Imperatives of peace in South Asia | By Malik M Ashraf


Imperatives of peace in South Asia

SOUTH Asia, a sub-region of Asia is the most densely populated geographical landmass in the world which is home to one-fourth of the world population.

It is also one of the least developed regions of the globe which unfortunately is attributable to continued hostility between Pakistan and India over Kashmir and Indian disputes with almost all her neighbours.

However, the major cause of instability in the region and road-block to socio-economic development is the non-resolution of the Kashmir issue over which the two countries have fought three full-scale wars and a number of skirmishes.

SAARC also has failed to realize its objectives due to this enmity between the two major countries of the region.

India instead of fulfilling her obligations enshrined in the UN resolutions continues to deny the right of self-determination to the people of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and its security forces are engaged in violation of human rights and extra-judicial killings with impunity since 1989.

More than one hundred thousand Kashmiris have been killed and nearly eleven thousand women have been subjected to rape and gang rape.

The BJP government under Narendera Modi has further added to the gravity of the situation by scrapping the special status of the state, its annexation to the Indian Union and promulgation of new laws designed to change demographic realities of the occupied region.

The Indian government fearing a backlash imposed a complete lock-down in the state and severed its contact with the outside world by disrupting all means of communication including internet.

The Indian security forces have been using ruthless force to kill resistance and since 05 August 2019 they have killed 325 Kashmiris during cordon and search operations, 41 people have lost their life while in custody, 1753 have been subjected to torture, 446 have been injured with pallet guns out of which 163 lost their eye sight, 14636 civilians have been arrested and 106 women have been disgraced.

On 09 April 2021, the Indian security forces killed seven Kashmiris in Shopian and also desecrated a mosque.

The spokesman of Ministry of Foreign Affairs rightly described this incident as the manifestation of the unabated state-terrorism, attack on religious and cultural identity of the people of Kashmir and moral bankruptcy as well as the culture of impunity in IIOJ&K.

Indian actions in occupied territories are a negation of the UN resolutions, fourth Geneva Convention and international law.

The UNSC in its three informal meetings in the backdrop of repeal of article 370 of the Indian constitution and the following developments, unequivocally declared that the solution of the Kashmir dispute must be found in conformity with the principle of the UN Charter and UNSC resolutions.

The international community has also refused to accept Indian narrative of the developments in IIOJ&K being her internal affair.

The foregoing facts amply corroborate the illegitimacy of the Indian position on Kashmir and her attempts to forcibly keep people of the state under subjugation.

The continued hostility between Pakistan and India is not only hindering socio-economic progress of both the countries but is also jeopardizing peace and progress in the entire region and scuttling the chances of shared economic prosperity for which there exists enormous potential.

Indian leaders must realize that they cannot suppress the freedom movement in IIOJ&K with the barrel of the gun as is amply evident from the continued resistance against the Indian occupation.

History is also witness to the fact that freedom movements cannot be subdued through brutal use of force.

Under the circumstances India is better advised to revisit its stance in her own interest as well as the interest of the entire region.

Pakistan has made several peace overtures towards India without reciprocity.

Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and COAS General Bajwa in their discourses at the Islamabad Security Dialogue underscored the need for peace between the two countries and also made an offer to India for a dialogue to resolve the disputes between the two countries including the core issue of Kashmir, emphasizing that in the permeating situation India would have to make the first move.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry on 09 April also re-offered meaningful dialogue with India to resolve all the disputes between the two countries, including the core issue of Kashmir.

Nobody in his right mind can conceive peace and tranquillity in the region without peace between India and Pakistan.

The resolution of the Kashmir dispute, political will to bury the past and making a new beginning for peaceful co-existence are indispensable imperatives for peace in the South Asian region, which can unleash myriad of opportunities for both the countries to change fate of teeming millions on both sides of the divide as well as shared regional economic prosperity.

Recent developments including agreement between the DGMOs of the two countries to enforce ceasefire along the LoC, exchange of letters between the Indian Prime Minister and his Pakistani counterpart expressing the desire to live in peace and talks between the water commissioners of the two countries, are welcome moves to lessen the tension between the two countries.

However, there is a need to institutionalize the process of confidence building between the two countries which can eventually pave the way for substantive dialogue on the real causes of hostility between the two countries.

Since Kashmir dispute is an international issue and there are UN resolutions in regards to settling the issue, intervention by UN and other important world powers to facilitate this dialogue can also help in this regard.

Pakistan has always welcomed any such facilitation. Actually it is the responsibility of the UN to ensure the implementation of its resolutions which are still very much on its agenda or to play a decisive role in ending tension between the two nuclear neighbours.

— The writer is former Director General Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, based in Islamabad.