Casus belli in Latin means the cause or provocation for war. For Pakistan and India, which today stand at the precipice of war, it is important to recognise the cause.
Since the two countries are nuclear-capable, any war between them could escalate to a nuclear exchange, ensuring mutually-assured destruction.
Such destruction would spread across the world. For this reason, the international community also needs to recognise the casus belli between Pakistan and India. In a word, it is Kashmir.
Since the Pulwama attack in India-occupied Kashmir, tensions between Pakistan and India have spiralled into military exchanges, raising the possibility of escalation to an all-out war. While efforts are underway at the time of writing to deescalate, it is by no means certain that hostilities will fully cease.
So far, nuclear deterrence has worked to prevent a wider conflict. But a similar incident could spark another crisis in future. The only way forward is for both sides as well as the international community to recognise that the Kashmir dispute is the root cause of the conflict and find a way to resolve it.
While Pakistan has consistently pursued a resolution of this dispute, India has repeatedly refused to do so. This is not just a dispute over territory but the future of millions of Kashmiris who seek their inalienable right to self-determination according to international law, guaranteed to them under UN resolutions and Pakistan-India agreements such as the Shimla and Lahore accords.
Instead, India has repeatedly resorted to use of military force to bludgeon the Kashmiri people into submission.
This Indian repression has reached its most brutal phase over the last five years under Prime Minister Modi, the ‘Butcher of Gujarat’ who, as a chief minister, was responsible for the massacre of Muslims following the Godhra incident.
The barbarity of Modi’s repression in Kashmir has now been widely castigated in reports by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Union and the British Parliament, apart from international human rights organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as the international media.
The result has not only been the total alienation of the Kashmiri people under Indian occupation but the radicalisation of the Kashmiri youth who have responded by striking back at their Indian tormentors, with the Pulwama attack. When 700,000 Indian troops in the tiny Kashmir Valley cannot subdue the people and when even Indian stooges like Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti speak out against Modi’s policies, the writing on the wall should be clear to India’s rulers.
However, they have chosen to ignore these realities and resorted to subterfuge and chicanery to demonise the just struggle of the Kashmiri people as ‘terrorism’.
After 9/11, America’s ‘Global war on terror’ has enabled Indian leaders to project the legitimate Kashmiri struggle as ‘Islamic terrorism’. For the US and other Western countries, more interested in trade and investments in the large Indian economy, it is expedient to accept this Indian charade.
They have, thereby, sacrificed international law and human rights principles at the altar of profit. Moreover, the China-US rivalry, in which India is America’s ally, has helped the Indians to evade opprobrium.
Consequently, India’s friends have accepted its vilification of Kashmiris as terrorists instead of recognising the reality that this is a facade behind which the Indians are violating human rights and suppressing their legitimate struggle.
India has also been supported by its friends in accusing Pakistan of promoting terrorism against India. Even though Pakistan has denied these charges and India has failed to provide credible evidence to support its allegations, Pakistan continues to remain in the dock. Now that Prime Minister Khan has committed to act on actionable evidence, India and its friends should put up or shut up.
Pakistan too cannot be absolved of failing to ensure sustained advocacy of the Kashmir cause over the past decade. In their eagerness for a useless and sterile dialogue with India, past Pakistani leaders have soft-pedalled on the Kashmir issue, rarely if ever raising it with conviction at international fora.
Even worse, they have fallen into the Indian trap of treating the Kashmiri struggle as terrorism without distinguishing between their legitimate struggle for self-determination against illegal Indian occupation of their land and terrorism.
Past Pakistani leaders have also failed to highlight India’s own role as a state sponsor of terrorism even when Pakistan itself has been and continues to be its victim. For decades, India has used terrorism as a means of subversion against Pakistan – by creating the Mukti Bahini in 1970-71 which even Modi has acknowledged; and now by supporting the TTP and Baloch separatists and elements of the MQM, as accepted by Modi’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, former defence minister Manohar Parrikar and Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav. But unfortunately, we have not yet made sufficient efforts to project Indian use of terrorism as an instrument of their expansionist policy in the region.
Therefore, it is high time that Pakistan resorted to a pro-active approach highlighting Indian use of terrorism, its brutal repression of the Kashmiri people and, most importantly, the need to resolve the casus belli of Kashmir, for the sake of regional, and by extension, global security.
India’s friends will surely also not remain unscathed in a Pakistan-India war. Today, even responsible and realistic Indians recognise this reality, such as retired admiral Ramdas, former head of the Northern Command Lt Gen Hooda, former RAW chief Dulat and noted scholar Arundhati Roy, who among several others, are calling for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute through dialogue in order to ensure peace in the region. Until and unless this is done, another Pulwama may happen. So far, we have been able to avert a war, but will this be possible in future? Now is the time to end such uncertainty. Otherwise, climbing up the escalation ladder could lead to nuclear holocaust.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2019.
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