“Kashmiris are not human or they are of some lesser degree as such why should the world body accord them their right to self determination or freedom that only the humans of a higher degree can have?” Raja Mujtaba
By Momin Iftikhar
It is a nightmarish scenario from an Indian perspective; the Kashmir Issue is in the cross-hairs of global focus even as President Obama’s November visit to India is drawing inexorably closer with every passing day. The Kashmir Valley remains in the throes of a five months long upheaval of mass protest that has seen Kashmiris laying down over hundred lives to stake their claim to having a representation of whatever solution finally takes shape. One thing stands abundantly obvious; Kashmiris want to have no truck with India. The militancy is at zero level; the din of Indian propagandists claiming terrorists’ camps on Pakistani side of the LoC stoking fires of cross border terrorism in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) has since long gone silent. The Kashmiri alienation with India is so complete and passionate that no Kashmiri politician in the IOK can dare to defy the public alienation by supporting Indian occupation in IOK.
At the geo strategic level Indians seem to be loosing support for their ride-out-the–storm, maintain- status-quo approach. As the US President mulls over options of exiting from Afghanistan, Kashmir’s relevance to stabilizing the Af-Pak situation stands written on the wall in bold red letters. Bob Woodward’s latest book, “Obama’s War” provides a window into the current US mindset by presenting top US policy makers considering options for stabilizing Kashmir Situation as an important components of the US exit strategy from Afghanistan.
The rising wave of terrorism in Afghanistan and – in Pakistan and India as well – has an inalienable and an obvious Kashmir dimension. The current mass uprising has demonstrated that no solution of Kashmir, which doesn’t have the full spectrum participation by the Kashmiris is destined to succeed. It is in this context that the long standing Indian plans of dividing Kashmir along the LoC stands thoroughly rejected. No kind of border dividing Kashmir – hard or soft or permeable – is going to satisfy Kashmiri population who has vociferously expressed its demand for plebiscite. Back channel diplomacy’s four point formula, thanks to Indian rigidity and gamesmanship, has lost its relevance and Kashmir’s linkages with the UN have emerged with a refurbished authenticity.
Notwithstanding out of the box considerations, Pakistan has never officially deviated from its principled stand that the Kashmir dispute has to be discussed and resolved under terms of UN resolutions. This standpoint was once again reiterated by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi from the podium of the General Assembly on 27 September. “The Jammu and Kashmir Dispute is about the exercise of the right to self determination by the Kashmiri people through a free, fair and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices,” he said. This should clear all cobwebs as regards to where Pakistan stands in so far its Kashmir stance is concerned. This is no bilateral issue, as India is wont to make the world believe; it has inalienable linkages to UN and in a scenario where India wants to push it under the rug on the pretext of being an internal issue Qureshi’s statement has done well to draw the line on behalf of Pakistan.
It is interesting to recollect that the Kashmir Issue was taken before the UN for resolution by India on 31 Dec 1947, where Pakistan followed suit two weeks later. The UNSC passed resolutions on 17th and 20th Jan 1948, making provisions for the three member UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) with a mandate to mediate in the dispute. At UNCIP’s initiative the Council passed another resolution on 21 April 1948, recommending measures “appropriate to bring about cessation of hostilities and to create proper conditions for a free and impartial plebiscite to decide whether the state of Jammu and Kashmir is to accede to India and Pakistan’. On 13 August 1948 UNCIP adopted a more elaborate three-part resolution providing for a ceasefire, a truce agreement and plebiscite. Both India and Pakistan re-affirmed “their wish that the future status of Jammu & Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people”. Due to UNCIP’s sustained efforts a cease-fire finally came into effect on 1st January 1949. A UN supervised Cease Fire Line (CFL) was established on the ground, separating the Indian and Pakistani forces to be supervised by the UN Military Group Observers in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP).Incidentally it is this line that India now wants to change into internationally recognized border dividing Kashmir and its militating people.
Thoroughly disappointed with the development of events at the UN, Nehru seemed to be moving away from the idea of a plebiscite by the time UNCIP arrived in the sub-continent. On 5 February 1949, the UNCIP, through another resolution lay down supplementary principles about truce, the appointment of a plebiscite Administrator and arrangements for a free and fair plebiscite. Things had not gone as expected by India and it began a well laid plan to thwart all efforts by UN to mediate in the issue. In the New York Times of 16 Jun 1948, Mr. Robert Tremble reported, “The Indian Press has begun to lay groundwork for the rejection of any recommendations that the Commission may make unless they favor India. Dispatches from Kashmir make it clear that the pro-India Government of Sheikh Abdullah in now un-willing to accept even an impartial plebiscite”.
Despite all efforts by the UNCIP, nothing concrete could develop because of the Indian intransigence. Looking for an alternate avenue to break the logjam, on 14 March 1950, UNSC passed Resolution 80, which terminated UNCIP that was wound up by 1st July 1950. Instead, a UN Representative in India and Pak (UNRIP) was now appointed, who was tasked to, “exercise all the powers and responsibilities devolving around UNCIP”. Sir Owen Dixon, of Australia was appointed as the UNRIP. His proposals for reduction of forces on both sides of the Cease Fire Line were rejected by India. His various proposals for either four regional plebiscites, or restricting plebiscite only to the Kashmir valley, too, failed to make any headway with India, who kept harping for condemnation of Pakistani “aggression”. As the question had “nothing to do with plebiscite”, Dixon concluded that there was nothing further that he could do; leaving the UN efforts for Kashmir Issue resolution in a cul de sac.
The ongoing non-violent movement of the Kashmiri people in line with the UN resolutions has once again placed the spotlight on the role of UN in resolving the longstanding Kashmir Issue. Solutions seeking status quo by giving permanence to the LoC (erstwhile Cease Fire Line) under various covers and dividing the Kashmiri people are recipes for disaster and will continue to attract extremists of all hue to the cause of Kashmiris. Already the banning of militant groups espousing the liberation of Kashmir has metastasized into splinter terrorist outfits that are not only bleeding Pakistan but have acquired tentacles in Afghanistan. Unless the UN linkages are rejuvenated and Kashmiris given an opportunity to express their will in line with UN commitments, it is unlikely that the AfPak Region will know any peace.