In yet another irresponsible move, Modi’s government has brazenly added fuel to the blazing fire in India-occupied Kashmir (IoK). The flames have not only engulfed India but also its relations with Pakistan. Any escalation in this hair-trigger confrontation between these nuclear-armed states would also threaten the entire world. Therefore, there is an urgent need to douse the fire in Kashmir.
Revoking Article 370 of the Indian constitution (that granted IoK an autonomous status) on grounds of “integrating” Kashmir into the Indian Union will have the reverse of its intended effect. In fact, the removal of this fig-leaf that was used to cover up India’s occupation of Kashmir since 1947 has exposed India’s naked aggression in the former princely state. Modi has torn the so-called “instrument of accession” to shreds and nullified even the fraudulent basis of India’s claim to the territory. More ominously, this action presages ethnic cleansing and genocide in IoK by allowing non-Kashmiris to settle in the area and thereby changing the Muslim majority demography of the state, as this would reduce the Muslim Kashmiris to a minority in their own land.
Not surprisingly, now even those Kashmiri leaders who were pro India have vehemently opposed this decision. The draconian manner in which this decision has been implemented, with the induction of 40,000 additional troops, curfew and complete lockdown, the arrest of all political leaders and media censorship, will add to the already deep sense of Kashmiri resentment. Such total alienation will only intensify their struggle against the Indian occupation. Now India has truly lost Kashmir.
Modi’s move is consistent with his Hindutva driven fascist policies that target Muslims and other minorities, with the ultimate aim of achieving the Hindu Rashtriya of the RSS– a state meant only for Hindus. It was through this platform that the Butcher of Gujarat won national elections for the second term by playing divisive politics. This has not only demolished India’s secular credentials but has also undermined Indian democracy as well as its unity. For a country that faces as many as 15 insurgencies, the implications of such policies would be disastrous.
From an external perspective, Modi’s actions violate the UN Security Council resolutions calling for Kashmiri self-determination through a referendum to settle this dispute with Pakistan. It also negates Indian commitments in the Tashkent, Simla and Lahore agreements to settle this issue bilaterally with Pakistan. Moreover, formal annexation of Ladakh undermines the Sino-Indian dialogue to resolve border issues, a fact that China has raised strongly in response to the Indian move.
But the most dangerous outcome could be another Pakistan-India conflict. Due to Indian atrocities and repression that is bound to increase now, if another incident like Pulwama were to occur, it would be blamed on Pakistan. A clear signal of the belligerent and irresponsible approach of the Hindu fascist Modi government was the recent threat by Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh about first-use of nuclear weapons. Such sabre-rattling greatly increases the chances of war. Once again, nuclear deterrence between the two countries is being severely tested. It is due to the global implications of a potential nuclear holocaust that the international community is now calling for restraint.
Pakistan has also called for such restraint with immediate efforts to resolve the Kashmir dispute, and welcomed the offer by US President Trump to mediate between the two countries– an offer turned down by India. So it is actually Modi who needs to demonstrate restraint. But he is moving in the opposite direction. Consequently, Pakistan must be ready to neutralise any Indian misadventure.
On the diplomatic front, Pakistan has several options. It has already reached out to the international community, especially to the P5 and the UN Secretary-General, which led to a discussion on Kashmir in the Security Council, for the first time since 1965. This is a major diplomatic reversal for India. Pakistan should also send special envoys or a designated envoy on Kashmir to important capitals apart from raising the Kashmir issue in every bilateral and multilateral forum. This needs to be a sustained effort pursued over the long term.
Within the UN system, we should continue engagement with the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. Another option is to approach the ICJ, even if India does not consent to do so— which will eventually compromise its own position. Apart from governments, we should approach parliamentarians, civil society, human rights NGOs and the international media.
A fundamental objective of our outreach must be to change the Indian-sponsored negative narrative that equates the Kashmiri struggle with terrorism. We must emphasise that the Kashmiris are waging a legitimate struggle under international law for their right of self-determination against foreign and illegal occupation. Moreover, India’s use of state-sponsored terrorism, the so-called sarkari militants and false-flag operations, such as the Chittisinghpura massacre, must be highlighted.
Pakistan’s diplomatic initiative must also focus on ensuring Indian respect for human rights in IoK. All Kashmiri leaders and political prisoners must be released; use of torture, rape, custodial killings and other forms of repression must end; and draconian powers given to the security forces withdrawn.
While we must continue to pursue these diplomatic efforts, we should recognise the reality that international organisations do not have the capacity to enforce their decisions nor will other countries be willing to compel India to resolve the Kashmir dispute. At best, they can only exert moral pressure.
Since India rejects any bilateral dialogue to find a sustainable solution to the Kashmir issue, Pakistan’s only option is to sustain the Kashmiri struggle through all possible means until the Indians are ready to negotiate and find a solution. This will be a long haul. It will also be imperative for our policy to be backed up by our military capability to neutralise any Indian misadventure.
Kashmir is India’s bleeding wound. It is in its own interest to find a lasting solution. Resorting to violence and subterfuge by a fascist thug like Modi will only make the situation worse. Eventually, the Indians themselves will need to put out the fire in Kashmir.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2019.