In alluding to what has come to be known as the ‘core issue’ between India and Pakistan, one recalls the assertion of the Quaid-e-Azam that Kashmir represented the jugular vein of Pakistan. The Quaid was not given to making rhetorical pronouncements. As a pragmatist and a jurist, he chose his words with care before uttering them.
Let us then apply our minds to what his assertion about Kashmir implied. The jugular vein and the body are mutually inter-dependent. Pakistan’s life-blood — water — passes through Kashmir. Kashmir’s life force — its commerce, its people’s very livelihood, its cultural heritage — all lay through its contacts with what is now Pakistan. Both Kashmir and Pakistan have suffered all these years because of artificial man-made barriers between the two entities.
Regrettably, the Quaid did not live long enough to influence the course of events that followed. The question that presents itself begging for an answer is: had he survived for a few more years would he have allowed this issue to linger on? Regrettably, the succeeding leadership failed to live up to his ideals. Several issues (among them the Kashmir dispute) — that should have been tackled betimes but were not — bear testimony to this. Suffice it to state that after the Quaid, successive leaderships appear to have missed the bus, so to speak!
The struggle of the people of Kashmir predates the partition of what was then British India. Even before the British called it a day, the people of the State had already asserted, through a valiant struggle, their inalienable right to decide their own future. When the matter landed in the Security Council of the UN, the world body went on to put its stamp of approval on the fundamental right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Certain misconceptions and cobwebs — that have clouded the issue since — need to be clarified and swept away. Firstly, this is by no means a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. While there may be no bar on bilateral discussions or negotiations between the two countries, any decisions taken by them bilaterally are not legally binding unless they are formally endorsed by the remaining two parties: the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the international community through the UN.
More importantly, this is not an issue of religion or creed. The decision of the UN is based on the fundamental human right of self-determination of all people of Jammu and Kashmir, irrespective of their religious denomination. The universal right of self-determination is a secular concept and it must be accepted and recognised as such. India has tried to present to the world that the Kashmiri resistance is being waged by so-called ‘Islamic fundamentalists’. This is not borne out by the facts. If the lid of Indian state military occupation were to be lifted, it should become evident that the Kashmiri resistance has a much wider base in the disputed state than what India would have the world believe.
One other point needs to be clarified. The Indian establishment has tried off and on to confuse the international community by drawing a comparison between the Kashmir issue and the India-China border dispute. The two are not open to comparison. The India-China border dispute is about territory, while the Kashmir issue is about the fundamental human rights of over 10 million people. You can freeze disputed territory, but how can you freeze the genuine aspirations of millions of people?
It is imperative that the two countries resolve to equitably settle all the contentious issues between them, foremost among them the Kashmir issue. The longer these issues remain unsettled, the more the chances of their developing into festering sores, eating into the very vitals of the region. The world has moved fast. Options are shrinking by the day. There is no time like the present. The leaderships of the two countries should do well to grasp the moment.
Insofar as Pakistan is concerned, an equitable settlement of the Kashmir issue should help repay part of the debt this country owes to the Father of the Nation.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2019.
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