By Air Commodore Khalid Iqbal (Retd)
India harbours a delusion that one day Kashmir dispute would stand eroded beyond recognition. There are no indicators that it would happen that way. History tells us that the disputes cannot be shied away; ultimately they have to be resolved. Over the recent months, Kashmir conflict has indeed become an eye catcher for a number of individuals, states and international institutions.
Current unease in IHK, which has claimed more than 100 lives, is very different from the previous uprisings. It is largely a home grown non-violent political movement being propelled exclusively by local Kashmiri youth. Youngsters have put Kashmir’s resistance on the internet. A decade ago Indian troops could cordon off Kashmir, yet stay unnoticed; now their atrocities are being observed online 24/7.
As international pressure is incrementally mounting on India, her frustration is snowballing. There are no signs of the situation in Kashmir returning to normal. There are ominous indicators that IHK State government is resorting to strong-arm strategy to suppress a genuine political movement of the estranged masses to smother the voice of political dissent. Policy pursued by the Indian state for over two decades from early 1990s onward may soon be back in full swing. This would invariably add an element of militancy to the movement.
During the 2009 session of UN General Assembly, President Qaddafi highlighted the disputed nature of Kashmir, though from his own perspective; Libya has since then been sponsoring follow-up actions in support of its Kashmir theme.
Now Iran has taken the initiative by focusing on Kashmir and mentioning it as an occupied territory. Over the preceding six months or so, Iran has supported the Kashmir struggle at least on three occasions, and has bracketed the situation in the state with Gaza and Afghanistan. Recently, in his message to the Haj pilgrims, Ayatollah Khamenei called upon the Muslims across the world to back the liberation movement in Kashmir. “Today the major duty of the elite of the Ummah is to provide help to the Palestinian nation, to sympathise and provide assistance to the nations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Kashmir, to engage in struggle and resistance against the aggressions of the US and the Zionist regime.” Iran has taken a principled stance; this indeed marks Iran’s come-back-home in the context of its original Kashmir policy.
This came as a shock to India. It showed a knee jerk reaction; Indian external affairs ministry issued a demarche to the Iranian envoy expressing its ‘deep disappointment’ over the remarks, which were seen as ‘impingement of territorial integrity and sovereignty’. Moreover, India, for the first time, abstained from voting on the UN resolution on the human rights violations in Iran. In the past, India has always voted against the resolution. Noting that it was a matter of ‘serious concern’, sources in Indian government said these comments have also factored India’s decision to abstain.
Another interesting development is that Norwegian parliament has initiated a debate to evolve a solution to the Kashmir issue. Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store has stated that the current uprising in Kashmir is indigenous and the protesting youngsters should not be met with bullets, international standards on human rights should be upheld by all, including India. While winding up the maiden debate on Kashmir conflict in the parliament, the foreign minister said “the Norwegian embassy in New Delhi has raised the issue of Kashmir with the Indian government at all levels”. Chairman of Norwegian Parliamentary Kashmir Committee Knut Arild Hareide said that peace in Afghanistan is linked to the settlement of Kashmir issue. She opined that unsolved conflict was hampering international community’s efforts to curb terrorism, worldwide.
China has all along supported Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir. Now China has become more sensitive to the fact that Kashmir is a disputed territory. By giving only stapled visas to Kashmiris, China has further firmed up its support for the suffering people of Kashmir.
President Obama did make implicit references to Kashmir during his recent visit to India. While speaking to the joint session of the Indian parliament, Obama urged India and other aspiring Security Council members to ensure that “the UN body is effective, its resolutions are implemented and enforced”. Certainly, while saying this Obama must have recalled that UN resolutions on Kashmir are yet to be implemented by India. Nonetheless, Washington’s silence is no longer a sustainable option. Soon America will have to take a position, most probably very close to the one taken by erstwhile ‘candidate Obama’. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq recently stated “We are not asking the Americans to take a position against India and for Kashmir… We are just saying that there is a general recognition that India and Pakistan need to be pushed in terms of a dialogue.”
This year when Kashmir was not explicitly mentioned as a dispute in the annual report of the UN Security Council, it made headlines in New Delhi. Media frenzy was created to project it as New Delhi’s diplomatic triumph and defeat of Islamabad. The abridged version of the report had in fact covered only those disputes which were discussed from August 2009 to July 2010 in the Security Council. Ever since 1948, UN Secretary Generals have been persistently urging India and Pakistan to resolve the dispute. UN observers continue to be stationed on both sides of LOC. Kashmir continues to be on the UN roster.
On domestic front, treatment meted out to Ms Arundhati Roy, since she has stood up in support of the cause of suffering Kashmiris, has exposed the myth about India’s secularism and human rights. She has kicked up a storm by stating that Kashmir was never an integral part of India. In retaliation, hardliner Hindu activists of RSS and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad resorted to personal vendetta by attacking the venue of Roy’s recent public meeting in Orissa.
When a court directed Delhi police to lodge an FIR against Ms Roy, for waging a war against the state, she said: Perhaps they should posthumously file a charge against Jawaharlal Nehru too. Here is what he said about Kashmir: “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir and to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.”There are dozens of such assurances in Nehru’s speeches and statements promising the right of self determination to Kashmiris.
Recent attacks on Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Bilal Gani Lone in Chandigarh and Delhi were well-planned assaults. Such attacks against Kashmiri leadership are a routine now. Perpetrators of these acts enjoy an absolute impunity.
During this year’s uprising in Kashmir the word about Kashmir dispute has gone far and wide. Time has come that India should come out of its untenable sate of denial, recognise Kashmir as a disputed territory and move ahead for its solution inline with the aspirations of Kashmiris. Pakistan needs to reinvigorate its diplomatic campaign to enhance international support for the Kashmir cause at various forums, including the UNSC.
Air Cdre Khalid is Masters in Political Science along with War and Strategic Studies. He has also done Air WarCourse, Fellow of Air War College. Instructor’s Course. Senior Command & Staff course. Combat Commander’s Course. He has been a Directing Staff at various institutions of Pakistan Air Force. Presently he is a visitng faculty at:
- PAF air War College (Staff Wing &War Wing).
- School of Army Air Defence.
- Naval War College, Lahore.
- Quaid-i- Azam University (DSS Department).
- He is a regular contibutor to Opinion Maker and Member Board Of Advisors.