In Kashmir, nearly half favour independence
Nearly half of the people living in the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir want their disputed and divided state to become an independent country, according to a poll published by think tank Chatham House.
London-based Chatham House says the poll is the first to be conducted on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), a military control line that has separated Indian and Pakistani controlled Kashmir since the U.N.-brokered ceasefire between two rivals in 1949.
The poll has produced startling results. On average 44 percent of people in Pakistani-administered Kashmir favoured independence, compared with 43 percent in Indian Kashmir.
But in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, which is at the centre of the two-decades-old anti-India insurgency, between 75 percent and 95 percent support freedom both from India and Pakistan.
The scenic Himalayan region, which is divided between three nuclear-armed neighbours India, Pakistan and China, comprises of three regions — Buddhist-dominated Ladakh, Hindu-dominated Jammu and Muslim-majority Kashmir valley.
Twenty one percent of the population said they would vote for the whole of Kashmir to join India, and only 15 percent said they would vote for it to join Pakistan.
At least 80 percent of Kashmiris on both sides of LoC say that the decades-old dispute is very important to them personally.
The other findings are:
At least 43 percent on the Indian side and 19 percent on Pakistani side are concerned about human rights abuses.
A strong 80 percent on the Indian side and 66 percent on the Pakistani side say unemployment is the most significant problem facing Kashmiris.
Over a third, 36 percent in both parts believed that rebel violence would be less likely to solve the Kashmir dispute, compared with nearly a quarter, 24 percent who thought it would be more likely to.
Robert Bradnock, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think-tank in London, told BBC that the results of the polls show no single proposition for the future of Kashmir which could be put to the population, and get majority support.
“The poll offers no simple fixes but offers signposts, through which the political process, engaging India, Pakistan and wider Kashmiri representation, could move it towards resolution,” Bradnock said.