Kashmir: The International Dimensions

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The Kashmiri-Canadian Council (KCC) has thanked the Heads of State and Government of eight major industrialized democracies, the President of the European Union and the President of the European Commission for discussing the tensions between India and Pakistan during their recent meeting in Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada (June 26-27). The leaders met for the first time since the tragic events of September 11, still the tense situation in South Asia over the issue of Kashmir was on the agenda é is highly appreciable.

However, it is very disappointing that a discussion at the highest level of the eight most powerful nations of the world failed to come up with some kind of a blueprint aimed at achieving a lasting political settlement of the longstanding Kashmir dispute é a bone of contention, between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan; a root-cause of the on-off tensions during the past fifty-five years and today again, rekindling the fears of a nuclear war in South Asia. It also demonstrates a lack of sensitivity towards the worsening plight of the oppressed people in Indian-occupied Kashmir, who have been suffering under the state of siege, since October 1989.

The Kananaskis Summit Chair’s Summary, states: “We discussed the tensions between India and Pakistan. We agreed that Pakistan must put a permanent stop to terrorist activity originating from territory under its control. Both countries should commit to sustained dialogue on the underlying issues that divide them.”

(A) While the KCC understands concern of the leaders that “Pakistan must put a permanent stop to terrorist activity,” however, maintaining silence on India’s state terrorism in occupied Kashmir amounts to condoning occupation forces’ repression to muzzle and terrorise the people of Kashmir. In addition, the further downside of this approach is that the Indian security forces would consider the silence as a licence to wreak havoc with the lives of the Kashmiri people.

1. For example, the cold-blooded murdered of 38 Sikh civilians on March 20, 2000, just a few hours before Bill Clinton arrived on his first official visit to India é as always, New Delhi blamed Pakistan and the Kashmiri militants, but according to the recent reports in Indian and the international media, India has been exposed in its attempt to cover-up state terrorism: “the game of the security forces é involving the murder of 38 Sikhs é they [security forces] did not foresee that the DNA samples of their victims buried deep in Anantnag would expose their cover-up bid,” The Indian Express.

2. During the past thirteen years of the Kashmiri uprising against Indian-occupation, dreadful and heinous crimes have been committed against innocent civilians by the faceless culprits many times. But, India has never allowed impartial investigations into these horrendous crimes to ascertain the agenda behind terrorist attacks and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Such repeated attacks are keeping the pot of political tension boiling in South Asia, more particularly since 9/11, and this further helps to turn away focus from the real issue.

3. New Delhi also declined offers by some respectable nations to monitor the ceasefire line on both sides of Kashmir by their troops to verify accusations of the “cross-border infiltration.” If, according to India, infiltration is the cause behind everything in Kashmir, then why to prevent verification through a neutral source?

(B) The KCC admires hope of the leaders for “sustained dialogue” between New Delhi and Islamabad: “Both countries should commit to sustained dialogue on the underlying issues that divide them.” But, the leaders have somewhat shied away from reminding the rivals that the stumbling block in South Asia is the Kashmir dispute; and that it is high time for both New Delhi and Islamabad to work together in order to settle the dispute in full cognisance of the Kashmiri people’s right and dignity, since peace in the region can only be achieved after this dispute has been peacefully resolved.

1. For example, Kashmir is not a territorial or bilateral dispute, it is about the future of the people, it does not constitute an un-demarcated frontier between India and Pakistan which could be marked through a bilateral negotiations between New Delhi and Islamabad. The disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir is inhabited by a people with their own history of independence, their own language and culture, their own individuality, it is not real estate, which can be parcelled out between the two rivals é India and Pakistan. It is about the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions; it is about respect for the fundamental rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially their right of self-determination.

2. The people of Kashmir cannot understand how and why the bilateral agreements (i.e., Simla and Lahore) should be regarded as superseding the pledge made to them under the authority of the United Nations Security Council, with the firm support of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and many other nations, that they will be enabled to decide the disposition of their state by their own will.

3. The status of Kashmir and that of East Timor has been identical according to the international law; the United Nations Security Council reaffirmed the right of self-determination to Kashmiris same way as it did for Timorese. With the help and persuasion of the United Nations and the world community, today, East Timor is an independent country. In his address to this newly independent nation on May 20, 2002, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: “At this moment, we honour every citizen of East Timor who persisted in the struggle for independence. We also remember the many who are no longer with us é but who dreamed of this moment. It is their day, too.” The question is: if the UN resolutions for East Timor were not obsolete why are such resolutions obsolete for Kashmir?

The people of Kashmir are perplexed about the selectivity of the United Nations and the world community, e.g., active on East Timor and mute on Kashmir. The people of East Timor who were struggling for their right of self-determination are called “honoured citizens,” while the Kashmiri people who are struggling for the same right are called “terrorists!”

The G8 leaders have failed to respond with sufficient wisdom and vision to South Asia’s very tense situation. The people of Kashmir are troubled by their lack of commitment to put forth some new initiative or to urge the United Nations Secretary-General to help India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir to reach a peacefully negotiated settlement of the dispute.

The emphasis on “sustained dialogue” between the rivals is short-sighted é knowing well that bilateralism is doomed to fail, because India wants to impose a settlement of its own choice on the oppressed and unwilling people of Kashmir. In addition, during the past fifty-five years India and Pakistan have been locked in a dead-end negotiation position, talks about talks, exchange of non-papers and breakdown of talks. Such policy of appeasement to a regional bully is against the interests of regional peace. Moreover, the G7/G8 leaders have made such appeals repeatedly, almost at every summit meeting, but India has never shown willingness to respond positively.

The very scale and substance of the Kashmiris’ current 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 terrorism or by an untenable argument that the bilateral accords, as interpreted by India, could supersede the United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding a plebiscite.

New Delhi’s efforts to initiate a “political process” under the umbrella of the Indian Constitution and troops is irrelevant in today’s context. The present situation in Kashmir and its upcoming direction that flows from denial of the promised right of self-determination, does not allow an overemphasis on India and Pakistan bilateral dimensions of the case and also rules out the possibility of legalising, with or without alterations, the “Berlin Wall” within Kashmir.

The fact remains that the people of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir are politically alienated and disaffected. The disputed State is the densest and the largest militarily occupied area in the world.

Peace in Kashmir demands multilateral approach, what the G7/G8 leaders have been committing themselves to almost every year, e.g., at the Okinawa (Japan) Summit, 2000, they said: “The international community should act urgently and effectively to prevent and resolve armed conflict. Many people have been sacrificed and injured, many economies have been impoverished, and much devastation has been visited upon the environment. In an ever more interdependent world such negative effects spread rapidly. Therefore, a ‘Culture of Prevention’ should be promoted throughout the global community. All members of the international community should seek to promote the settlement of disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.” If such a philosophy is applied, today, to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio, the South Asian region can, once again, set eyes on peace, without any further bloodshed.

The hostility between India and Pakistan over the disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir has dominated the geopolitics of the region for the past fifty-five years. Nonetheless, the longstanding political conflict now has the potential of nuclear weapons on both sides.

The US Defence Intelligence Agency estimates that the first hour of a full-scale nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan could kill as many as 12 million é with millions more to follow. If missiles are launched, military commanders will have only a few minutes to decide whether the attack is conventional or nuclear. If the war goes nuclear, repercussion of this will be felt beyond the confines of South Asia.

A nuclear arms race, like epidemics or environmental degradation is a universal concern. No one can afford the luxury of being a mere spectator. It has a global impact and requires collective action.

As the two hostile neighbours stare at each other, the world community cannot afford to wait in nervous anticipation while India and Pakistan stockpile nuclear weapons; there is still time to save South Asia from a nuclear holocaust.

It is time that New Delhi and Islamabad be given a time frame to settle their differences including allowing the people of Kashmir the right of self-determination. If the rivals fail again, then their differences should be submitted for arbitration. In the event this also does not bring about a peaceful solution, then the United Nations Security Council must intervene.

Above all, the security and stability of either nation remains under threat without stability in Kashmir, and there can be no peace and stability in Kashmir without the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions. A peaceful solution of the dispute will help to bring stability in the South Asian region and eliminate a potential threat of nuclear war, deadly accidents, mishaps and the aftermath of such catastrophes. In addition, it will help to put an end to meaningless arms race by both countries, and both Islamabad and New Delhi can focus entirely on sustainable development é health, hunger and education projects. This will start a new era of coexistence between India and Pakistan.

Last but not least, the KCC appreciates constructive role of the G8 leaders and the EU towards restraint and a lowering of tension between India and Pakistan. Nevertheless, without some kind of a road map aimed at achieving a peaceful solution, Kashmir is absolutely certain to produce more crises, more bloodbaths and more military and nuclear brinkmanship. However, a Band-Aid approach to cooling-off border tension and leaving the major sticking point é the future of Kashmir unsettled, merely invites future disaster.

Mr. Mushtaq A. Jeelani is Executive Director of the Kashmiri-Canada Council, a non-profit, Toronto-based, non-governmental organization.

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