In September 2018, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi takes the floor at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and makes a speech far more direct than most in the audience expect. “We seek resolution of disputes through a serious and comprehensive dialogue that covers all issues of concern. We were to meet on the sidelines of this UNGA Session to talk about all issues with India- India called off dialogue the third time for the Modi Government – each time on flimsy grounds. They preferred politics over peace.
“They used the pretext of stamps issued months ago, of a Kashmiri activist and depicting grave human rights violations, including pellet gun victims, as an excuse to back out from the talks. Dialogue is the only way to address long standing issues that have long bedevilled South Asia, and prevented the region from realising its true potential,” he stated.
Recent fuel to fire was the terrorist act of Indian forces direct shooting at demonstrators in Pulwama region of Indian Occupied Kashmir which claimed the lives of a number of innocent citizens.
Islamabad and New Delhi are certainly saying nothing new as far as their respective stances on Kashmir are concerned. Yet it is quite clear that the conflict in and about this long-disputed region is back at centre stage — and not entirely because of Pakistan’s efforts. Kashmiris have launched a non-violent agitation movement since 2010 amid arrests, custodial deaths and relentless military oppression. They have, indeed, paid a very heavy price for many decades to get their story across to the world.
The two new states – India and Pakistan – that emerged from the decolonisation process could not operate under the same legal, political and administrative paradigm which the British had left. The geographical unity of the two states could only be maintained if they came up with new political and legal arrangements to integrate swathes of territory, both big and small, that once belonged to the princely states. In order to deal with this challenge, the two states embarked on projects to absorb such territories into their respective borders as quickly as possible. There was no universally acknowledged single instrument to achieve this.
In the age of decolonisation, self-determination was considered a universal right and carried far more weight than the two-nation theory. Highlighting its absence as the core reason for the problem in Kashmir, indeed, forced India on the defensive. On several occasions, Nehru had to give assurances that a plebiscite would eventually take place and that the mandate of the Kashmiri people would be respected.
This Indian reaction convinced the Pakistani ruling elite that if it needed to force India to a negotiating table, it needed help — from powerful friends.
However, neither bilateral efforts or multilateral opinion, made any impact on India’s illegal and intransigent stance on Kashmir
The support to the right of self-determination of Kashmir remains embedded in popular and official reaction. As Pakistan commemorated the 53rd anniversary of the 1965 war with India, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of the Army Staff and arguably the powerful man in the country, partook in the celebrations, announcing that “Kashmir remains the unfinished business of partition”.
Across the LoC, India’s grip on Kashmir has never been stronger. With more than half-a-million soldiers stationed there, Kashmir is the most densely militarised area in the world. And enjoying an across-the-board political support for counterinsurgency measures, Indian governments of different ideological persuasions have felt no qualms in perpetuating a reign of terror against the Kashmiri civilians found protesting on the streets.
Chauvinistic and jingoistic rhetoric and policies prevail in India in its stance on Kashmir. The two governments keep assuring their electorate of the legitimacy of their position as well as their preparedness for war.
India is also opposing the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) seeing it as a threat, firstly, to maintain its hegemony in South Asia. Secondly, India wants to limit Pakistan’s economic development options. Thirdly, it also desires to publicise its false claim over Azad Jammu and Kashmir; and, lastly, India aims to undermine China’s economic advancement in a bid to contain its peaceful rise, by opposing and attempting to sabotage CPEC.
The rest of the world, meanwhile, remains a passive audience to the Kashmiri tragedy, in which the same characters are condemned to perform the same acts with the same tragic outcomes.
IF we want peace, let the Kashmiri people be given their basic right of a plebiscite. We are not warmongers; and our decision will bring peace to both India and Pakistan, too. The shift from extremism to democracy in Pakistan is a welcome change.
In his victory speech, Imran Khan said that Pakistan wants healthy relations with all neighbours on the basis of equality. This statement is a good start to mending ties between India and Pakistan. The election results in Pakistan were interesting because for the first time the people rejected individuals with extremist ideologies.
However, in India they campaign on the basis of extremism during elections. The communal cards like Babri Masjid versus Ram Janam Bumi, Hindutva Rashtriya, and organised Hindu–Muslim riots are intended to polarise the voters. Secularism in the nation is under threat. The rise of lynchings is a clear indication of Indian extremism.
Both India and Pakistan are developing nations with challenges like terrorism, drug wars, illegal trade and foreign pressures. War is not an option as both countries are nuclear powers. The unresolved Kashmir issue has worsened relations between the two neighbours.
Kashmiris want peace in both countries and wish for Indian and Pakistan to evolve a strategy to solve the Kashmir issue. It is a severe indictment of so-called international law, that the Kashmiri people are denied their infrangible right to self-determination, enshrined in multiple UN resolutions. The world turns a blind eye to India’s intransigence, illegal occupation of Kashmir and the dragonade unleashed by 500,000 Indian troops on a hapless Kashmiri population.