Bilateralism or mediation no more an option

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Zaheer Bhatti

Never mind the Pakistani stance which may be viewed as subjective, as is that of India, but more discerning International Press in Britain ‘The Guardian’ and ‘Observer Research Foundation’ among others, made remarks that follow; each of its arguments stoically measured about the merger step taken by Modi’s Hinduvta-obsessed Government in India over part of Kashmir it controls.
“Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, and the ruling nationalist BJP stand accused of acting without proper legal authority by unilaterally revoking Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees Kashmir’s special status. Delhi’s arbitrary bifurcation of the state into two union territories (Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh) is also legally contentious. Opponents say Modi has opted for “raw power” over legitimacy. Modi ignored UN Resolutions on the internationally recognized dispute with Pakistan over sovereign control of the Kashmir region, and notably also disregarding the 1972 Simla Agreement stipulating that its final status must be settled by peaceful means. That point was made by UN Secretary General while appealing for ‘maximum restraint’.
Modi failed to consult Kashmir’s political leaders……. Quite the opposite, in fact, political leaders were placed under house arrest, the population placed under curfew, means of association and communication cut, and massive army deployment used to enforce Delhi’s diktat. By subverting Indian Constitution and removing Kashmiris’ right to self-governance, Modi has placed himself squarely in the wrong. To argue as he does, that Kashmir is solely an internal matter is to ignore the realities of 70-plus years of strife.”
“It is particularly striking how insouciant has been the reaction of governments around the world. The US and EU reiterated their Delhi-appeasing view that Kashmir is a bilateral not an international issue. Britain’s response was feeble……. Not a word of public criticism of Modi’s high-handed behaviour. Not a thought apparently about dire implications for the UN’s authority, International law and the so-called rules-based global order. Not an iota of understanding that India’s enhanced military occupation may revive a conflict that weaponizes religion, race and identity in place of democratic dialogue and inclusion……It is a lawless world where the rules no longer apply, where pacts and treaties are bypassed or torn up, where nations blindly pursue perceived self-interest and where minorities, however defined, are mocked, ignored and exploited…….In this harsh, ugly world, Modi argued that Kashmir has suffered from decades of violence and a lack of jobs and investment. It is certainly true as India’s record of human rights abuses in Kashmir is a shaming one.”
“By imperviously imposing his will, Modi only raises new obstacles to progress. This is not the way forward. It will not improve the lives of most Kashmiris. It will not ease the security burden on the Indian State. More likely, it will lead to political resistance across the board, escalating confrontation and the exploitation of tension by violent extremists on both sides. Modi claims a “new era” has begun. Kashmiris see only a new calamity.”
Pakistan’s reaction has been predictably hostile. Imran Khan, elected Prime Minister one year ago once spoke of improving relations with Delhi. Such hopes are shattered now. Khan and his Generals have sensibly avoided a military response, instead imposing diplomatic and trade sanctions. But this may not satisfy public opinion. Militants based in Azad Jammu & Kashmir will want more than ever to take the fight to India.
Khan has limited options as his country is severely in debt. Modi has been clever in strengthening ties with Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia which traditionally bankrolled Pakistan as none of them spoke up on Islamabad’s behalf. Meanwhile, relations with the US have become strained, not least over Afghanistan. No surprise then, that Pakistan has increasingly looked to China for support. Beijing was one of the few countries to condemn Modi’s coup as it has a geo-strategic interest in curbing India’s influence. It also has a territorial stake in Kashmir.
As India steamrolls into a deepening quagmire in Kashmir, Britain and other western countries must work to keep Islamabad on side and at peace. A bullish Modi cannot be relied on to eschew further provocations. The weaker and more isolated Pakistan becomes, the greater the risk it could hit out.”
Arguments such as these above are countless, but indeed if the UN which ostensibly alone remains the credible broker of peace in the present day world does not act on the side of justice in time it would be singled out by history when those who survive the aftermath of the inevitable clash sit to rue the outcome.
While China and Russia engage with Afghan Taliban recognized as the principle stakeholder and the High Peace Council in Afghanistan to broker peace in the region, the US still supporting the puppet Kabul Government for an intra-Afghan peace deal pretending ‘widespread and sincere demand of the Afghan people for a lasting peace and end to war in Afghanistan’, was actually smoke screening its safe exit from the weary war theatre. But in the context of Kashmir which is at best regarded as a human rights issue, the US together with the European Union do not see the urgency for liberation of the besieged people of Kashmir from Indian occupation which India had now apparently formalized.
While majority on the face of mother earth haplessly looks on to the double standards in this fast polarizing world, Pakistan has done nothing concrete after its position at the UN, to prevent its unlawful moves over Kashmir; thanks partly to the inappropriate timing of marches and protests which have diverted focus from bleeding Kashmir; more on the Maulana show next week.
My appeal nevertheless to the UN would be to carry out its obligation of plebiscite as an honest broker as there is no other dignified option left with any prospects of bilateralism over the issue buried for good due to Indian brash acts and attitude, and the highly suspect mediation offers, a non-starter.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

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