By Mohamed Harees –
The conflicts over a divided Kashmir have been long and bloody. The Kashmir Valley has for long been a militarized and a war ravaged zone, effectively occupied by Indian security forces with militant groups in the region tapping into this discontent. Decades of State sponsored terror and militancy have ensued a cycle of violence where the rights of Kashmiris have been repeatedly violated – they have been victims of torture, threats, extortion, arrests, and killings. The latest ruse of revocation of Article 370 followed by the lockdown and communication blackout in the area, only bears the tell-tale signs of a devious attempt by the Modi government, to change the demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing and to further its’ project to enshrine the Hindu identity of the nation. Analysts say that the change could also bring about a profound transformation of Kashmir’s population that would exacerbate unrest in this there. As the debates over its’ political sovereignty rages, the lives of its’ people deeply embroiled in these conflicts, and their aspirations being continuously trampled with impunity by a repressive BJP in power, it is a shame that their dire plight remains largely forgotten in the international arena, with India playing the ‘internal matter’ card.
The dispute over Kashmir between the two regional giants in the Indian subcontinent has been a searing wound for decades, with the roots of the conflict lying in their shared colonial past; both fighting three wars over the contested territory, while the Great Britain which colonised them keeping aloof from the explosive developments in the region. This conflict thus largely reflects a bitter and troubled legacy of British colonialism and without a shade of doubt the leftover from the decolonization process. In fact, renowned author Arundhati Roy aptly captured this development thus ‘How carelessly imperial power vivisected ancient civilizations. Palestine and Kashmir are imperial Britain’s festering, blood-drenched gifts to the modem world. Both are fault lines in the raging international conflicts of today’. The parallels between the two have never looked as ominous as they do now.
History records, as partition-related violence raged across the two new nations-India and Pakistan, the pressures for Kashmir’s Maharajah Singh to align with either side led to the signing of a standstill agreement with Pakistan which allowed Kashmiri people to continue trade and travel and later signing of the Instrument of Accession, the document that aligned Kashmir with the Dominion of India, in October 1947. Kashmir was later afforded ‘special status’ within the Indian constitution—a status which guaranteed that Kashmir would have independence over everything but communications, foreign affairs, and defence. Article 370, empowered the State Parliament to provide special rights and privileges to permanent residents of the State, for example by banning non-locals from buying properties or have a government job, which stood revoked this month, in an effort to change the region’s Muslim-majority demography, violating the rights of representation guaranteed to Kashmiri people under the Indian Constitution and in international law. Jon Wilson, the author of India Conquered: Britain’s Raj and the Chaos of Empire, notes that while the governing project in India now is different from the ideology under British rule, the instruments of power that Modi is using are familiar: “military occupation, limitations on free speech, [these tools] that have at various times been used by India look like empire.”
It appears that the spirit of the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan, which states that the final status of Jammu and Kashmir is to be settled by peaceful means” , in accordance with the UN Charter is in tatters. The UN has long maintained an institutional presence in the contested area, which both countries claim in its entirety, with the areas under separate administration, divided by a so-called Line of Control. The UN chief has called on “all parties to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir.” UN Security Council discussed this issue recently at the request of China , with Pakistan referring to the meeting as a testimony to the fact that this is an international dispute and that “the voice of the people of the occupied Kashmir” being heard “in the highest diplomatic forum of the world.” Although India maintains that matter related to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is entirely an internal matter, there are clearly external ramifications of this conflict.
Reasons for the conflict over Kashmir are argued among contenders on a number of points, more often than not to serve globalist interests rather than the fundamental needs or desires of the Kashmiris themselves. There are many outside players at play which have exacerbated the human rights situation in the Kashmir region, apart from Indian aggression. Israel is playing a big role in India’s escalating conflict with Pakistan. Modi appears to be taking a page straight out of the Israeli playbook. Critics have warned that metamorphosis in Kashmir could mirror Jewish settlements in the West. Many of the Indian ruling party BJP’s aspirations and policy proposals for Kashmir are imitations of extant Israeli practices in Palestine. Key among these is the desire to build Israeli-style Hindu-only settlements in Kashmir as a way of instigating demographic change as seen these days. For months, Israel has been assiduously lining itself up alongside India’s nationalist BJP government in an unspoken – and politically dangerous – “anti-Islamist” coalition, an unofficial, unacknowledged alliance, while India itself has now become the largest weapons market for the Israeli arms trade… Several Indian commentators, however, have warned that right-wing Zionism and right-wing nationalism under Modi should not become the foundation stone of the relationship between the two countries, both of which – in rather different ways – fought the British empire.
Interestingly, the US appears to enter the fray, having identified South Asia as an epi-centre of terrorism and religious extremism and therefore has expressed an interest in ensuring regional stability, preventing nuclear weapons proliferation, and minimizing the potential of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. US’ tentacles are seen to extend to Sri Lanka as well, in the Post-Easter period. Meanwhile, India also lashed out at Pakistan, as amplified in a statement by an Indian Muslim political leader Asaduddin Owaisi, saying that Islamabad should stop meddling in the affairs of Kashmir. It also accuses Pakistan of supporting insurgents but Pakistan says it only gives moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris who want self-determination. It is interesting to see muted responses from the Muslim world too, obviously due to substantial economic ties with India including the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). UAE referred to the Kashmir issue as an internal matter.
Be it as it may, India cannot get away from the fact that Kashmir is an “internationally recognized disputed territory”; thus unilaterally changing the status quo of the state, and terming the decision to reorganise Ladakh by India as a union territory is “unacceptable. With this annexation, Modi fulfilled the manifesto of the BJP, and the vows and fanatic fantasies of the fanatical RSS – the neo-fascist Hindu nationalist parent organization of the Indian ruling party which creates the conditions for a Kashmiri style Intifada. In the light of the Kashmir issue, Indian leadership began to resist approaching multilateral institutions to intervene in conflict areas fearing a threat to its state sovereignty. However, India’s response to the concept of international intervention in states’ affairs has been fluctuating over the years. In the 1960s, India was quick to defend its intervention in Goa to drive out the Portuguese by force. India justified its interventionist role in East Pakistan in 1971, on the grounds of self-defence. Side-lining its ethical commitment to state sovereignty, India’s iron hand was regularly seen in reference to Sri Lanka’s civil war between the armed forces and LTTE; more specifically in 1987 which culminated in sending Indian troops to ‘help’ Sri Lanka keep peace as per the terms of the Indo Sri Lanka peace Accord. Thus, India’s stand has been based on its own national interest and on the merit of each case.
The truth is that the people of Kashmir themselves have always been hostile to the presence of India’s troops on their soil and have shown an iron determination to resist tens of thousands of killings, and thousands of rapes, disappearances and torture inflicted upon the population at the hands of these foreign occupiers. Long standing agreements in place have in fact afforded the Kashmiri people the right to determine their own destiny. This is a clear case of a large and a powerful country bullying a small nation into submission in violation of not only their right to sovereignty but international agreements and two dozen UN resolutions giving them the right to determine their own political fate. The purpose of so many troops stationed in this small country is no other than blatant oppression. Their presence makes Kashmir the largest army concentration anywhere in the world. It is quite conspicuous that the world powers feel awkward and unequipped to intervene in any international conflict because the country concerned is too powerful and does not listen to morals and ethics when economic interests are in question.
Indeed, the UN doctrine of the principle of ‘responsibility to protect,’ the international understanding to intervene to stop atrocities from taking place, was adopted at the 2005 World Summit. All the heads of state and government at the 2005 World Summit, without reservation, committed to the doctrine, and subsequent unanimous adoptions of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions reaffirmed the principle. “Sometimes known as ‘R2P’, the doctrine holds states responsible for shielding their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and related crimes against humanity, requiring the international community to step in if this obligation is not met. However, international intervention in domestic conflicts for the protection of civilians from genocide, war crimes, and ethnic conflict has been under normative criticism and contestation since its very inception.
It is a shame that UN has now become redundant to a resolution of Kashmir problem. It has lost its’ locus-standi and credibility beyond a talk-shop. It is time that the authority entrusted to the UN be taken a little more seriously. UN should play a more firmer facilitator and policing role in this conflict to ensure that India acts more responsibly as per its’ R2P obligations. The primary reason the UN hasn’t bothered to intervene yet appears to be because the crisis is simply not large enough. If things do go out of hand though and God forbid it turns into a major crisis the UN will undoubtedly have to intervene and take control. However, the fact remains that unless there is a will to compromise and settle issues amongst the stakeholders no solution can be imposed. What is apparently clear is that unless both India and Pakistan move beyond their deeply entrenched positions of ‘settling’ scores at the expense of the Kashmiri people, the plight of Kashmiris will continue unabated. Further ,the world powers and the saner elements in both India and Pakistan also need to realise that bilateral talks have always remained barren. Experts suggest that trilateral dialogue between governments of India, Pakistan and the leadership of Kashmir — without any precondition from any side — is the only way to resolve the issue once for all.
The Kashmir dispute will have to be resolved peacefully through a dialogue, on the basis of the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Kashmir should not become another West-bank or Gaza and the international community has an obligation to ensure that this possibility never becomes a reality. It would be a mistake to look at what’s happening in Kashmir as a sad story in a vacuum. Kashmir is a percolating consequence of Modi, who, much like Trump, tears at the fabric of democracy, pluralism and security.By turning a blind eye to Kashmir, we get one step closer to a world where the forces of evil prevail and decency is quashed, just like what happens to Palestine.