Continuing Relevance of Jammu and Kashmir
By Sobia Hanif
The Jammu and Kashmir dispute is an intricate issue, which lies at the heart of most of the conflicts between the nuclear rivals of South Asia. It would be over optimistic to hope for a permanent congenial environment for the people of the region without resolving the Jammu and Kashmir issue according to aspirations of the Kashmiri people and in accordance with the UN Resolutions. The Kashmir issue is not merely an issue of a disputed territory holding vast resources as well as being the hub of all major waterways to both India and Pakistan; it is in fact an issue which determines the fate of over 15 million Kashmiris. Therefore, while determining its future, the human factor as well as the wishes of its citizens either to become part of Pakistan or India or to acquire an independent status must not be overlooked.
For those of us who refer to the decaying relevance of the Kashmir issue and call for the promotion of enhanced cross-border trade with India and greater people to people contact in exchange for concessions to India on the Kashmir issue, a retrospect into the past and an insight into the future would serve well for reality to dawn upon them. History speaks for itself. The Kashmir issue has been part of the incomplete agenda of the partition plan of the Sub-continent. At the time of partition in 1947, each princely state was given the choice to either become a part of India or Pakistan or to maintain its independent status. The overwhelming Muslim population of Kashmir wanted to unite with Pakistan, but its Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh wanted the other way around. When the population revolted against him, he asked the Indian government for military assistance. This eventually led to a war between India and Pakistan in 1948. The matter was then taken into the UN Security Council by India and a ceasefire was implemented. Later on the United Nations called for the issue to be resolved peacefully in accordance with the UN Resolutions. However, India has never fulfilled its obligations to the Kashmiri people and has substituted the demand for a free and fair plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations by unlawful and controversial elections in the valley, whereby people are forcibly dragged out of their homes and brought to the polling stations by Indian military forces.
A futuristic analysis would clearly indicate that Pakistan’s fate is inexplicably tied with the fate of the Kashmir. Any myopic decision by our top leadership could seriously jeopardize the future of the Kashmiri people as well as having hazardous consequences for the entire Pakistani nation. In addition, while it would only be logical to hope for a quick resolution of the dispute, it would be detrimental to make the wrong choices. While Pakistan has shown considerable flexibility in its position for the resolution of the issue, the matter cannot be resolved unilaterally. India’s response to the issue has been that of ‘engage and disengage intermittently.’ On one hand, the Indian governments have repeatedly stated that they are ready to negotiate all issues bilaterally with Pakistan including Kashmir; on the other hand, it has maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Indian union. Furthermore, when the Indian authorities eventually end up deciding to discuss the future of Jammu and Kashmir, it is usually the section of Jammu and Kashmir, that associates itself with Pakistan that they would like to talk about. The end result is a prolonged period of frustration among the Kashmiris as well as the people of Pakistan. These procrastinating tactics have an underlying strategy to them. Firstly, at the time of partition, the ratio of Muslims to Hindus was 8:2. However, over the years, due to mass scale atrocities and the murder of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims the ratio has been forcibly modified to 6:4. The Indian authorities are buying for themselves enough time to convert Jammu and Kashmir into a Hindu majority state so that, if eventually they do decide to hold a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir, the turnout would show the majority favoring accession with India. This in fact is a case of a state committing the heinous crime of ethnic and religious cleansing for the achievement of its particular national interests.
Secondly, The Indian military forces continue to humiliate torture and murder innocent Kashmiris as a routine. The men are either tortured to be crippled for life or simply shot dead, the women are assaulted and raped brutally, the children are forced to live under extreme fear of the unknown and the old are left to see their entire generation perish before their eyes. The Indian Military forces have been granted special powers to suppress any symptoms of uprising under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) and Armed Forces Special Power Act. The purpose has been to dampen their spirits and to threaten them with dire consequences in case of non-compliance with the puppet government in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian authorities.
The results are however, contrary to the Indian authorities’ expectations. Their strategies have often fired back at them. History has been evident to the fact that no nation has ever been subjugated to perpetual bondage whose people have vowed to attain freedom at all costs. The Kashmiri struggle is an indigenous one with Pakistan offering its moral and political support to the Kashmiri people. However, the issue needs to be highlighted in a more assertive and convincing manner on the international arena and revitalized in the UN General Assembly.
The United States and its western allies have decided to intervene economically, politically and militarily in the Libyan crisis under the pretext that the United States cannot act as a bystander and allow a tyrannical government to suppress and murder its own people simply because they demand the right to freedom and greater civil rights. However, the shrieks and cries of thousands of Kashmiri people are falling on deaf ears. It appears as if their real concern is not the protection and promotion of human rights but actually an un-quenching thirst for the ‘liquid gold’ of the Middle East, Gulf and African states. As far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, the United States continues to exhibit a discriminatory behavior towards this just cause. It feels that it is not in a position to annoy its much-needed ally in South Asia. It looks towards India to assist it in the containment of China, which is already flexing its muscles and aspiring to challenge the monopoly of the United States in the years to come.
Therefore, it is up to the Kashmiri people and the people of Pakistan to keep this issue burning and alive. An enduring peace in the entire region cannot be attained until and unless the Jammu and Kashmir issue is resolved according to the aspirations of its people. India too, must realize that its desire to become a regional power and a key global player cannot be realized, if it continues to display such indifference towards the Jammu and Kashmir conflict. It will always serve as a ‘bleeding wound’ and continue to drain the life and vitality from the Indian existence. The international community has lot of responsibilities in this regard. It should at least deplore India for the unparallel human rights violations by its security forces.