Need for Bold Initiative for Resolving Kashmir Conflict

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Iqbal Khan

India’s contentions about Jammu and Kashmir being the so-called “integral and inalienable part” of India and an “internal affair” do not go beyond side-splitting fiction, which stands contrary to historical and legal facts and in violation of the relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions.

India must, at the earliest, vacate its illegal and forcible occupation of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and let the Kashmiris exercise their inalienable right to self-determination through a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations as enshrined in the relevant UNSC Resolutions.

With each passing day more and more voices are being added to the necessity of resolution of Kashmir dispute at the earliest. Yet, these are well short of the critical mass to impact Indian attitude and behaviour. India had scrapped the special status of IIOJ&K under Articles 370 and 35A of its constitution on August 5 last year in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and international law.

US presidential hopeful Joe Biden has once again expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Jammu and Kashmir, saying restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting down the internet, weakens democracy. Biden called on the Indian government to “take all necessary steps to restore rights for all the people of Kashmir”. Though statements by the US presidential hopefuls cannot be taken on face value, Biden, having done two Vice Presidential tenures, is expected to make measured statements on Kashmir—beyond wooing Muslim voters.

Through his recently published paper, “Diplomacy in South Asia: a four step grand plan for Kashmir” Dr Claude Rakisits, has proposed a bold, four-step plan which would address the question of self-determination for Kashmiris. Two important elements of this plan are:, the involvement of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group to assist Kashmiris, Pakistan and India in the mediation of the plan; and, the holding of four UN-supervised referenda which would be held simultaneously but counted separately for Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir; Kashmir valley; Jammu; and Ladakh. All Kashmiris would have three options: Join Pakistan, Join India or independence. As an incentive to India and Pakistan, the international community would deliver substantial economic assistance for the development of all parts of Kashmir. But as a quid pro quo for the economic aid package, there would have to be guaranteed free movement of people, capital and goods between all parts of Kashmir after the referenda, regardless as to which option had been chosen by the Kashmiris.

While meeting with the United Nations General Assembly President-elect Volkan Bozkir on August 10, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the United Nations to play its role in addressing the “grave” situation in Indian occupied Kashmir and to ensure that the people of the valley exercise their right to self-determination as promised under the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.

Kashmir is an issue that has been on the UNSC agenda for over seven decades. “The prime minister highlighted the dire rights and humanitarian situation in occupied Kashmir since August 5, 2019, as well as the ongoing gross and systematic violations of human rights and attempts to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory.” PM Imran expressed the hope that the 75th Session of the UNGA would accord priority to this issue.

The UNGA president-elect also met with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office where the latter sought “effective role of the UNGA to end human rights violations in occupied Kashmir.” FM briefed him about the evolving situation of IIOJK facing military siege for the last one year, human rights violations, and illegal search and cordon operations.

Pakistan has apprised all international forums about atrocities by Indian security forces, including but not limited to: extra-judicial killings, use of rape as weapon to supress the peaceful struggle by Kashmiris for their right of self-determination, firing at innocent civilians, protracted detentions without trial, and violence against non-combatants including women and children. This environment has indeed evolved into a new normal in occupied Jammu & Kashmir.

Responding to a question from a reporter, Bozkir said, “Position of the UN on this region is governed by its charter and applicable Security Council resolutions as was previously expressed by the UN secretary General on different occasions.” He stated that solving the Kashmir issue was key to sustainable peace in South Asia. “Regional security should be maintained through political and diplomatic solutions. Difficult challenges can be resolved through meaningful, mutual engagement.” “So if my assistance as the president of the General Assembly is requested by the parties, I will be ready to provide contributions within my mandate.”

Expressing his strong support for the longstanding dispute of Jammu and Kashmir, Bozkir linked it with peace and stability of the South Asian region. “The Jammu and Kashmir dispute needs to be settled through peaceful means,” he said. The “meaningful engagement of political and diplomatic channels” is significant to resolve the issue in accordance with the resolutions of UN Security Council, he added. Bozkir said Turkey’s position on Jammu and Kashmir is well-known and its foreign ministry had issued a strong statement over India’s action of August 5, 2019.

The international community must play its role in bringing an end to the brutality in Indian Occupied Kashmir.  Human rights organizations need to raise their voices, more forcefully, against India’s barbaric acts particularly against women and children, who continue to face the wrath of Indian atrocities since the last seventy years. Pakistan will continue to lend moral, political and diplomatic support to Kashmir at all international fora. There are numerous UN Security Council resolutions under which the people of Kashmir have been promised the right to self-determination through a UN-mandated plebiscite. India and Pakistan need to resume dialogue to arrive at a political solution to the satisfaction to the Kashmiri people.

According to Claude, “Bearing in mind the long history of political tension in Jammu and Kashmir, compounded by recent developments, it’s obvious the present situation in Kashmir cannot continue and will quite possibly get worse”. “India has always argued that Kashmir is a domestic issue and external interference will not be accepted. But however much the Indian government would like it to be the case, Kashmir is today very much in the international public domain”.

Over the last one year, there have been numerous short lived bursts of support from various quarters of international community, but things have not moved beyond lip service. Even at official level, the foreign office went into a sort of hibernation after Prime Minster Imran Khan’s speech to the UNGA, as if speech itself was the end objective. Also, some of the allies—so called brotherly countries of the Middle East have been pressuring Pakistan to abandon the Kashmir cause. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), did make some noises, but nothing beyond that.

The regurgitation of false claims by India can neither change facts nor divert attention from India’s state-terrorism in the IIOJK, and its egregious violations of human rights of the Kashmiri people. Rather than resorting to false and misleading assertions, India should faithfully implement its international obligations.

Writer is a freelance contributor, email: Iqbal.khan9999@yahoo.com