Just solution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute is indispensable for peace in South Asia

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Foreign Minister
Shah Mahmoud Qureshi
Islamabad

Our government came into office in 2018, focused on fulfilling the promise of delivering Naya Pakistan to our voters.

We wanted to provide education, jobs, and better health care by leveraging our connectivity infrastructure to foster regional trade and investment. We knew that this would require a peaceful neighborhood.

Accordingly, shortly after his election, Prime Minister Imran Khan declared that Pakistan “will take two steps towards peace, if India takes one.” He hoped that Pakistan and India would fight pov-erty instead of each other.

Unfortunately, the government of Prime Minis-ter Narendra Modi in India has no interest in peace.

India’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is steeped in the racist, hate-filled Hindutva creed of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a para-military organization whose founding fathers wrote admiringly of Hitler and Mussolini.

The BJP government thrives on inciting hate and violence against religious minorities – esp-cially Muslims – and builds political capital by sa-ber rattling against Pakistan.

Indeed, India’s pen-chant for brinkmanship brought our two nuclear-armed countries to the brink of war in February 2019. If tragedy was averted, it was only because of Pakistan’s restraint and no thanks to India.

We thought that a close brush with war would have sobered the Modi government. But we had underestimated the extent to which RSS ideology had infected the Indian government’s DNA.

New Delhi continued to spurn Pakistan’s offer for dialogue on the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir as well as other issues that bedevil our relationship. Prime Minister Modi, it appears, con-fused Pakistan’s desire for peace with weakness.

On Aug. 5, 2019, India imposed an armed siege and communications blackout on Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK). Since then, thousands of Kashmiris, including minors, have been arrested and tortured.

Popular Kashmiri lead-ers, like the 91-year-old Ali Shah Geelani, have always been at the receiving end of Indian state repression.

This time India did not even spare those political leaders, including three former chief minis-ters, who are seen by ordinary Kashmiris as enablers of the Indian occupation.

More than 8 million Kashmiris remain inmates in the largest open-air prison camp in the world today, with 900,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces standing watch over them. No credible ob-server or human rights organization can visit them lest their voices be heard.

India has forbidden U.S. Senators from visiting Kashmir. It has detained and deported a sitting British Member of Parliament because she had criticized Indian human rights vio-lations in Kashmir.

Since August 5 last year, the first anniversary of India’s military siege and lockdown in IIOJK, its security forces have killed 390 Kashmiris. In 2021 alone, Some 85 Kashmiris have been murdered in ex-tra-judicial killings.

Indian security forces routinely stage fake encounters to kill young Kashmiri protes-tors, and use pellet guns against women and chil-dren, blinding and maiming hundreds.

As Pakistan had warned, the Indian government is proceeding with the enactment of illegal measures to effect demographic change in Kashmir.

The dis-placement of the local population by non-residents in an internationally disputed territory is a violation of international law and, in particular, the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The entire spectrum of Kash-miri political leadership has rejected these moves by the Indian government to create “settler colonies.”

Mr. Modi’s actions have landed India and the region in a cul-de-sac. Baffled with its inability to crush the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination, India is looking for a new generation of collabora-tors from among the Kashmiri leadership to lend a gloss of legitimacy to its occupation.

Meanwhile, a systematic campaign to erase the Kashmiri people’s religious, cultural, and linguistic identity continues apace.

This, too, shall fail -just as all other attempts at quashing the Kashmiris’ demand for independence have failed.

What will the Indian government do then? Will it resurrect the familiar bogey of “cross-border ter-rorism” to smear the Kashmiri freedom struggle? Will it manufacture another crisis with Pakistan to deflect attention from the never-ending stream of scandals (including the recent revelations about India’s attempts to spy on Prime Minister Imran Khan) that keep rocking the BJP government?

India harbors ambitions to be a great power. In-deed, it has powerful champions who want to help India become a great power, but look the other way when India makes a mockery of the democratic values and human rights that they espouse.

It is incumbent on the international community to call India out on its atrocities against the Kash-miri people and push it towards a peaceful resolu-tion of the Kashmir dispute.

While a tenuous cease-fire has held across the Line of Control since Febru-ary, the situation remains tense.

And with the situa-tion in Afghanistan rapidly deteriorating, renewed regional tensions over Kashmir are in no one’s in-terest.

There is only one solution. India needs to re-verse its actions of August 5, 2019, and create con-ditions for a result-oriented dialogue with Pakistan and the legitimate representatives of the Kashmiri people towards the resolution of this longstanding dispute.

The people of South Asia – one of the poorest regions in the world – yearn for peace, prosperity, and a better future for their children.

They should not be held hostage to India’s stubborn refusal to face reality: that there can be no peace in South Asia without the peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

Shah Mahmoud Qureshi is the foreign minister of Pakistan. This article only reflects the views of the author.

—Courtesy: Tehran Times

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