fighters' -- they have always defined the issues; not us. The Chenab formula is just another step in this direction.

While we Indians have excelled at criticizing anything and everything, and even made grandiose empty statements like 'let the talks begin with PoK' or 'let's take over Lahore,' we've never bothered to  propose any rational plan that would work in India's interests. 

Where are the superior ideas, the better solutions and focused strategic actions?

They don't exist -- only the vacuous flatulence of the extreme right and whimpering connivance of the anarchists accentuate this void.

So, here's a potential starting point -- I'll call it the Neelam plan, as suggested by some friends at Bharat-Rakshak.


First, what is the Neelam valley? It is a 144 km long  bow-shaped deeply forested region that makes up much of  what Pakistanis call Azad Kashmir. The Neelam River enters Pakistan from India in the Gurais sector of the Line of Control,  and then runs west till it meets the Jhelum north of Muzzafarabad.

The mighty Neelam River cuts a breathtakingly beautiful furrow in  the land -- the Neelam valley; the valley of death and the valley of hatred. This valley and the region around it are infested with every kind of terrorist vermin that Pakistanis have been able to rustle up, with the buying power of their extortion, drug-running and charity money. 

So, when you think Neelam valley, think about 4-year-old Suraj from Nadimarg, who was shot and killed in his mother's arms; think of Sharifa Bi of Mandi, who was first set on fire and subsequently had these flames extinguished, forcing her to die in slow agonizing pain. If there's ever a terrorist brutality in Kashmir, you can bet that the perpetrators were trained, launched or passed through this valley of death.

Second, some description of what's happening in the region called Northern Areas. Simply put, what we call PoK, they call 'Azad  Kashmir' and Northern Areas. The Northern Areas consist of the Gilgit and Baltistan districts of Jammu and Kashmir. The natives of Gilgit Baltistan are the most oppressed people in the entire Indian sub-continent. They have no economic development, have been occupied by Pakistani Punjabis who ill-treat them, no constitution and few, if any human rights. Unlike the people of J&K, who we have treated with special privileges like Article 370, extreme government charity and now even reservations in colleges, the people of Gilgit and Baltistan are truly under brutal occupation.

In fact, our friendly neighborhood dictator Musharraf, first rose to fame in 1988 by massacring people in this region to put down a revolt, with the able help of a then unknown fanatic -- Osama Bin Laden. But, that is another story.

Why don't we know all this about Gilgit/Baltistan? Because depending upon who is in power, our foreign ministry has either been hugging the terrorists or making plans to capture Lahore.

The Plan 

While the Chenab plan is based on the bigoted principles of 'division along ethnic lines,' the Neelam plan is focused on clamping down on terrorism and prevention of religious clashes in India. Clearly, these principles only apply to India, since terrorism is revered as freedom-fighting in Pakistan and other religions have mysteriously disappeared (from 20% to about 3% in 5 decades) from the land of the pure. Unlike the Chenab plan, which does nobody any good apart from a few hallucinating generals at GHQ at Rawalpindi, the Neelam plan actually has a sound basis, namely: 

  • Artificial countries based on religion alone are a hassle -- Britain has already tried that with the creation of Pakistan -- been there, done that; doesn't quite work. 
  • Any plan that does not explicitly take into account US strategic interests in the area will become road-kill -- so ensure easy US access to the Chinese border. 
  • Water is the biggest strategic issue in the subcontinent -- talk about it, don't hide it, avoid the next war.
  • Terrorism and not the over-hyped repression of the people of Kashmir will cause the next nuclear war -- so, address it.

There are 5 basic principles and 5 associated actions that constitute the Neelam plan:

First, the absorption of integrated areas. India has demonstrated through its fair elections of last year, the enormous dollars spent in economic development ($5 billion) in Kashmir and the special attempts at integration such as reservation in out-of-state colleges, that J&K  is well on its way to full-fledged integration with India. For better results, arcane constitutional artifacts, such as Article 370 need to be done away with. Improved industrial investment will follow.     

Pakistan has never managed to integrate any part of its country, let alone PoK. A vague case may be made that what they call 'Azad' Kashmir has been integrated as an armed camp, but this should be subject to LoC alterations, as described below.

Second, freedom for the oppressed. The brutally oppressed people of Gilgit and Baltistan have faced complete abrogation of their constitutional and human rights, with hardly any economic development for the last 55 years.  Their lands have seen murderous occupation and their standard of living makes the sub-Saharan Africans feel mighty privileged. 

According to the Neelam plan, the Northern  areas (Gilgit and Baltistan) will become a free country and Pakistani garrisons currently encamped there, will have to depart. Naturally, the Pakistani Punjabis currently usurping people's rights in this land, will immediately become illegal aliens and over a period of time, will have to obtain appropriate work visas to remain there.

Both India and Pakistan need to officially obtain transit rights through this land. This will bring about a demilitarization of the Deosai Plain and thus effect a natural stabilization in places like Siachen, Kargil and Drass.

From the perspective of the main interlocutor, the US, direct access to the Deosai plains could be a strategic coup in its oncoming superpower battles with China. There possibly is no better strategic location for US forces in the northern regions of South Asia -- certainly, far better than being located in the Kashmir valley. All this comes with the added benefit of not having to upset relations with a potential strategic partner -- India.

Third, clamping down on terrorism. The only terrorism of consequence in South and Central Asia seems to originate from Pakistan. There are two problems here -- first, the Neelam valley has become the launching pad and terrorism training grounds; second, Pakistan views terrorism as a legitimate instrument of State policy.

For the first problem, the solution is quite clear -- reduce drastically, the scope of the Neelam valley to act as the biggest terrorist training camp in the world. This is achieved by moving the LoC into the Neelam valley and better international mediation. The specific steps are: 

1. Move the LoC north of Gurais till it covers the all infiltration routes emerging from the Burzil Pass. 

2. Move the LoC in the Kupwara area to enclose the Neelam valley segment north of Muzaffarabad. 

3. Move the Haji Pir Pass within India, since it is the entrance point for most terrorists in J&K. 

4. Move the LoC South of Poonch closer to New Mirpur, perhaps along the Poonch river, this will drastically reduce terrorist breeding grounds. 

5. Have UN troops guard the rest of 'Azad Kashmir.' 

6. The independence of Gilgit Baltistan to the north will bring about a closure of terrorist training and coordination camps in Gilgit, Astore, Skardu and the Deosai Plains area.

The second issue of Pakistan using terrorism as State policy is a little more difficult. Here, international lenders in return for monetary aid must ask for intrusive UN monitoring within Pakistan to ensure that the ISI and other groups do not engage in terrorism.

Connecting monetary aid directly to stopping Pakistani terrorism is the only way to ensure that there isn't a terrorism-induced nuclear war in the sub-continent. The IMF has always used this policy to open up markets for the West; so why not use a similar approach to contain the scourge of jihadi terrorism in the country that has been referred to as the 'epicenter of terrorism'?

Fourth, equitable distribution of water. The Indus Water Treaty is inherently inequitable -- it does not take into consideration that India's population is about 8 times that of Pakistan and Pakistan has eliminated or pushed into India almost all of its ethnic minorities since independence. This treaty must be declared invalid and must be renegotiated on the basis of the population balance on  either side of the border.

An equitable distribution would imply that India gets around 40% of the waters currently earmarked for Pakistan. Pakistan has so far depended upon India's inability to use its water resources aggressively and as a consequence not developed its water resource infrastructures adequately. Without such re-negotiation, Pakistan may not realize the criticality of doing so on its own -- leading to disaster for Pakistan within this decade.

If this issue is not solved, the Indus Water Treaty, and not Kashmir, will lead to the next nuclear war -- water has already become the most precious resource in India.

Fifth, no one-sided guns to anybody's head. The only hope for the Pakistani economy are transit fees from oil pipelines. These pipelines will remain pipe dreams unless India agrees to be the key destination  market for this oil. One of the main reasons for US interest in peace in Kashmir is related to the big dollars that would roll into the pockets into US oil giants if these pipelines do not flow through Iran.

Unfortunately if these pipelines become reality, Pakistan just obtains a large economic gun to put to India's head. To be fair, any gas pipelines should only be considered if at the same time, India is allowed to build up the infrastructure required to completely stop water to Pakistan. In other words, if Pakistan has the ability to shut off energy supply to India, then India must have the ability to shut off water supply to Pakistan. No one-way weapons, please.

Plan Summary:  

1. Complete and equal integration of J&K into India.
2. Freedom for Northern Areas and removal of all Pakistani garrisons.
3. No international charity for terrorists and permanent clamp down on the valley of death and hatred -- the Neelam valley
a. Incorporate Haji Pir into India;
b. Move the LoC from Gurais to Tithwal northwards until it covers the Neelam valley all the way up to Muzaffarabad
c. Move Naushara LoC to New Mirpur;
d. UN monitoring in 'Azad Kashmir';
4. Renegotiate the Indus Water Treaty according to population distributions.
5. No pipelines through Pakistan without equal water shut off capabilities for India.

Where do we go from here?

Division along ethnic lines is pure bigotry. Even if such a strategy makes some twisted short-term strategic sense for the superpowers of the day, in time such a division will lead to the same kind of problems that Palestine and Pakistan cause today. Thousands and hundreds of thousands will die -- we must therefore learn from the historical mistakes of the British. Why repeat the greatest mistakes of the last century?

Remember, the problem is not Kashmir, it is and has always been terrorism -- just take a look at the hordes of Pakistan-based Talibanis beginning to kill Germans, Afghans and Americans in Afghanistan at regular intervals. Nobody believes that the solution to this problem  is to give back Afghanistan to the Taliban. Thus, no problem in Kashmir  will be solved by rewarding the jihadi terrorists or the Islamist fanatics. Clamping down on terrorism and preventing it permanently, has to be the basis for any peace in the Indian continent. This is  the goal of the Neelam plan and should be the basis of any settlement  that is reached.

As I finish this article, there are reports on India being pushed towards the Chenab plan. The main protagonists seem to be Pakistani-Americans with only Pakistani strategic interests at heart. For the sake of India and the rest of the world, I hope that the editors of Kashmir Telegraph are wrong when they say:

'Kashmir Telegraph has reasons to believe -- beyond any shadow of doubt -- that United States is 'arm-twisting' Pakistan -- more specifically, India, in accepting the 'Chenab Plan.' A 'sinister plot', which  if America has its way, brings about the division of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir on religious lines -- with Muslim-majority areas accorded a quasi-sovereign status. BJP -- the ruling party -- it seems, has all along been clandestinely involved in this sinister plot, which undermines the basis principle -- rejection of the two-nation theory -- on the basis of which India was founded. It is in this context that one must examine the remarks of General Jay Garner, setting December 2004 as the American deadline for resolving the Kashmir issue.'

In the past, India has happily given away precious water of the Indus, the Coco islands, the Tibetan buffer, control of the Haji Pir pass, 90,000 Pakistani PoWs and other strategic advantages without any payback at all. This time, the hope is that our leaders will not give away strategic strangleholds, for minor personal or political gains.

The Neelam plan represents the beginnings of a proposal that represents Indian interests as opposed to placing India in a position of constantly fighting off Pakistani expeditions. Let us at least start here.

Arindam Banerji ( took the usual route of going from the IITs, through a PhD in the US, to finally working at sundry research labs. He describes himself as a scientist, entrepreneur, and political thinker on South Asian geo-political issues.

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