'To settle Afghanistan, its imperative to settle Kashmir dispute; if not then Americans will continue to suffer in Afghanistan that has already ruined her economy. Like the Soviet Union, now people are talking of the fall of the American empire.' Raja Mujtaba

By Sajjad Shaukat

Pakistan’s armed forces have broken the backbone of the Taliban militants through successful military operations, but US President Barack Obama and high officials of his administration are still insisting upon Islamabad to do more against the insurgents. On the other side, US is silence over Kashmir issue, and does not emphasize India to do more in order to resolve the thorny dispute of Kashmir. The world must know that the war in Afghanistan is linked to Kashmir movement.

It is of particular attention that earlier, Obama had also recognized an inter-relationship between war against terrorism in Afghanistan, issue of Kashmir and arms race between Pakistan and India. No doubt, he wanted to increase troops in Afghanistan for combating terrorism, but had repeatedly said that the United States should help in resolving the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India to deal with the problem of militancy in the region. In this context, on September 25, 2008, Obama, while accusing President Bush’s policies in the region had offered it as part of his policy to encourage India and Pakistan to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and resolve the Kashmir problem to reduce nuclear dangers in South Asia. On a number of occasions, he had re-affirmed the solution of Kashmir as one of his key priorities. In that regard, even after his election as the president of the sole superpower, his aides had also expressed similar thoughts. For example, Mr Riedel had disclosed that settling the Kashmir issue “is essential for fighting terrorism.”

Surprisingly, Obama and his high officials have totally neglected their previous statements regarding the settlement of Kashmir issue which is the root cause of tension not only between Pakistan and India, but for the whole region. However, politicians may back out of their statements, but it is not the job of statements to eat their own words.

Although human rights violations in the Indian-held Kashmir has been continued by the Indian security forces since the partition, yet the same practice has intensified in wake of the current phase of Kashmir struggle which began on August 12, 2008 when Indian forces killed Hurriyat Conference leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz.

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Nevertheless, seeing no progress for the resolution of Kashmir issue, in 2008, Kashmiri once again renewed their peaceful protests, popularly called uprising. In a dangerous pattern, more than 400 persons mostly teenagers, were killed since January last year in disproportionate use of force mainly by the Indian police and paramilitary troops.Indiscriminate firing by the Indian security forces have become a routine matter, while quelling the peaceful protests.

According to a recent report on Human Rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir by Indian Army and its paramilitary forces, there have been deaths of 93,274 innocent Kashmiri from 1989 to June 30, 2010. Besides this alarming figure of open killings by its security forces, there have been 6,969 custodial killings, 117,345 arrests, destruction, and razing of 105,861 houses and other physical structures in the use of the community as a whole. The brutal security forces have orphaned over 107, 351 children, widowed 22,728 women and gang raped 9,920 women. In June 2010 only, there have been 33 deaths including four children besides, torturing and injuring 572 people. The brutal Indian security forces molested eight women during this one month. This brief account indeed, is the reality of Indian achievements on which they are trumpeting for their success in the Kashmir through counter insurgency operations.

Over the two decades of violence in Jammu and Kashmir, Human Rights Watch has   documented numerous failures to ensure protection of human rights. It has called for the repeal of laws such as the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, and the Public Safety Act. These laws provide the armed forces with extraordinary powers to search, detain, and use lethal force, leading to numerous human rights violations. They also provide immunity for security forces. Prosecutions of security force personnel, even where the facts are well established, are rare.

While in its various reports, Amnesty International has also pointed out grave human rights violations in the Indian occupied Kashmir by indicating: “The Indian government’s disregard for human rights means in practice, people reportedly died in custody in Jammu and Kashmir and that the whereabouts of the “disappeared” persons remain unknown.”

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In fact, the Kashmir movement has entered the stage of ‘now or never’ due to the failure of Indian continued tactics of state terrorism such as curfew, firing at innocent Kashmiris, killings and arrests which could not reduce the strong determination of the people of the Valley, calling for freedom of their land.

Unlike the past, this time Indian occupied Kashmir has become a special focus of world’s attention including India itself. Even Indian intellectuals have favoured the independence of the Indian held Kashmir as new critical situation has also affected other parts of India.

In the recent past, in its editorial, the editor of The Times of India wrote, “On August 15, India celebrated independence from the British Raj. A day symbolising the end of colonialism in India became a day symbolising Indian colonialism in the Valley.”

The editor further elaborated, “We promised Kashmiris a plebiscite six decades ago. Let us hold one now, and let Kashmiris decide the outcome, not the politicians and armies of India.”

On August 16, 2008, Hindustan Times wrote: “Nothing has really changed since 1990s. Indian forces are treated as an army of occupation. New Delhi is seen as the oppressor.” It realised that during the present demonstrations, “there is active hatred of India, threatening to further internationalise the present crisis. The world looks at us with dismay…if you believe in democracy, then giving Kashmiris the right of self-determination is the correct thing to do”.

Notably, demanding immediate withdrawal of Indian Army from the Indian controlled Kashmir, a renowned Indian author and book prize winner, Arundhati Roy, while criticizing the Indian media had already pointed out in 2005 that it failed to highlight the plight of ordinary Kashmiris, exposed to brutalities perpetrated by the Indian security forces.

As regards Indian delaying tactics regarding the solution of Kashmir dispute, it has become fashion to blame Pakistan and its intelligence agency ISI for infiltration, using it as a pretext to crush the Kashmiri’s war of liberation which is indigenous as now recognized even by Indian media.

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In the recent past, hundreds of unidentified graves with more than 3000 bodies were discovered in the Indian-held Kashmir. Sources have accused Indian RAW of the custodial killings of the Kashmiri people through brutal methods.

It is notable that despite internationalization of the Kashmir dispute, US silence over the issue is based upon its shrewd diplomacy reflecting its self-contradictory approach. America which signed a nuclear deal with India in 2008, intends to make India a mini-super power of Asia to counterbalance China and to contain Iran. Besides, US-led western countries consider India a larger market. In this background, US President Obama who has visited India, announced on November 6, this year, $10 billion in trade deals with New Delhi to create more than 50,000 US jobs, declared the measures, America would take regarding removal of Indian space and defence companies from a restricted “entities list”, and supported Indian demand for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council including membership of four key global nuclear nonproliferation regimes, paid a tribute to victims of the Mumbai attacks.

While describing “win-win” relationship with India, Obama’s main focus was Indo-US united front against terrorism, which relates to the Islamic militancy in the region, but he totally ignored India’s state terrorism, and remained silent over the resolution of Kashmir issue.

Nonetheless, silence of the US and inactive approach for the solution of Kashmir dispute is likely to intensify the subversive activities of the militants in the region, because these non-state actors are well-organized in the whole region—from Afghanistan to Kashmir which has been giving them continuous incentive for fighting wars of liberation and against the American war on terror, thwarting the US regional and global interests.

Returning to our earlier discussion, instead of Pakistan, Washington must insist upon New Delhi to do more so as to settle the dispute of Kashmir, which is also essential for American interests.  

Sajjad Shaukat is a regular writer for Opinion Maker. He writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations.