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Kashmir – A Stumbling block Between India And Pakistan; Future Strategies For Pakistan

India is a diverse country with people having far more understanding of the democratic principles and protection of civil liberties. A better understanding among the common man of India regarding the state-backed atrocities in Kashmir beyond the misapprehension of terrorism can do wonders for the people of Kashmir.

Photo credit: Dawn.

Kashmir is an issue ever since the independence of the sub-continent from British Rule. The people of Kashmir gave their verdict in favor of joining the newly independent state of Pakistan but Maharaja Hari Singh’s controversial instrument of accession to India made things complex for the people of Kashmir.

Though, that Instrument of Accession guaranteed limited access to India in Jammu and Kashmir—on matters of defense, communications, and foreign affairs and India was not supposed to bring about changes in the document of accession without the acceptance of the J&K legislature; but things didn’t come out as simple as presumed from the document of accession.

The issue got international attention when on 1 January 1948, Nehru formally took the Jammu and Kashmir issue to the United Nations Security Council. The year 1948 witnessed the first-ever armed conflict between the newly independent India and Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan passed a resolution providing for a ceasefire; the withdrawal of Pakistani and Indian troops; and a subsequent plebiscite. The UN passed this resolution on 13 August 1948.

Kashmir Issue – What does the youth of Kashmir want?

The issue of Kashmir is not just an armed conflict between the two nuclear-armed instant neighbors rather it is an issue of fundamental human rights. The fact that Kashmiris have spent decades in the struggle for their most fundamental right to freedom places the idea of Kashmir beyond the perspective of India and Pakistan. Their slogan; “Hum Kya Chahtay? Azadi,” overtly highlights the ultimate aspirations of Kashmir.

Kashmir_Youth_IOK
A Kashmiri youth with an eye injury sustained after he was hit by pellets fired by Indian security forces during a protest in Srinagar. Image credit: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images.

More than 90 percent of college and university students surveyed in Indian-administered Kashmir want a complete withdrawal of Indian forces from the region, according to a new survey done in 2020. The survey was conducted by researchers from a university in Kashmir and New York’s Skidmore College in the wake of New Delhi’s decision to revoke the Muslim-majority region’s special status in August 2019. The survey is just an illustration of what each and every bonafide resident of Kashmir is ultimately inclined to.

Jammu and Kashmir was India’s only Muslim-majority state and anti-India protests have been taking place in the region for decades. The youth is really frustrated by the attitude meted out to them by the Indian troops.

No one knows who’s going to survive tomorrow or would be picked up and tortured under the false assertion of spreading terrorism. Successive governments in India have deliberately failed to address the issue of Kashmir or else they responded to the issue half-heartedly.

The right to self-determination and a fair-plebiscite can’t be denied to at least any citizen living in a democratic country. Contrary to this, the basic rights of Kashmiris are constantly being violated in the name of maintaining law and order. Firing pellet guns, bullets, physical and mental torture, forced detention, mass graves, forced disappearances, and various other inhuman treatments Kashmiri youth has to suffer in IOK.

Probably, India now appears to be transformed into an intolerant and exclusive Hindu state that doesn’t give a damn to the civil rights of minorities including the Muslims living in various parts of India. An insight into the most recent North East Delhi riots perfectly described the intolerance towards Muslims. The Indian state appears to believe its own fantasies and acts violently towards Kashmiris even after forceful revocation of state laws.

Kashmir – A nuclear flashpoint

Kashmir is regarded as the nuclear flash-point between India and Pakistan. The two neighbors are nuclear-armed with the least cooperation on diplomatic, bilateral, and trade fronts. Despite sharing a common pre-historic timeline, the two countries have been through successive wars.

Kashmir has never been off the agenda whenever there’s a clash between India and Pakistan. The volatility in the relationship between the two nuclear-armed states can turn even a small situation of uncertainty into a precarious one.

The unrest at Line of Control

The picture just above shows three martyrs who breathed their last during a conflict at the line of control. The violations of the ceasefire and exchange of heavy shelling and firing from across the Line of Control has become the part of headlines in the newspapers of India and Pakistan. Hundreds of soldiers, as well as civilians, lost their lives in series of border conflicts along the LOC.

The Line of Control (LoC) is a military control line between the Indian and Pakistani controlled parts of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. LOC serves as the de facto border. Originally known as the Cease-fire Line, it was redesignated as the Line of Control following the 3 July 1972 Simla Agreement.

Issue of civil liberties

A number of repressive laws allow the security services to arrest the civil rights of Kashmiris. The Public Safety Act allows the detention of citizens at will and that too without any bail or legal trial. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act criminalizes freedom of speech. This particular law also arrests the people’s right to peaceful assembly.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act allows Indian troops to kill with impunity. AFSPA is a complete safety package for the Indian troops committing serious human rights violations. It’s more like a diplomatic immunity against each and every criminal act of the military against residents of the occupied territory.

However, all these things were not sufficient enough to criminalize the Kashmiris and to make it harder for them to live under occupation. A new media policy allows the prosecution of publishers associated with reporting deemed “anti-national”. That policy was introduced in June 2020. According to a report of The Economist, in August about 300 young people, mostly teenagers, were rounded up for saying things considered to be critical of the state on social media.

Phone lines and the internet were cut and politicians of every stripe, along with businessmen and other prominent citizens (some 7,000 people in all) were arrested without charge. Gatherings of all kinds were banned. Military vehicles with gun-men at their turrets roar along the highways giving the signs of autocratic rule. Internet services have been reported to get restored days ago and that too under the heavy military presence into the occupied and forcefully annexed territories.

Kashmir and Modi’s policy of Intolerant India

Mr. Modi’s decision to revocate the autonomy and split the state into two territories (Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh) run directly by the national government was an indication of his evil designs to corner the voices and just demands of Kashmiris. Kashmiris were never consulted even though the state constitution ascertained that no change can be done without the mutual consent of the state legislature.

In order to enforce a unilateral decision on Kashmiris, Mr. Modi dismissed the elected state government, appointed his own lieutenant to run the state, and then he did the August 5, 2019 move. Since then an environment of curfew prevails in Kashmir.

Way Forward – Strategies for Pakistan

Pakistan should mobilize the Kashmiris diaspora through efforts on diplomatic fronts.

A healthy debate should be conducted in both the houses of the Parliament to suggest the ways and means to better highlight the problems of Kashmir. Parliamentary discussions would also enhance the national debate on the Kashmir issue.

Pakistan’s stand for Kashmir is crystal clear from the constitutional standpoint that the people of Kashmir are free to decide about their future. Pakistan endorses that UN Resolutions regarding the Kashmir issue must be implemented in the entirety. Article 257 of the constitution of Pakistan protects the right of the people of AJK as well as Gilgit Baltistan to ascertain their future after the release of their remaining part from the forced occupation of India.

Pakistan must contest the issue of civil liberties as well as the right to self-determination of Kashmiris on various international legal forums. This would help in raising the legitimate demands of the people of the lone Muslim majority state of Kashmir.

Track-2 and track-3 diplomacy is also needed to increase awareness among the international public to understand the just demands and decades of suffering of Kashmiris.

Pakistan should seek public attention and debates on controversial laws that are currently enforced in IOK and arresting civil liberties. Economic murder of Kashmiris under the prolonged state of lock-down must also be brought to the spotlight.

India is a diverse country with people having far more understanding of the democratic principles and protection of civil liberties. A better understanding among the common man of India regarding the state-backed atrocities in Kashmir beyond the misapprehension of terrorism can do wonders for the people of Kashmir.

Above all, Pakistan needs to administer Pakistan’s side of parts of Kashmir with good governance and equitable distribution of resources. Any violation of the political, constitutional, civilian rights of Kashmiris on our side of the border would discourage and dishearten the future aspirations of Kashmir to decide in favor of Pakistan.

Another very important aspect that should be done away with is the interpretation of the Kashmir issue from the nationalistic perspective and not from the perspective of a common Kashmiri resident.

In short, the peaceful conclusion of the Kashmir issue is a pre-condition to the peaceful politics in South Asia. Until and unless the Kashmiris are given their ultimate right to self-determination the normalization of the security situation in a highly militarized region would be a dream in the pipeline.

About Noshin Bashir

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