Muhammad Saad Khattak
KASHMIR is one of the longest unresolved dispute on the UN Charter since last over seven decades. Well before independence of the subcontinent, Pakistan Resolution was passed on 23 March 1940 on the basis of “Two Nations Theory” that is proving right as evidenced in today’s India. Subsequently as per the Partition Plan the majority Muslim areas were to join Pakistan hence all Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference passed a resolution in 1947 to join Pakistan hence on 19 July 1947, a convention of All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, adopted the “Accession to Pakistan Resolution” demanding accession of the Kashmir State to Pakistan. As per the rules of Partition Plan, the `Princely States` were to decide either to join India or Pakistan.
The Maharaja of Kashmir offered a ‘Standstill Agreement‘ to both India and Pakistan at the time of partition. As per the ‘Stand Still Agreement‘, Kashmir would have complete internal autonomy. Pakistan accepted the agreement while India rejected it. So not only the people of Kashmir through Muslim Conference Resolution but the then Hindu ruler too decided to join Pakistan. Kashmir thence legally became part of Pakistan. On 16 August 1947 Pakistani Flag was raised on all government buildings and all government functioning was done in the name of Pakistan. On 27 October 1947 India occupied majority area of the State of Jammu and Kashmir through illegal military intervention. The Kashmiri people revolted and picked up arms duly supported by tribal people from (erstwhile) North West Frontier Province of the new born Pakistan. When India was well on the way to lose Kashmir to the local uprising supported by Pakistani tribal fighters, it took the issue to the UNSC and promised a plebiscite. Multiple UNSC resolutions (which are on UNSC record) were passed asking India and Pakistan to agree and facilitate the execution of a plebiscite under UN as agreed to by both. India, however, thwarted all these efforts on one pretext or the other. During the last seven decades, the two countries fought full-fledged wars, went through numerous skirmishes and stand offs mainly on this very issue. Till this day there is perpetual violation of the ‘Line of Control‘ by India killing innocent civilians on the Pakistani side of the LoC besides provoking a conflict that can plunge the entire region into a nuclear showdown.
The situation took an ugly turn when on 5 August 2019 India unconstitutionally, illegally and unilaterally abrogated Article 370 and Article 35-A of its Constitution through a presidential decree and moved to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two “Union Territories”. The curfew thereafter imposed(that has completed its 7 month) has converted the entire Kashmir valley into an open prison guarded by over 900,000 Armed Forces personnel with instructions to kill anyone that moves outside four walls of every house. Ever since 1989 till date over 95,500 Kashmiris have been killed. More than 27,739 Kashmiris have been wounded only since July 2016. Over 10,298 young men and teenagers have received pellet gun injuries including complete blinding during recent spate of violence in the valley. Being cut off from all forms of communication networks and with only rudimentary facilities in the 21st century, elderly men, women and children are dying of food and medicine shortages while the entire world is watching remaining oblivious just because the sufferers are Muslims (branded terrorists across the board) and there are so-called great politico strategic and economic interests linked with India given her size and population.
As if this was not enough, Modi-led government took yet another destabilizing step. It introduced the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) bills in the country targeting Muslims and bringing their specific anti-Muslim hate and violence to streets of mainland India, the worst in its capital New Delhi. Scores of Muslims were brutally killed, wounded, women raped and their houses and properties along with inhabitants looted, burnt and gutted. Not even the places of worship were spared by the extremists of RSS duly assisted by the state police force under the tacit direction of PM Modi‘s Government whereby scores of mosques were torched and converted into ashes. While Kashmir issue has gained at least substantial international verbal attention during last seven months, India has consistently though unsuccessfully tried to show normalcy in the India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K) region. Guided tours are arranged for the representatives of diplomatic community driving them through empty and well-guarded roads and streets with no permission to interact freely with local population. Despite repeated offers by President Trump to mediate on the longstanding issue, India has consistently rejected these offers through its malicious and run of the mill arguments calling it a bilateral issue despite the fact that it has been very recently brought on the UNSC table and discussed in many western Parliaments, Congresses and regional organizations like, EU, OIC etc. Pakistan holds a principled position on the issue and believes that Kashmir is a disputed territory and that under the UNSC Resolutions, Kashmiri people shall be given the right to self-determination. Any unilateral action is not only illegal but unacceptable to the Kashmiri people and Pakistan. Furthermore, Kashmir undoubtedly is an unfinished agenda of partition and any change in its territorial status and demographic manipulation is in violation of UNSC‘s resolutions and Indian Constitution.
It is now evidently clear to every South Asian member country and its people why the region inhabited by teeming millions below poverty line continue to languish in that state despite tremendous human and natural resource potential? Why a regional organization like SAARC formed with complete consensus has not taken off true to its conception and strength? Despite their sizes and potential and while staying on a moral high ground member countries of South Asia need to raise their voices to pressurize both India and Pakistan to address this long standing issue as per their earlier commitments to UNSC and the Kashmiri people in the larger interest of the region and its poverty stricken people. Simultaneously the international community and international organizations like UN, OIC,EU, UNHRC etc need to move beyond verbal rhetoric and exercise meaningful pressure over all stake holders especially India to cease its perpetual lockdown of the valley, undo its illegal, immoral and unconstitutional moves of the recent past and act responsibly true to its once cherished position of world’s biggest democracy. Ignoring these warning signs and ground realities, the internal implosion of India seems written on the wall for which history and the proud people of India will hold the current Modi-led dispensation accountable.
— The writer, a retired Maj Gen, is DG Pakistan Institute for Conflict & Security Studies, an independent think-tank based in Islamabad.