The skeptics say everyone hates a new idea in Kashmir. The first-ever roadmap by any Kashmiri separatist leader will test that theory, as it seeks what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described as "making borders irrelevant".
Sajad Gani Lone, leader of the Jammu Kashmir People's Conference, has released "Achievable Nationhood", a 295-page document. He said he wrote it over several months in a hotel in Gulmarg after evoking the prime minister's interest in the theme at a conversation in January 2006.
Lone, son of assassinated Kashmiri leader Abdul Ghani Lone, lays down an elaborate plan for Kashmir that seeks to make everyone happy – it does not change the borders, or the control of India and Pakistan over their respective territories, but proposes an unprecedented level of powers and freedom to the state administrations on both sides of the border.
"I think it is a practical proposal and it should be discussed along with others," said Ashok Behuria at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi. "But it will take some more maturity in the peace process before we can come to this stage."
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, head of the moderate faction of the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference, told the Hindustan Times, "There is a need to discuss this proposal. We would like to go through it in greater detail."
The plan includes the following proposals:
• Indian and Pakistani control remains confined to defence and foreign affairs, and currency.
• The two portions of Kashmir control communications, civil aviation, income tax, customs and other duties, and participation in international economic agreements.
• They become part of an economic union – but remain parts of India and Pakistan, respectively. Both Indian and Pakistani currency is legal tender on both sides.
• Kashmiri representatives, as members of Indian delegations, enter into diplomatic negotiations – even with Pakistan – on matters affecting the region, so long as they do not go against the authority of the Indian government.
• Visa-free cross-border access for residents on both sides.
• The number of troops deployed is mutually decided by New Delhi and the state administration.
• Both sides of Kashmir do not let their territory be used for hostile actions against India and Pakistan.
"This is a process of accommodation … we are trying to go from inflexibility to achievability," Lone told HT.
"I have not gone through it, it is a long document. But from what I have heard about it, I find that an economic zone is a good idea, it gives a degree of independence," Mehbooba Mufti, leader of the People's Democratic Party, the state's ruling coalition partner, told the Hindustan Times. "In today's world, sovereignty is a superficial idea, the concept of sovereignty is changing."
But Sheikh Showkat, a professor of international law at the University of Kashmir, said, "There are many realities he has overlooked, and others he has tried to magnify."