Indian, Pakistani publics are open on Kashmir solution

July 17th, 2008 - 10:31 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, July 17 (IANS) Half or more of the Indian and Pakistani public are open to a range of possible outcomes for Kashmir other than it being part of their respective countries, according to a new Network poll. The poll also shows that on neither side is there strong majority opposition to Kashmir becoming an independent country or dividing Kashmir between Pakistan and India, the network of research centres run by the Programme on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland said Wednesday.

More significant, Indians and Pakistanis show a readiness to have the Kashmiri people decide their fate, it said. “If a majority of all Kashmiris were to choose independence, a majority of Indians and Pakistanis would find such independence at least tolerable.”

“Given the deep roots of the conflict over Kashmir, it is surprising that the conflict does not muster clearly polarised majorities in Pakistan and India, falling in line behind their governments’ positions,” said Clay Ramsay, research director of the network. “Instead, many show openness to considering different possibilities for resolving the conflict.”

Overall both sides endorse their own governments’ approach to the conflict over Kashmir, especially Pakistanis (Indians 57 percent, Pakistanis 68 percent). Only minorities on either side call for their government to take a harder or softer line on the Kashmir issue in its dealing with the other country, the poll said.

A majority of Pakistanis say Pakistan’s government does not provide support to militant groups that conduct attacks against civilians in India, while a majority of Indians tend to believe it is providing support.

Pakistani attitudes about such groups are complex. Less than half (39 percent) believe that such groups operating in Kashmir help either the security of Kashmiris, though few (9 percent) say it hurts security.

In the context of the conflict in Kashmir, large majorities of Pakistanis say that attacks on Indian government officials are rarely or never justified. Attacks on security-related personnel in India - policemen, intelligence agents, military and paramilitary troops - are rejected by a plurality.

Asked about the possibility of the government “putting pressure on India by supporting militant groups in ‘occupied’ Kashmir,” (controlled by India) 37 percent favoured it, while 26 percent opposed it and 37 percent did not provide an answer.

In the survey, Indians and Pakistanis were asked to consider a range of possible outcomes for the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and to say whether they found them desirable, acceptable, tolerable, or unacceptable.

The idea that received the lowest level of opposition is for Jammu and Kashmir to become independent, the poll said.

Three quarters of Pakistanis called this outcome desirable or acceptable. While 50 percent of Indians said this idea is unacceptable, the other half said it was at least tolerable or did not provide an answer.

The idea of dividing Jammu and Kashmir between Pakistan and India gets little support on either side, but is also not opposed by a large majority. Pakistanis were roughly divided between 52 percent who found the idea unacceptable and 48 percent who said it was at least tolerable or did not answer.

Among Indians, while 42 percent found division unacceptable, 58 percent said it was at least tolerable or did not answer.

However the greatest indicator of flexibility is that Indians as well as Pakistanis express a readiness to have the Kashmiri people decide their fate, said.

Respondents were asked to “suppose the majority of all Kashmiris, including those on both sides of the Line of Control and refugees, want Kashmir to be an independent state.”

In that case only 35 percent of Indians would find independence unacceptable. Among Pakistanis, only 11 percent found this outcome unacceptable.

The survey of 907 urban respondents in Pakistan was carried out by AC Nielsen-Pakistan between September 12 and September 28, 2007. In India, Team C Voter carried out the survey of 1,258 urban respondents in two waves during October and November of 2007.

The network said the sampling error for the Pakistani sample was about 3.3 percentage points. In the case of India, sampling error was put at about 2.8 percentage points.

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