HUMAN rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir are not an internal matter of the India, said Iyad Amin Madani, Secretary-General of the OIC, a day after UNSG’s land mark response to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s letter, appreciating Pakistan’s efforts towards peaceful settlement of Kashmir dispute. The OIC SG told a joint press conference along with Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz that the situation in Kashmir was deteriorating and urged the international community to act.
August 14-15 were celebrated by Pakistan and India as respective independence days— tenor of celebrations was as if both are rejoicing independence from each other rather than from the colonial master—Britain. This time Pakistan had dedicated its independence day to the ongoing freedom struggle in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). And to re-rail the process of bilateral negotiations with India, Pakistan rolled out two bold initiatives: inviting India to talk on Kashmir in line with both countries’ obligations with regard to UNSC resolutions; and to formalize both sides’ unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing into a bilateral arrangement—both hard nuts for India to crack.
The latest letter written on August 19, invites Indian Foreign Secretary to visit Islamabad by the end of this month to discuss the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, with a view to finding a fair and just solution, as per the United Nations Security Council resolutions and aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Though ping pong of dialogue may commence soon, the evasive processes would continue for some time until India finds another excuse to suspend the talks, yet once again. Dismissing Pakistan’s offer for a dialogue on Kashmir alone, India made it clear on August 13 that it would talk on “contemporary and relevant” issues. “India would welcome a dialogue on contemporary and relevant issues in India-Pakistan relations. At this time they include a stoppage of Pakistani support for cross border terrorism, infiltration of terrorists”, Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Vikas Swarup stated. However, ex CM of IOK Omar Abdullah stated on August 19 that Pakistan was ‘not architect of present crisis: “They are not architects of problem and they are not keeping it alive. It is our inability to address this anger that is keeping it alive.”
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is alarmed at the violence in IOK, and has sought access to probe serious human rights violations. “We requested full and unhindered access to the affected population, to interview a variety of individuals on the ground, including victims, witnesses, security forces, and with access to relevant documentation,” UN HCHR Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that our sincere attempts to independently assess the facts in relation to reports of human rights violations have failed”, he added. Pakistan has a history of inviting Human Rights entities and giving them access to Balochistan even when insurgency was at its peak, the tradition would continue. Pakistan also has no issue in granting access to UN HCHR to AJK, however problem is in IOK. While Modi unleashed an unprecedented onslaught against Pakistan and supported insurgencies in Balochistan and Gilgit, the IOK chief minister pleaded for India and Pakistan to work together for peace in Kashmir. Indeed, Mufti’s conciliatory postures towards Pakistan, her statement that Indian national leadership is behind the woes of the Kashmiri people and her repeated public apologies for killing of Burhan Wani and those protesting his death are reflective of ground reality. Kashmiris in IOK observed a shutdown on India’s independence day to protest against Indian occupation, raised Pakistani flags and celebrated Pakistan’s independence day with traditional zeal and fervour; thousands of people defied a curfew and took to streets in Kulgam, Islamabad, Pulwama, Bandipora and other districts.
Former Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid has criticized Modi for making reference to Balochistan. “By raising Balochistan, the government is ruining its case on Azad Kashmir,” he said. Ashutosh Varshney, director of the Centre for Contemporary South Asian Studies at Brown University, said Modi’s public citation of the troubled Pakistani regions was “a huge stiffening of rhetoric against Pakistan — entirely novel”. “This is a recalibration” after Modi’s overtures to Pakistan and China failed to yield results, says Harsh V. Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College London. It’s also a message to China: “You may be investing a lot in Pakistan, and think that CPEC is a done deal, but without India’s approval you might find it difficult to follow through. “Modi’s statement is meant as much for Beijing as for Islamabad,” journalist Prashant Jha wrote in an opinion piece for the Hindustan Times. Ashok Malik, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, said the comments suggest New Delhi was preparing for protracted difficulties in Kashmir. “It’s also a bit of a message to China that we aren’t going to take [Chinese infrastructure plans] lying down,” he said. Modi drew a rightful rebuke from PM Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, who termed it a proof that New Delhi was fomenting terrorism in the volatile province. “Remarks of Modi are aimed at raising the bugbear of human rights violations in Pakistan to divert attention from what his forces are doing in Occupied Kashmir”, Sartaj added.
Near simultaneous IOK focused interventions by the UN SG and IOC SG indicate changing of winds. These are eye openers for India. It is a clear testimony that the international community understands the situation and is appreciative of the principled stand taken by Pakistan. Though one appreciates the offer made by UNSG that he is ready to facilitate dialogue on Kashmir but the condition attached to it that request should come both from India and Pakistan makes it a non-starter. Pakistan has all along been willing to welcome the UN facilitation, while India has all along been rejecting it. Time has come for a UNSG letter to the Indian Prime Minister urging him to stop human rights violations in IOK, and cooperate with the UN for holding plebiscite. The OIC SG’s letter to Indian PM is also a need of the hour, asking the Indian PM to allow OIC fact finding mission to visit IOK.
— The writer is consultant to IPRI on policy and strategic response.