In the year 1947, Kashmir was a disputed territory between Pakistan and India.
It was so because the Kashmiris were left out due to the instrument of accession.
Through the instrument of accession, the fate of the people of 550 princely states was given in the hands of their rulers.
It created the Kashmir problem that initially remained confined to Pakistan and India, but with the passage of time, involved other parties: the Chinese, Ladakhis and Pundits.
Kashmir is landlocked and its survival is dependent on both Islamabad and New Delhi.
The political situation is such that there is a division amongst the people based on religion.
For example, there is an impression created by some quarters that the people of Jammu and Ladakh might prefer to have an independent status.
On the other hand, the people of Azad Kashmir are happy with their status within Pakistan.
The only area with a pure Kashmiri orientation is the Valley.
It is this particular area where the actual problem exists.
A majority of Kashmiris living there speak their original language.
Most of them are Muslims by faith, who are not willing to accept the Indian occupation and are struggling to get freedom.
However, there is support for India as well from Hindu Pundits settled there.
The Pundits are among the original inhabitants of the state and have been living there since six thousand years, based on which they are struggling for a separate state.
Considering the number of parties and their claims, it transpires that no single solution is possible to resolve the tangle.
The ongoing political dynamics reveals that this problem can be addressed to a large extent if the Valley issue could be sorted out.
The ground realities lead one to conclude that the only way this could happen is a readiness on India's part to change its approach.
But will they change their stance? That depends on how much the Indians are prepared to concede to the people of the Valley, and when.
It is unlikely that the Indians would ever surrender their control over the present borders in the state to anyone, and they would hold on to it at any human and material cost.
Their strategic strength is the location of Ladakh and its link with it, which is through the Valley.
The Indo-China war in 1962 had exposed their vulnerability on the northern borders, and they are still afraid of another war.
Therefore they are not ready to consider any change in the borders that connect them with Ladakh.
The proposed formula of an independent Valley, monitored jointly by both countries or by neutral forces, does not appeal to them.
Neither does the idea that Pakistan would become friendly after the merger of the Valley with it.
They argue that the relationship between nations never remains the same.
They cite the Indo-Chinese relationship as proof.
Security of borders is one of the factors that stop the Indians from agreeing to a solution that would alter the geographical or political status of the Line of Control.
There have been formulas regarding an independent Kashmir and its division.
Both countries have their reasons for not accepting these.
Pakistan is firm in its traditional policy of seeking a plebiscite, whereas India is afraid of a chain reaction in its northeastern states.
That leaves us with one solution only, and that is granting a greater degree of autonomy to Indian-held Kashmir in phases.
If it has to succeed, the input on this should be coming jointly from the Pakistanis and the Kashmiris.
They can prepare its modalities through a consultative dialogue that can be held at any agreed place.
The gist of this suggestion is that Pakistan, which enjoys the trust of the Kashmiris, should act as a saviour by mediating between the Indians and the Kashmiris.
A timeframe can be set in this regard.
Would Pakistan agree to that? It should think about it.
First, because there is no other solution forthcoming.
Second, an autonomous state would be a great support to it.
Thirdly, by doing so, it would acquire a conflict-free environment, and the goodwill of the entire world.
Would the Kashmiris agree to it? They might not, but they should consider it because this is the only way to preserve the unity of the state.
No doubt, the greater autonomy would not satisfy their urge for freedom; but the fact remains that they are located in a valley that is economically unviable, and geographically landlocked, and they are struggling against heavy odds.
The success of their struggle would not depend on how much loss they inflict on the Indians; it would depend on the material, moral, military and political support of the world.
That, unfortunately, does not exist at present.
A greater economic interaction between both countries is vital for the betterment of the people.
If peace were achieved, a stage would soon arrive when trade caravans would replace guns and tanks.
However, this interaction should be gradual.
Would both countries go for a war to change the status quo? No, they will not.
Yet, the continuity of tension for a long period would amount to the same, because the losses thus incurred would be equal to those in a war.
We must strive for peace and seek a solution of the Kashmir issue to set out on the road to economic prosperity.
This article was published in FrontierPost, Pakistan.