Chapter 1: A series of fortunate events

It is the year 2029. Five years since Kashmir gained its independence from India and Pakistan. What a joyous day it was exactly six years to the day when the results of the plebiscite were announced and Kashmiris came out in throngs to cast their votes for which they had yearned for over 80 years.  The plebiscite was monitored by the UN and never before had an election been so closely monitored. All polling booths had 24 hour monitoring by security cameras. Although both India as well Pakistan still had a sizable military presence in the few bases they still occupied; however, the troops were barred from leaving their bases during the polling days without prior UN approval. 

People had the option of advance voting for upto six days before the main day of plebiscite which was on May 15. The plebiscite was being undertaken by the UN. All together more than 120 countries volunteered their resources for this plebiscite. The majority of the peacekeeping force consisted of EU forces and the military operations were supervised by a Turkish commander General Mustafa Sairgul. 

Voting started at 7 A.M and people had started lining up outside the booths from the night before. The last vote could be cast until 10 P.M the same day. As per UN directions, the results had to be declared within 12 hours. No one could sleep on that day. People had seen elections for the state assembly under India, but none had the legitimacy as this plebiscite. This would decide the fate of an entire nation. How could anyone sleep that night.

With people still camping out in the streets in the cool night in the month of May, and people dancing and singing traditional songs, Vanvun as Kashmiris call it, everyone was awaiting the results, how could anyone sleep on this night.

The UN appointed commissioner of elections, Mr Schwartzkopff, finally appeared on TV just after midnight and started to give a brief explanation of how the voting results were tallied and the procedure he had to follow. He explained that although there was regional variance in the results; however as per UN guidelines the former state of J&K would not be divided and he would therefore congratulate the people of Kashmir who have chosen independence. 

There was not a happier day in Kashmir. There were loud noises of music blaring through loudspeakers and fireworks that lit the sky. At one moment there were so many firecrackers in the sky that it seemed it was daylight.

Both India and Pakistan had earlier withdrawn a majority of their troops from all areas of Kashmir but still maintained a few bases in Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. Shortly after the results of the plebiscite was declared, both countries had been ordered by a UN sanction to vacate all remaining forces within 12 months. Thereafter May --, 2024 was declared as Kashmir's Indepedence Day.

As was aniticipated, there was widespread violence in Jammu city and Leh. Kashmir was still under UN supervision and the EU Commander in charge of all security in Kashmir , Gen. Sairgul requested more international assisstance in maintaining law and order in Jammu city and Leh.

It was agreed upon that there will be a transition period whilst India and Pakistan remove all their troops from Kashmir. Kashmir will be supervised by a UN military mission while a democratically elected government is in place. This way no single political party could manipulate the outcome in their favour. All parties, including the pro-India and Pro-Pakistan, as well as pro-Independence parties could participate in these elections. 

Miscreants in Jammu city and Leh had called for a complete boycott of all elections as they claimed that they had voted to join India in the plebiscite therefore all subsequent elections for the Kashmir parliament or for regional councils are meaningless. All political leaders had promised more autonomy to the Jammu and Ladakh regions and promised them complete autonomy and guaranteed representation in the governance of Kashmir.

The resolution to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir was put forth by a special UN committee, which was formed on the recommendation of the UN Security Council in August 2018. That resolution was subsequently debated in the UN General Assembly the following year. "This is a direct assault on the integrity of a sovereign nation, and it is only a matter of time before other sovereign countries will be asked to hold plebiscites in their own troubled regions.", the Indian envoy to the UN, Mr. Prashant Mishra, had warned other member states in his deliberation to the UN General Assembly. The American Ambassador to the UN, Ms Marianne Klassen argued in favour of the plebiscite and noted that, "...the people of Kashmir had been promised a plebiscite by the UN Assembly eighty years ago. It is time to live up to that promise and grant them the basic right of freedom of choice. It is imperative that democracy prevail. That is the least we can do for these beleaguered people.", she had said. The resolution was put to vote in April 2020 and passed with majority of the members voting in favour and only a few abstentions. India was the lone opposer. The security council subsequently held a series of meetings and ratified the resolution. Earlier, China and Russia were rumored to have promised India that they would use their veto power to halt the resolution. Chinese concerns were primarily affixed to the spillover this resolution might have in Tibet. And the Russians were wary of the parallelism that the Kashmir issue had with their troubled region of Chechnya. Inspite of these hurdles, the US had given assurances to both veto wielding powers that a plebiscite in Kashmir would not cascade into demands for plebiscites in Chechnya or Tibet. This seemed to have worked and with US backing, Kashmir was guaranteed a plebiscite.

Immediately after the resolution was passed, there were widespread riots in most states of India. The opposition BJP had threatened a mass procession right upto Srinagar where they had warned they would set up tent colonies in parks and roadsides to assert Indian dominance. "Kashmir is an integral part of our country and an inseparable limb of mother India. You cannot behead our mother and expect us not to react. We give little importance to the UN resolutions. We dare them to even lay a finger on Kashmir", an ailing L.K. Advani had warned from his bedside in Delhi's Apollo hospital. A mammoth procession of close to a fifty thousand heavily armed hindu fundamentalist supporters of Indian Member of Parliament from Pilibhit, UP, Varun Gandhi, were stopped while making their way to Delhi. Police had to use tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds. He had warned that he would lead the procession to Srinagar within weeks as buses would become available. He never made it - the UN forces were here before.

"A new era of peace and prosperity will usher in South Asia", declared President Christina Williams in reference to the impending plebiscite in Kashmir. She was the first female US president and had served in the Obama administration as Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia under Hillary Clinton. She was later appointed as the Secretary of State during President Obama's second term. Her lasting legacy in her role as Secretary of State was bringing peace to the Middle-East and resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict. This made her an immediate favourite in the US as well as the rest of the world, and she easily cruised to victory in the 2016 US Presidential election. No other previous Democratic candidate in US history had won by a 73% popular vote. 

She was determined to resolve the longest unresolved conflict in the world. In 2016, during the last few months of President Obama's presidency, both India and Pakistan had successfully tested laser guided missiles capable of carrying nuclear payloads with a range of over ten thousand miles. The world was horrified at the prospect of yet another war, and none doubted that the Kashmir conflict needed to be resolved to eliminate the only remaining nuclear flashpoint in the world. Kashmir was the most urgent agenda at the Whitehouse.