BY GHULAM NABI FAI
OP-ED OCT 22, 2021 12:05 AM GMT+3A woman walks past a barricade erected by Indian forces during restrictions imposed on the eve of Martyrs Day in the old city of Srinagar, Kashmir, July 13, 2021. (Photo by Getty Images)
At the last U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “We maintain our stance in favor of solving the ongoing problem in Kashmir for 74 years, through dialogue between the parties and within the framework of relevant United Nations resolutions.” The Kashmir dispute is one of the oldest unresolved international problems in the world and has been on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) since 1948.
While the international community has remained engaged and sees Kashmir as internationally disputed territory, having voiced through numerous U.N. resolutions that its people should be given the right to determine their own future, India is now engaging in an effort to make the matter solely a domestic issue which no one, not even the Kashmiris themselves, may have a voice in. This effort to Indianize Kashmir, more so after the abrogation of Article 370 & 35 A, is clearly visible in the way central politics and administrative control are dominated by New Delhi with all the decisions in its favor. The limited autonomy that Kashmir enjoyed was completely subverted on Aug. 5, 2019.
Today, the Kashmir conflict is perhaps the most dangerous one in the world because of the spiraling nuclear and missile race between India and Pakistan coupled with historical enmities that have occasioned three wars between the two rivals. It is implausible to believe that these two neighboring countries will either cap or renounce their respective nuclear genies after they have escaped the South Asian bottle unless the chief source of antagonism between the two – Kashmir – is resolved.
It is symptomatic of the approach of the world powers that greater emphasis is placed on the “reduction of tensions” than on the settlement of the core issue, i.e., Kashmir. This encourages giving importance to superficial moves and temporary solutions even though it is known that such moves and solutions do not soften the animosities of the parties nor allay the life-and-death concerns and anxieties of the people most directly affected.
An indication of this misplaced focus is the wrongheaded talk about the “sanctity” of the line of control (LoC) in Kashmir. It is forgotten that this line was originally formalized by the international agreements as a temporary cease-fire line pending the demilitarization of the state and the holding of a plebiscite under impartial control to determine its future. As long as this line will remain clamped down on the state, it will continue to impose a heavy death toll on the people of the land. They have had no hand in creating it. It has cut through their homes, separated families and, what is worse, served as a protecting wall for massive violations of human rights. They are not resigned to the LoC becoming some kind of a border.
A home, not a real estate
Kashmiris wish to emphasize that their land is not real estate that can be parceled out between two disputants, but the home of a nation with a history far more compact and coherent than India’s and far longer than Pakistan’s.
To treat this line overtly or otherwise as a basis for the partition of the state is to reward obduracy, countenance iniquity, encourage tyranny and oppression and destroy the hopes for peace in accordance with justice and rationality in Kashmir. To regard this line as a solution is to regard disease as a remedy. Any kind of agreement procured to that end, under any foreign influence, will not only not endure; it will invite resentment and revolt against whichever leadership in Kashmir sponsors or subscribes to it.
On March 1, 1951, Sir Benegal Rama Rau, an Indian delegate to the United Nations, admitted at the UNSC that “the people of Kashmir are not mere chattels to be disposed of according to a rigid formula; their future must be decided on their own interest and in accordance with their own desires.”
Meanwhile, the U.S., a global superpower that must bear the responsibility for setting the moral tone through disciplined and rightful leadership, sits back and does nothing. Such a behavior poorly disguises the financial incentives that have opened India up to $500 billion in American investment during the coming five years.
The U.S. was once considered a shining example to the rest of the world of what democracy can mean, and yet, now, too, we see a complete breakdown of this grand vision at its very source that awakened generations of people to hope for real change. What is the significance of an alliance between the great democracy (U.S.) and the so-called largest democracy in the world (India) when universal principles, democratic values and human rights are completely ignored?
Kamala Harris and Kashmir
U.S. incumbent Vice President Kamala Harris spoke her mind about Kashmir as a vice-presidential candidate on Oct. 8. 2019, “We have to remind the Kashmiris that they are not alone in the world. We are keeping a track on the situation. There is a need to intervene if the situation demands.” Since then, she has wavered. She has quit talking about Kashmir, believing perhaps that U.S. business ties with India have greater priority than ruffling any feathers. But U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration still has an opportunity to walk and talk straight to India and Pakistan to help set a stage for the peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute. The priorities of world peace are much greater than selling a few more missiles to a country that threatens international peace and security.
We still believe that the Kashmir dispute can be resolved if an international body intervenes as suggested by Harris. India and Pakistan must resolve the dispute while associating the genuine Kashmiri leadership with the negotiations as was originally promised by them at the U.N. No matter how much India likes to keep the Kashmir dispute off the table in any discussions, it is on the table and will always be brought to bear upon the consciousness and conscience of the Indian leadership until the matter is settled.
India and Pakistan should realize that they can impose any solution upon the people of Kashmir; the Kashmiri mainstream leadership can sign any accord with India; but the question arises, are they going to be able to sell these agreements to the people? The answer is a big “NO.”
It is time for India to show its humanity and show the strength of the democratic principles which it alleges to idealize. It is time for world powers to back up their words with deeds instead of just lip service, and to truly lead in championing those values that have brought progress to the world community instead of selling them all for corporate profits.
Perhaps it’s time the major powers take this seriously. The answer is plain as day for anyone. The clock is ticking. Every day that passes without resolution of the Kashmir dispute is one day closer to a cataclysm that will reach far beyond the borders of all countries involved.
It’s time to end the violence. It’s time to end the charade. It’s time for Kashmiris to sort out their own affairs and determine their own future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Secretary general, Washington-based World Kashmir Awareness Forum