Analysts say New Delhi had worried that an independent Scotland would fuel independence movements in India.
A top separatist leader in India-administered Kashmir on Friday urged New Delhi to follow Britain’s lead in allowing Scotland’s independence referendum and let the Himalayan region hold a similar vote.
Militants have been fighting New Delhi’s rule in India-administered Kashmir for a quarter of a century and while violence has diminished, the issue of self-determination is still a divisive one in the scenic region. The Scottish referendum in which voters rejected independence by a 55-percent majority shows “the democratic character in Britain is very much alive,” said veteran separatist leader Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani.
“Freedom to choose is a basic right which should not be snatched from any nation as India has done in Kashmir for over six decades. It is inhuman,” he said. “India should learn from Britain and Kashmir should also get its right to self-determination,” Geelani added.
Kashmir has been a flashpoint in South Asia since the subcontinent was divided by Britain at independence in 1947 into India and Pakistan. Tens of thousands of people, mainly civilians, have died in the conflict that erupted in India-administered Kashmir in 1989 in which around a dozen groups have been fighting for the region’s independence or merger with Pakistan.
Indian security forces also are battling numerous insurgencies in the country’s far-flung northeast.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir. Both countries claim Muslim-majority Kashmir and each rule it in part.
India did not voice an official opinion about Scotland’s referendum, however, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj expressed horror last week in an unguarded moment at the prospect of Britain’s break-up. She told reporters: “God forbid,” before swiftly correcting herself and saying it was up to voters in Scotland to decide.
Indian newspapers said New Delhi had worried that a Scottish vote in favor of separation would fuel independence movements in Kashmir and the northeast.
In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Uzair Ahmed Ghazali, a leader of the pro-Pakistan militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, also praised Britain’s move to allow voters in Scotland to decide on their future. “The way Britain held the referendum proved that it is a great democratic country,” said Ghazali. “We will make this referendum in the U.K. a role model for our [Kashmiri] freedom movement,” he said.
Abdul Rasheed Turabi, head of the Kashmir chapter of the Jamaat-e-Islami religious party, said, “India should not claim it is a democratic country because it is not respecting the peoples’ opinion.” New Delhi insists that all of Kashmir is an integral portion of India.