Kashmir situation update

The current tensions

27 OCTOBER 2016,
Supporters of Narendra Modi, the Prime ministerial candidate for Bharatiya Janata Party
Supporters of Narendra Modi, the Prime ministerial candidate for Bharatiya Janata Party

A few days ago, at the United Nations General Assembly, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had said that: "The Security Council has called for the exercise of the right to self-determination by the people of Jammu and Kashmir through a free and fair plebiscite held under UN auspices. The people of Kashmir have waited 70 years for implementation of this promise. The Security Council must honor its commitments by implementing its own decisions. This General Assembly must demand that India deliver on the commitments its leaders solemnly made on many occasions".

Also, Nawaz Sharif told the U.N. General Assembly India had put unacceptable conditions on dialogue. Pakistan wanted peace but New Delhi was an obstacle to talks. He had said the other day that lasting peace in the region is impossible without the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue. He rejected the Indian allegations on Uri attack as "irresponsible" and "without any evidence". He said that before accusing Pakistan, India should have looked at its atrocious role in Jammu and Kashmir and mentioned the brutalities being perpetrated against the innocent Kashmiris by the Indian forces in the disputed state.

Nawaz Sharif said the whole world knew about the Indian atrocities in IHK in which around 108 people had been killed, over 150 blinded and thousands injured so far. He said the Uri attack could be a reaction to those atrocities, as the close relatives and near and dear ones of those killed and blinded over the last two months were hurt and outraged. He wondered how India had hurled accusations against Pakistan only hours after the Uri incident without holding any enquiry or investigation.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again criticized Pakistan, accusing it of being an exporter of terrorism, and vowing to mount a global campaign to isolate it. "We will isolate you. I will work for that," Modi said in his first speech after the attack on an Indian army base in Indian-held Kashmir last Sunday that killed 18 soldiers.

Modi was giving a speech at a meeting of his Bharatiya Janata Party, whose leaders have said there should be a strong response to the attack, which took place in Uri. "India has and never will bow down in the face of terrorism," Modi said. He said that in the last four months, Indian security forces had killed 110 terrorists who allegedly crossed over the cease-fire line in Kashmir from Pakistani territory. "Terrorist attacks in Bangladesh and Afghanistan were also being instigated from Pakistan." He also accused Pakistan of trying to destabilize Asia by exporting terrorism. "People of Pakistan should question their leadership on why, when both countries gained freedom together, while India exports software, Pakistan exports terrorists," Modi said. "This is the only country that is exporting terrorism in all corners," Modi said, without directly naming Pakistan. "Wherever there is news of terror, there is news that either the terrorist first went to this country or later, after the incident, like Osama Bin Laden," he said addressing a rally in southern Kerala state. Modi warned Pakistan that India would continue to push to make Pakistan a pariah state in the eyes of the international community. "We will intensify it (our efforts) and force you to be alone all over the world," he said.

India has long accused Pakistan of backing militant groups operating in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) as well as of sending fighters to other parts of the country to carry out acts of violence. Pakistan denies the allegations and says India has not provided adequate proof to support its claims. Some Indian military experts had called for cross border strikes against militant camps in Azad Kashmir in the wake of the latest attack. But Pakistan had warned it will hit back against any Indian attack and the latest tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors are drawing concern. India was likely holding back from a major military action for fear of igniting a broader escalation, and instead would mount a diplomatic campaign against Pakistan.

As expected, the Indian government had now chosen to vehemently criticize Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Nawaz Government was also criticizing India actions in Kashmir and its recent statements had indeed reflected the sentiments and aspirations of the oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir. It was a stark reality that the Kashmiris had for nearly seventy years faced terrible atrocities, repression, agonizing condition, and the harshness of an illegal occupation. Meanwhile, Pakistan was steadfastly standing by the Kashmiris and was also extended its full diplomatic and political support to their movement for freedom from Indian subjugation. It was the recent cold-blooded murder of Burhan Wani which had sparked extensive and record protests across Kashmir. These protests were largely indigenous and was undeniable evidence of the Kashmiri freedom movement. India has long accused Pakistan of backing militant groups operating in disputed Kashmir as well as of sending fighters to other parts of the country to carry out acts of violence. Pakistan denies the allegations.

The Kashmiri people looked towards the international community to deliver on the “pledge to hold a free, fair and impartial plebiscite under UN auspices, to enable them to decide their future, a democratic and legal right of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi said India had to answer to the world for all its atrocities and crimes, including inhuman use of bullets and pellets against the innocent Kashmiri people in the Occupied Kashmir.

She said it was impossible for India to diplomatically isolate Pakistan as her attempts in that regard were a doomed ploy to divert world attention from a very serious situation in the occupied valley. “Such attempts were made in the past as well but failed and now the international attention on the gross human rights violations in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK) valley had also put New Delhi on the defensive”, she maintained in response to queries in a private news channel program.

Maleeha said Pakistan wanted a peaceful settlement of all issues with its neighbor but it should be noticed which country was talking in a belligerent manner and beating the war drums. “Such gross human rights crimes and war rhetoric were further exposing Indian government globally putting it on tenterhooks,” she opined. “India is falling to its own propaganda,” she said adding “the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) would soon send a fact finding mission to the IoK.” She said the timing of the resolution and Uri attack should be noted as they were part of a design to divert attention from the grave situation in the IOK.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed on recently to mount a global campaign to isolate Pakistan. Last month U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Pakistan to join other nations in fighting terrorism. India is factually wrong in claiming Jammu & Kashmir as its territory. It is a disputed territory as per United Nations Security Council resolutions starting from 1948, and numerous other world bodies like the Organization of Islamic Conference. Pakistan has never accepted India's stance on Kashmir. Meanwhile, Indian atrocities in Kashmir continued are well documented by human rights organizations, at global level like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc. Pakistan has a strong case on Kashmir but failed to convince the world. Nevertheless, a strong movement can, and should, be waged to change world public opinion on the Kashmir dispute. We owe at least this much to the hapless Kashmiri victims of Indian brutality, abuse and intimidation. Many journalists have written on the situation in Kashmir.

Shakir Mir is writes: "Soon enough, Kashmir will have to retrace its steps towards fragile normalcy or slide into anarchy, devastation and gloom. And when we finally wake up, the extent of damage fully registering itself on our consciousness, we will realize the debris surrounding us is no one else’s but our own. This is not to say that I am giving the Indian government’s murderous actions in Kashmir moral sanctity. I would not have written this essay had the need not pinched me enough. The atrocities that the security forces commit are too many to train focus on anything else. But when the struggle against the tormentor becomes a torment itself, it is imperative to speak out. My narration is not intended to stake claim on absolute truth telling. It is meant to cast light on an aspect of the unrest which is deliberately ignored. It is not intended to efface, falsify or minimize the brutalities committed by the government in the name of fighting violence. It is in India’s own interests to restrain its security forces and mete out justice. To fully stamp out the protests in Kashmir, it has to do so. Therefore, I believe it was in vain that Delhi sent an all-party delegation to Srinagar. The only way it can placate protesters is by ensuring justice and ending the culture of impunity. But for now, it must save Kashmiris from their own kind".

M. Ziauddin, in his article Kashmir’s killing fields, published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2016 states: "In a recent NDTV commentary (Why Kashmir needs a touch of Vajpayee’s ‘insaniyet’) Mihir Sharma, another Indian journalist, Distinguished Fellow at ORF, says that the ‘eruption’ has been coming for some time". “New Delhi largely wasted a decade of uneasy quiet, imagining that it meant that peace had returned to the Valley, and in the years since 2008, as anger has built up, it has shown itself bereft of any ideas other than those that it used to quell militancy in the 1990s. Vajpayee’s new beginning, when he promised to treat Kashmir with “insaniyat”, has been betrayed by New Delhi’s complacency.

“As the Valley’s mourning of Wani’s death shows, New Delhi has been fooling itself if it thinks Kashmir is moving towards 'normalcy' — or that it is edging towards acceptance of its place within the Indian state. The wounds of the 1990s were deep; the state was angry, but it needed time to recover. Yet those wounds stayed open, and so the state stayed angry. In fact, a whole new generation arrived, even angrier, and radicalized itself on Facebook. Kashmir is not going to be normal while it is the most militarized part of the world, with one soldier for every 15 or so residents. It is not going to be a normal Indian state while basic Indian rights are suspended, and those omnipresent soldiers know they are above the laws that constrain them in the 'mainland'. It is not going to be normal, or even slightly Indian, till the state holds itself accountable for its actions, the way it would in other parts of India.”

Manoj Joshi another Indian journalist writing (Kashmir: Government need to do more than slogans) in Scroll In says: “Like it or not, a resolution of the Kashmir issue requires a settlement between India and Pakistan as well as the Union government and the State. On both these tracks there has been some progress in the past, but at present there seems to be a stasis. This does not make for a particularly happy situation — and things are being allowed to drift once again.”

The Kashmir dispute festers on and needs to be resolved now. The two neighbors have gone to war over it in the past and the conflict has sapped their energies like no other lingering dispute. A third party facilitation by the United States can lead to a settlement of the dispute. During the last days of General Musharraf (1999-2008) India and Pakistan nearly made a deal on Kashmir and can do so again. Both countries suffer from massive poverty and peace in South Asia may yet divert scarce resources to meeting the needs of the people of the region. The current tension between the two neighbors must be curtailed immediately as it might escalate into a serious conflict. Much depends on the international community to step in now to somehow cool down tempers and then gradually move towards a solution of the dispute. War was not an option anymore. But peace is much more than the absence of war. Got to move on now.