The dispute over Jammu and Kashmir is not insoluble through peaceful procedures. It appears to be so only because the obduracy of one of the parties—India—is encouraged by the apathy of the world powers. To cover its ‘wrongful occupation of Kashmir’, India has skilfully propagated a series of myths about the genesis and nature of the dispute which have never been accepted by the United Nations.
India knows it well that she stands in flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions mandating a self-determination plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir, conducted by the UN. India was apostatised from its self-determination pledge when it realised that the people of Kashmir would not vote for accession to its nation; it thus contrived excuses for non-implementations and insisted that non-implementation made the resolutions on Kashmir obsolete. Not knowing that mere passage of time or the flight from realities cannot alter the fact that these resolutions remain unimplemented until today. The passage of time cannot invalidate an enduring and irreplaceable principle—the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir.
India’s unilateralism has never been accepted by the United Nations, including the United States. India has irretrievably lost the hearts and minds of the people in the state of Jammu and Kashmir due to the unimaginable atrocities committed by its army on the civilian population.
Why else must India deploy an arresting 900,000 military and paramilitary forces, making Kashmir as mentioned by Arundhati Roy, one of India’s best-known authors, “the most militarised zone on earth.” India surmised that she needs 6,000 to 12,000 troops to hold a free and fair plebiscite (referendum/election) in Kashmir during the negotiations at the Security Council in the early 1090s. As much as the cruelty to which the people of Kashmir have been subjected, the inaction, the virtually permissive inaction, of the great powers regarding their situation has been a cause of the greatest sorrow to the people of Kashmir. They are placed under an unwanted and abhorrent military occupation. A place famed for its celebrated scenic beauty has been turned into a theatre of suffering unparalleled in this part of the world and unprecedented in Kashmir’s history. This is exactly what the New York Times wrote on August 10, 2019, “Inside Kashmir, Cut Off From the World: ‘A Living Hell’ of Anger and Fear.”
With the help of systematic murder, rape, and arson—a pattern which preceded and has outlasted the horrors of Bosnia and Kosovo—the Indian occupation army is trying to brutalise the people of Kashmir into submission. Dr Gregory Stanton, President of The Genocide Watch’ warned on February 5, 2021, that Kashmir is on the brink of genocide. And New York-based, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says, the news media in Kashmir has been pushed to the brink of extinction.
The most baffling phenomenon regarding this situation in Kashmir is that it has been allowed to arise and persist in a territory that, under international law, does not belong to any member state of the United Nations and whose status is yet to be decided by its people. What else makes the indifference impossible to understand is that the Kashmir problem is not politically an uncharged terrain about which no road map exists. The United Nations has at its inception devoted immense labour and thought to its solution. The fact cannot be gainsaid or dismissed that the terms of a settlement it recommended did elicit the agreement of both India and Pakistan. The very basis, the consent of the people of Kashmir, remains inviolable. Neither pragmatism nor morality sanctions the setting aside of this basis.
Shouldn’t the Modi administration respect the word of honour given by Sir Gopalswamy Ayyanger, the Indian delegate at the United Nations Security Council on January 15, 1948, “In a statement, Sir Ayyanger said, “The question of the future status of Kashmir vis-à-vis her neighbours and the world at large and a further question, namely, whether she should withdraw from her accession to India and either accede to Pakistan or remain independent, with a right to claim admission as a member of the United Nations—all this we have recognised to be a matter for an unfettered decision by the people of Kashmir….”
It is a basic principle of international relations that disputes are destined to be resolved. Is the Kashmir dispute too complex to be resolved? The answer is NO. Complexity is in the eyes of the beholder. There is no international dispute which has not been complex. If there is an interest in a settlement, the complexity becomes a motivating factor; if there is none, it becomes an excuse for passivity and inaction.
Being in Washington, DC, I can smell that some so-called experts suggest pursuing President Musharraf’s four-point formula for the resolution of Kashmir. The Musharraf formula is an ideal non-solution. It sanctifies the Line of Control (Ceasefire line) into an international border. LoC in Kashmir is the Line of Conflict. As long as it will remain clamped down on the state of Jammu and Kashmir, it will continue to impose a heavy toll of death on the people of the land. They have had no hand in creating this line. They are not resigned to it becoming some kind of an international border. It has cut through homes, separated families, and served as a protection wall against massive violations of human rights. This line of terror and iniquity deserves to be wiped out. It can be erased peacefully by the free ascertainment of the will of the people on both sides of the Ceasefire Line. In an alternative, it stands as a provocation to violence which, even if curbed for limited periods, will always return with greater force.
What can the international community do to advance the peace enterprise? Galvanise moral suasion against the recalcitrance of any party to the Kashmir dispute as powerful as that brandished against South Africa’s apartheid and the international slave trade a century earlier. Never underestimate the influence of prevailing moral sentiments in human affairs, for good or for evil. And the lives and hopes of too many people are at stake in Jammu and Kashmir and South Asia generally to be left to the mercies of a ‘might-makes-right’ policy. The international community needs to understand that the solution to the suffering and pain in Kashmir is both crucial and vital. The pain felt by the people of Kashmir is no more calamitous than that felt by the people of Namibia or East Timor. The torture and imprisonment in Kashmir are no less acute than it was in Bosnia and Kosovo. The pain, suffering and humiliation in Kashmir are intensified because the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been under occupation for more than 75 years.
Certainly today, no issue is of greater urgency and concern than the Kashmir issue where two nuclear powers, uninhibited by any treaty constraints, glare at each other over this territory. Kashmir and Kashmir alone is the issue that has kept India and Pakistan from normalising their relations, and it is Kashmir alone that has led to three wars, excessive militarisation and nuclearisation.
Lastly, the Kashmir issue offers both hope and danger. If the world powers do not respond timely and justly, the Kashmir issue can lead to a nuclear holocaust. However, a just, democratic, and peaceful solution can only lead to freeing the forces of development and progress in South Asia, bringing the dividends of peace to the entire region, and humanity as a whole.