InternationalVOLUME 14 ISSUE # 25

Kashmir in turmoil

The Indian government’s outrageous move to revoke the special status of occupied Jammu and Kashmir has renewed tension between India and Pakistan. It has not only jeopardized peace in the region but also in the world.

 

The decision has come weeks after US President Donald Trump offered mediation on the issue. The offensive proves the struggle of Kashmiris for their right to self-determination has become difficult to handle for India. The US President’s offer of mediation also proved to be an eyewash as the American reaction to India’s hostile action in Kashmir has disappointed Pakistan. He even failed to help maintain the old status of the disputed territory and condemn New Delhi’s move, which is against resolutions of the United Nations on the issue. It was also an insult to the US but its interests in the region forced it to keep quiet. The US State Department spokesperson issued a feeble statement on the matter, leaving out Pakistan. Instead, it appeared to support the Indian government’s outrageous claims, observing “the Indian government has described these actions as strictly an internal matter.” If it was an internal issue of India, why was the US President willing to mediate?

 

Analysts fear that the Indian action could further complicate the dispute that has been on the United Nations agenda for over 70 years but its resolutions have remained unimplemented. India’s other motives behind the move are to change the demography of the Muslim-dominated region and consolidate control over it. It is feared tensions between India and Pakistan are set to aggravate after the development, especially if they lead to intensification of the uprising in Kashmir. India, despite maintaining around 700,000 troops in the nearly 38,700-square-mile valley and committing some of the worst human rights abuses against the majority Muslim population, has not been able suppress their struggle for freedom from the illegal occupation. The movement has instead gained momentum since the killing of freedom fighter Burhan Wani by the Indian troops in 2016.

 

Pakistan has decided to counter the illegal Indian action of revoking the autonomous status of the occupied valley and Prime Minister Imran Khan has started reaching out to world leaders to take them into confidence on the implications of New Delhi’s move for regional peace and stability. In his conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, PM Khan said India’s illegal actions to modify the special status of India-held Kashmir would have serious implications for regional peace and security. President Erdogan, according to the PM Office, shared his concern over the situation and assured him of Turkey’s steadfast support. In his telephonic contact with Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, he said the Indian move may deteriorate the peace and security of the region and would further undermine the relations between the two neighbours with strategic capabilities. In its reaction to India’s annulling Article 370 of its Constitution that gave an autonomous status to the occupied territory, Pakistan Foreign Office said,” As a party to this international dispute, Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps.”

 

The offensive was expected as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had promised to end the autonomous status of India-held Kashmir and integrate the valley into the union in its election manifesto. Although the BJP had always been averse to Kashmir having a special status, yet it could not revoke it earlier because of its reliance on allies during its past stints in power. The 2019 elections gave the BJP a decisive majority, enabling it to implement its long-time plan. Before revoking the Article 370, New Delhi had deployed tens of thousands of additional troops to counter protests. Key Kashmiri political leaders were put under house arrest, tourists were evacuated, Amarnath Yatra (pilgrimage to a Hindu cave shrine), was cancelled and the Internet service in Kashmir was suspended.

 

Besides its moves in held Kashmir, India has attempted to provoke Pakistan by firing cluster ammunition on civilian populated areas of Azad Kashmir. The use of cluster bombs on the Neelum Valley caused multiple fatalities and injuries to several others, including children. Over the past few years, besides a spike in terms of intensity of ceasefire breaches, India has also resorted to calibre escalation and air space violations along Line of Control (LoC). The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) confirmed that on the night of July 30 and 31, the Indian army targeted the civilians in the Neelum Valley through artillery using cluster ammunition, which led to martyrdom of two civilians, including a four-year old boy, and injuries to 11 others. The ISPR, the media wing of the army, also released pictures of scattered munitions as well as those of the victims. According to Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), the number of casualties increased to four as another civilian fell victim to the shelling, whereas one of those wounded succumbed to injuries at hospital. The SDMA put the number of wounded in shelling incidents at 40. Pakistan will not remain silent for long on the use of cluster bombs against its civilian population and the world must intervene to stop India form worsening the situation.

 

The Indian government has dismissed feelings of the locals and international opinion by revoking the special status of the occupied territory. The move aims to achieve political gains, but it could backfire. The development has united people and leaders of occupied Kashmir. While leaders of freedom fighter, such as Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF head Yaseen Malik, have openly challenged India in the region, some erstwhile loyalists of India have also rejected the move to annex Kashmir. Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister of Indian-held Kashmir, termed it “the darkest day in Indian democracy” while Omar Abdullah, another former chief minister, also slammed the move.

Analysts say the coercive measures will give a fresh impetus to the struggle of Kashmiris for freedom from India. Pakistan will have to serve as their mouthpiece to muster support for them at international level. It must exhort Muslim countries to pay heed to the plight of Kashmiris and play their due role in resolving the issue. The international community must not sit idly by, as the issue could threaten world peace.

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