SIXTY years after the independence of the Sub-continent from British rule, the status of Kashmir remains the most contentious issue between Pakistan and India, with a survey showing that a majority of Kashmiris living in Srinagar want to see the disputed territory as an independent country.
This is in marked contrast to the aspirations of not only the people living in India and Pakistan, but also those in Hindu-dominated Jammu, who overwhelmingly favoured the region’s accession to India.
The survey, sponsored by Dawn News, CNN-IBN, Dawn and Indian Express in the last week of July and the first week of this month, was carried out by AC Neilsen in the top 10 cities of Pakistan and by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in India’s top 20 cities.
The survey confirms the belief that people of the two countries have many things in common. Although they are dissatisfied with the current economic circumstances of their households, 36.9 per cent in Pakistan and 46.7 per cent people in India are optimistic that their lot will improve in the years to come.
A majority in both countries has faith in democracy.
Although most people in the two countries have no confidence at all in the police, they look up to the courts as an emancipator.
The opinion poll carried a number of questions ranging from political issues and bilateral relations to show business and sports. The pollsters sought the opinion of 1,011 people in urban Pakistan and 2,030 in urban India.
The CSDS conducted a special poll in Srinagar and Jammu city by interviewing 226 and 255 persons respectively.
KASHMIR: The findings of the survey showed 87 per cent of the respondents in Srinagar want that “Kashmir should be an independent country”. Forty-seven per cent of the respondents in Pakistan and only 15 per cent in India had the same opinion.
Interestingly, 95 per cent of the respondents living in
Hindu-dominated Jammu favoured the accession of entire Kashmir to India. Similarly, 67 per cent of urban Indians want that Kashmir should be a part of India.
The survey showed a majority of urban Pakistanis do not want to see Kashmir’s accession to India. Forty-eight per cent of the respondents favoured the merger of the disputed territory with their country while 47 per cent want to see Kashmir as an independent state.
Only three per cent Pakistanis would like the present status of Kashmir to continue, compared with 16 per cent in India.
PAKISTAN-INDIA RELATIONS: The respondents were also put several questions relating to the ongoing confidence-building measures (CBMs) and future relationship between Pakistan and India.
The response showed that 57 per cent people in India wanted continuation of the CBMs without resolution of the Kashmir dispute. On the other hand, 55 per cent of Pakistanis believe that Pakistan-India friendship is not possible without the resolution of the issue.
While more people in Pakistan (80.7pc) than in India (78.4pc) said that the two countries should resolve their issues through negotiations, almost twice the number of people in India (16pc) than in Pakistan (9pc) felt that war was the only solution to the problems between the two states.
According to the poll, Indians are more optimistic than Pakistanis regarding the relationship between the two countries in the coming years. As many as 46.4 per cent Indians are hopeful of an improvement while the figure for Pakistan is 28.3.
A whopping 67 per cent of Indian respondents said the two countries should forget their past and work towards a friendly future. The view was shared by only 44.2 per cent in Pakistan.
On the issue of trade, almost half of Pakistanis and 64 per cent of Indians feel that the two countries should promote greater bilateral trade.
Surprisingly, despite having a yearning for good relations, a majority of Indians and Pakistanis do not want to visit the other country. As many as 60 per cent of the Indians do not want to visit Pakistan and 61 per cent Pakistanis say that they do not have a desire to go to India.
US ROLE: Fifty per cent Indians and 35 per cent Pakistanis are of the opinion that the US is not a real friend of either country. Less than 10 per cent people in both countries feel the US is more friendly to Pakistan, whereas almost one-third of Pakistanis feel the US is more friendly to India. Only eight per cent Pakistanis and 11.2 per cent Indians feel that the US is equally friendly to both countries.
In Pakistan, 35 per cent of the respondents “fully agree”, and 33.3 per cent “somewhat agree”, that the government acts on the instructions of the US, whereas in India only 15.4 per cent “fully agree” and 24.9 per cent “somewhat agree” that their government works under Washington’s influence.
In response to a question regarding future relationship with the US, 11.5 per cent Pakistanis “fully agree”, and 22 per cent “somewhat agree” that it is in the interest of the country to have friendship with the US.
India seems to be equally divided between those who take a positive view of their government’s efforts to forge a strategic partnership with the United States. Twenty-three per cent of the respondents supported while 25 per cent opposed the relationship.
Over half of the Indians and 41 per cent Pakistanis are of the opinion that the `war against terrorism’ is nothing but an excuse to exercise power over other countries.
TRUST IN INSTITUTIONS: The survey revealed that Indians had more faith in their government than Pakistanis. The majority of Indians and Pakistanis have no faith at all in their police service, but there is a big disparity between Indians’ and Pakistanis’ trust in the army.
A staggering 64.6 per cent Indians said they had trust in the army, compared with just 38.6 per cent in Pakistan. The number of people in Pakistan who do not trust the army at all is twice that in India.
Almost 50 per cent of Pakistanis said they did not have `very much’ or `no trust’ at all in their parliament, whereas in India, 20 per cent more people than in Pakistan trust their parliament.
Neither Pakistanis nor Indians appear to trust the political parties, with 33 per cent in India and 36 per cent in Pakistan having no faith at all in the parties. A most marked mismatch and, crucially for Pakistan with elections looming, a mere six per cent said they had faith in the election commission while the figure for India was 34.3.
CRICKET: Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi and Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar are the most popular cricketers in the two countries.
Pakistanis’ favourite cricketer is Shahid Afridi, followed by Imran Khan and Shoaib Akhtar while Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid are their favourite Indian cricketers.
Shahid Afridi, Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar are the three most popular Pakistani players in India.
SHOW BUSINESS: The response was pretty evenly split, with 52.6 per cent Pakistanis saying they do not, and 47 per cent saying they do, watch Bollywood movies.
The most popular Indian actor in Pakistan is Shah Rukh Khan, followed by Salman Khan. Amazingly enough, Amitabh Bachchan comes third. Pakistanis consider Aishwariya Rai, Rani Mukharjee and Kajol as the best Indian actresses, in that order.
Twenty-two per cent Indians watch Pakistani television channels while 30 per cent listen to Pakistani music.