Mahathir & Erdogan’s bold stance on Kashmir

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Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi

DESPITE the fact that today the OIC needs to revitalize unity in its ranks and files, the two Muslim leaders —the Malaysian Premier and the Turkish President— have emerged on the international horizon to show their genuine and blunt concern on the situation in Kashmir. Malaysian Premier Mahathir Mohamad said he would not retract his criticism of New Delhi’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy. “We speak our minds, and we don’t retract or change,” Mahathir told reporters outside parliament on Tuesday. “What we are saying is we should all abide by resolutions of the [United Nations]. Otherwise, what is the use of the UN?” Meanwhile, Indian Premier Narendra Modi has cancelled a two-day trip to Turkey because of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s principled stance on Kashmir as he had criticised India’s illegal August 5 Kashmir move during his United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) address.
The Kashmir issue captures the popular imagination of Muslim leaders globally — a dynamic that Pakistan has sought to exploit at the OIC. Considering Pakistan’s Islamic credentials that give it a prominent status in the OIC, Islamabad has sought to establish consensus among OIC member states in condemning New Delhi’s Kashmir policy that it argues seeks to undermine the rights of the Muslim population in the state. Several OIC member states, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan, have a strong Islamic identity; hence, issues that invoke Muslim solidarity have become part of OIC’s Islamic Summits and its Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM).
Addressing the UN General Assembly, Erdogan had said that a solution to the Kashmir issue, which has persisted for 72 years, could only be found through dialogue. “In order for the Kashmiri people to look at a safe future together with their Pakistani and Indian neighbours, it is imperative to solve the problem through dialogue and on the basis of justice and equity, not through clashes,” Erdogan said. He said eight million people of Jammu and Kashmir are “virtually under blockade, unfortunately, unable to step outside of Kashmir,” referring to an Indian government’s clampdown imposed last month. In a thanksgiving letter, Turabi, who is also the chairman of All Parties Kashmir Council — an alliance of different political parties to support the pro-freedom struggle in Jammu and Kashmir, said: “Erdogan has become the voice of the oppressed people across the globe without distinction, stands for justice, equality and freedom.’’
India is considering placing curbs on some imports from Turkey and Malaysia, in response to their leaders’ comments on the autonomy of Kashmir, people familiar with the matter said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is exploring the possibility of both tariff and non-tariff measures to limit the import of goods from the two countries, the people said, asking not to be identified as a final decision is yet to be taken. The options include stringent quality tests and a safeguard tax in addition to existing levies, they said. There is, however, a disquietude in New Delhi ever since both Ankara and Kuala Lumpur espoused Islamabad vociferous concern over Modi’s move of revoking the special status to Jammu and Kashmir on 5 August.
The Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisation (Mapim) has urged Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to not relent to India over his recent remarks on the Jammu & Kashmir conflict, made at the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York. Its President Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid said they were in full support of the Prime Minister’s stand on the issue. While addressing the floor of the UNGA, Malaysian PM Mahathir had advocated New Delhi to comply with international norms and UNSC resolutions on the question of allowing Kashmiris the right to self-determination. The Malaysian Prime Minister said, “The problem must be solved by peaceful means. India should work with Pakistan to resolve this problem. Ignoring the UN would lead to other forms of disregard for the UN and the Rule of Law.” “Dr Mahathir’s call was reasonable and made sense. We feel that the people of Kashmir had benefited from the resolution of the United Nations, and all we are saying is that we should all abide, not just India and Pakistan, but even the United States of America and other countries,” he said in a statement.
During his address at UN’s September session in New York, Erdoðan used Western academic citations and illustrations based on Western values explained the brutal actions of Israel and India in Palestine and Kashmir, two unsolved issues of British colonial past. This prevented Erdoðan from being labelled anti-Semitic. Yet, Erdoðan’s other key arguments, “the world is bigger than five” and his proposal of “nuclear power should either be free for all or banned,” hit headlines in major TV channels and newspapers like Reuters, Deutsche Welle and the Daily Mail. Khan’s image, on the other hand, was portrayed as a “humanist” and his posture in mainstream Western media shows that his cautionary proposals must be taken seriously.
Given the principled stance demonstrated by both the Malaysian and the Turkish leadership, the Indian analysts are bound to agree that Pakistan has succeeded in internationalizing the issue of occupied Kashmir. The growing partnership between Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan cannot work miracles to that end, but it is nevertheless an important alliance to mutually resolve the emerging Kashmir crises. Appalling as that sounds in our supposedly civilized world where apparently much is being voiced on the notions of democratic rights but as for the Kashmir case, a far greater horror has been looming over Kashmir’s 10 million Muslims for the last 83 days. And, truly speaking, it hovers specifically – and by design – just above the heads of every Kashmiri individual – ironically, a humanitarian catastrophe for these men, children, and, to our collective human shame, most especially Kashmir’s women. Veritably, the risk of violence against Kashmiri women leaps exponentially higher in the muffling dark of Kashmir’s communication lockdown exercised by the Modi’s government.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.

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