On October 27th, 2003, Kashmiri-Canadians from coast-to-coast and Kashmiris all across the globe observed 56th anniversary of Indian occupation of Kashmir as a “Black-Day.” It was exactly fifty-six years ago, on October 27th, 1947, when the Indian troops invaded and occupied the Sovereign Nation of Jammu and Kashmir by deception and fraud. The government in New Delhi proclaimed that the Indian forces would help restore normalcy in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and allow the people to exercise their right of self-determination in accordance with their freely expressed will, unhindered by any threat of internal disorder or external aggression.
Cunningly, India did the exact opposite. It has tried to gradually strengthen its grip over an independent nation by means – fair and foul – unmindful of its constitutional commitment that the future of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined by the people of Kashmir in a UN sponsored plebiscite.
Thirteen million people of Jammu and Kashmir have been oppressed since October 27th, 1947 because India, in clear defiance of the United Nations Security Council, continues to deny them their inalienable right of self-determination.
Since October 1989’s massive revolt against Indian occupation, New Delhi has adopted a liquidation approach to silence each and every individual voice demanding implementation of the UN resolutions. It has resulted in crackdowns, house-to-house searches; rape; disappearance; arbitrary detentions; custodial killings; extra-judicial executions; politically motivated carnage; looting and plunder, and extended curbs on political activities.
But, intensification of New Delhi’s scorched-earth policy in occupied Kashmir has backfired against India. The freedom struggle is in full momentum and the demand for a UN supervised plebiscite is at an all-time high.
The people of Kashmir are longing for a very speedy peace. However, they do not want peace that does not guarantee total freedom from Indian occupation. A peaceful settlement based on justice and recognition of the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir can guarantee a lasting solution of the issue.
If New Delhi is to have a right vision on its Kashmir policy, and I hope it will, it must admit that what is happening in Kashmir is not just a spillover of its old disputes, if any, with Pakistan. It is a powerful expression of the genuine aspirations of a people yearning for freedom and who want to live in dignity like other peoples of the world. Failure to grasp this reality will mean that New Delhi will never reach at a genuine settlement on this issue.
The very scale and substance of the Kashmiris’ ongoing struggle is by itself an evidence (of the fact) that the question of self-determination of a people cannot be shelved either by shifting focus to the so-called cross-border infiltration or by untenable argument that the bilateral accords, as interpreted by India, could supersede the UN Security Council resolutions regarding a plebiscite.
Bilateralism has failed to deliver peace, because India wants to impose a settlement of its own choice on the oppressed and subjugated people of Kashmir. Moreover, during the past fifty-six years India and Pakistan have been locked in a dead-end negotiation position, talks about talks, exchange of non-papers and breakdown of talks. Today again, Indian rhetoric about peace is for international consumption and about the easing of world community’s pressure for a peaceful solution of the dispute.
Events of the past fifty-six years have demonstrated that any peace process that lacks the support of the international community is likely to fail, as both India and Pakistan can all too easily walk away from the negotiating table in bilateral talks. Therefore, any third-party involvement in promoting peace between the adversaries is indispensable.
The Kashmiri-Canadian Council (KCC) thinks that peace in the most populous region of the world cannot be held hostage anymore because of assertions of the so-called cross-border infiltration. If Indian and Pakistani eyeball-to-eyeball deployment on the both sides of the ceasefire line have failed to stop infiltration then it is time for the two governments to urge the United Nations Military Observer Group India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), stationed in both countries, to patrol the de facto border; but the global environment does not allow the rivals to get bogged down by one thing or the other that delays the process of negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
The international community has welcomed India’s newest 12-point proposal to Pakistan for improving relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, but there has to be considerable caution because both Indian and Pakistan have been there many times before, pledging peace only to be threatening each other with even greater bitterness, sometime the very next day. The proposal is superficial compared to the magnitude of the problems; at stake are the issues of settlement of the Kashmir dispute, a root-cause of the on-off tensions during the past fifty-six years, and creating sustainable peace between two neighbours. Both issues are interrelated, that makes it essential to settle the former in order to achieve the latter.
Today, Kashmir is one of the most dangerous nuclear flashpoint of the world, and in fact, it remains as such because of the non-resolution of the dispute. The unresolved Kashmir conflict has caused deep mistrust between New Delhi and Islamabad that has led them to reject the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), resulting in a perilous nuclear development and deployment. The kind of détente that the US and the former Soviet Union could agree upon is not available to India and Pakistan. Their close proximity gives no warning or time to decision-makers. Both have to stay on a hair-trigger alert for a launch on whatever evidence might be available. This mistrust is all too profound to afford diplomacy any chance. Nonetheless, denuclearisation of South Asia can only be achieved once the Kashmir issue is resolved.
The world community must intensify pressure against Indian and Pakistani arms race and to oppose new arms sales to the rivals otherwise the danger remains that the two countries would seek to rapidly build-up their military capabilities.
The KCC appreciates constructive role of the international community towards restraint and lowering of tension between India and Pakistan. Nonetheless, without some kind of a road map aimed at achieving a lasting political settlement, Kashmir is absolutely certain to produce more crises, more bloodshed and more military and nuclear brinkmanship. But, a Band-Aid solution to cooling-off tension and leaving the major bone of contention –” the Kashmir dispute unsettled merely invites future disaster.
The KCC believes that unless the issue is resolved to the satisfaction of the Kashmiri people, peace and stability in the region is a pipedream.
Informed and conscientious Canadians can play a vital role in the education process by interacting with parliamentarians and the media. In addition, concerned Canadians can write to the NGOs, and call or write the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister to voice their concern about the escalation of human rights abuses in Kashmir.
The cause for which the people of Kashmir are struggling is a just one, and deserves support from all those who cherish justice and peace.