A SOLUTION FOR KASHMIR?
The Aland Islands are an archipelago on which live about
30,000 people most of whom are Sweden. The distance from
Sweden is 30 miles whereas they constitute clearly a
projection of the Finnish Mainland. The majority of the
Islanders, however, wanted to become part of Sweden. Sweden
had a vital strategic interest in these Islands.
Russia had a military base in the Aland
Islands during First World War, although the Islands had
been demilitarised earlier. When the Russian Revolution
took place, Sweden and Finland both made attempts to
establish their authority. A Swedish military force
succeeded in occupying the islands and later obtained help
from Germans who sent warships.
The matter came before the Paris Peace
Conference. In 1919 (May) Finland granted the islanders
autonomy. This was regarded as insufficient by the Swedish
inhabitants who appealed to Sweden. Finally the Swedish
government and Finish government almost came to war with
At the League: The League took up
the matter at Britain’s initiatives. The Swedish government
demanded a plebiscite. The Finish government opposed this
on plea of domestic jurisdiction.
The dispute was finally adjudicated by the
League by rejecting the right of self-determination
on the part of the Islanders. It was pointed out that the
Islanders were not the only Swedish speaking people in
Finland. 90% were in other parts of Finland. Finnish
sovereignty over the Aland islands was recognised, subject
to the proviso that the population should be assured of its
autonomous rights with a League of Nations guarantee. The
decision was accepted by both Sweden and Finland.
Steps taken by Finland
A special constitution for the Aland islands.
Local administration headed by a council
Autonomous prerogatives over economic and cultural affairs.
A governor appointed by Finland who has the right to veto
legislation if conflicting with the laws of Finland.
Exemption from military service for the population.
Swedish as official language.
The Aland islanders have the right to appeal directly to the
League of Nations if their autonomous rights are violated.
At a special international conference in 1921, the Islands
were demilitarised. One of the disputes successfully
settled by the League of Nations can provide some guidance
in the present dispute between India and Pakistan. We can
recall that Sweden and Finland almost came to war with each
other over a dispute of territory which has interesting
parallels with the Kashmir case.
Sweden like Pakistan wanted a plebiscite to
be held in the disputed territory. She rested her case on
the grounds that the inhabitants of the territory were eager
to join Sweden with which they had close ties. Finland like
India was opposed to this demand and pointed out that
Finnish sovereignty was clear over the disputed area and
that the Islanders were only small part of the total of the
minority of Swedish speaking people who were citizens of
The Aland case and the Kashmir case are of
course widely different as far as the areas and populations
involved are concerned. Also the territory in the
Finish-Swedish dispute is contiguously situated to the
Finnish coast and is separated by 30 miles of water from
Sweden. This last point is not conclusive because it was
acknowledged that the Islands are strategically important
for Sweden and they are separated from the Finish mainland.
The settlement of the Finnish-Swedish
dispute would suggest a solution of the Kashmir dispute on
the lines of both Pakistan and India granting autonomy to
their part of Kashmir and this could be safeguarded by a
right of appeal to the United Nations if the autonomous
rights are violated.