India has failed to capture hearts & minds of Kashmiris


KASHMIR continues to bleed. We see the horrendous brutality, unstopped and unpunished barbarities unleashed against the defenceless population. A deliberate, systematic and officially sanctioned massive campaign of brutal oppression launched against the people of Kashmir is still on the increase. There is a deliberate targeting of youth in flimsy hopes to crush a legitimate and popular uprising against occupation. The irony is that the impunity that is being granted to the violator of human rights is not in the context of a new dispute. It is being allowed to arise and to persist in a territory which, under international law, is not part of any member state of the United Nations and whose status is yet to be determined through a free and impartial plebiscite under supervision and control of the United Nations. As much as the cruelty to which the Kashmiris have been subjected, the virtually permissive inaction of the great powers regarding their situation has been a cause of the greatest sorrow to the people of Kashmir. What makes this indifference impossible to understand is that the Kashmir problem is not politically an uncharted terrain about which no road map exists? The United Nations has at its inception devoted immense labor and thought to its solution. The fact cannot be gainsaid or dismissed that the terms of settlement it recommended did elicit the agreement of both India and Pakistan. They may need to be revised now but their basis, the consent of the people of Kashmir, remains inviolable. Neither pragmatism nor morality sanctions the setting aside of this basis.
It is gravely sinful for a nation to remain silent or passive over frightful human rights violations anywhere in the world, including Kashmir. Edmund Burke wrote that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing. Bishop Desmond Tutu lectured, “Apathy in the face of systematic human rights violations is immoral. One either supports justice and freedom or one supports injustice and bondage.” Sadly, it is true that the international community and particularly developed countries see economic potential in India. They don’t want to lose this economic opportunity by raising the question of human rights in Kashmir. Otherwise, the situation in Kashmir is no more difficult than in East Timor and Southern Sudan. The only difference is that there is no international electronic media that can show the activities in Kashmir to the outside world. New Delhi should accede to international law in Kashmir, to cooperate in holding a referendum administered by a neutral agency, and welcome third party intervention or mediation to solve any prickly details. India itself will benefit by the vast savings in military and paramilitary force in Kashmir, and by the more favorable investment environment that would follow on the heels of peace in Kashmir. India should also recognize that it has failed to capture the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people, and should disengage from Kashmir.
Otherwise, Kashmir will remain a dangerous canker in India’s body politic with incalculable consequences. A nation displays its greatness by confessing error or shortcomings and taking remedial action, not by stockpiling nuclear warheads and missile delivery systems. Although it is neither for Pakistan nor for India to determine the self-determination timetable for more than 22 million Kashmiris, the people of Kashmir welcome any peace initiative between Prime Minister Imran Khan & Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which include negotiations over Kashmir. The people of Kashmir believe in the universality of human rights and human aspirations as well as the universality of peace and prosperity. Thus, they welcome the initiative to the extent it seeks to lift a heavy financial and military burden from the necks of Pakistanis and Indians. At present, both rivals expend staggering sums on maintenance of troops and the acquisition of weapons, including nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles.
Between India’s insistence that a settlement must be “within the four corners of the Indian Constitution” and Pakistan’s demand that it must be based on the international agreement embodied in the UN Security Council resolutions, there cannot be a meeting point which the two governments can find by themselves. Neither can disentangle itself from the massive under growth of the dispute. There needs to be a third way which neither admits nor challenges any claim of either party. Right now, we should be concerned to set a stage for a settlement rather than the shape of the settlement. The question of the shape of the settlement needs to be set aside if the dispute is to be put on the road to a settlement. The solution to the suffering of everyone in Kashmir lies in finding a peaceful, negotiated settlement to the crisis. This can only happen if the United States and the United Nations take an active role in facilitating a dialogue between all the parties to the dispute — India, Pakistan and Kashmiri leadership. Any attempt to strike a deal between two without the association of the third, will fail to yield a credible settlement. This has been made unmistakably clear by the flimsy arguments that were contrived in the past seven decades. Bilateralism has been a spectacular failure and nothing has changed in the intransigent position of India. Why stick with failure?
—The writer is Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum. The article is based on his speech at Mosaic Centre, Edmonton & Edmonton Community Centre, Alberta, Canada.