By: Farzana Ali Khan
Kashmir , which has been a source of conflict between India and Pakistan for more than 70 years still the situation over there is worsening day by rather than to be resolved.Nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan have fought two wars and a limited conflict over Kashmir. Even before India and Pakistan won their independence from Britain in August 1947, the area was hotly contested.
Pakistan’s declaration that it will give Kashmiris the right to decide between joining Pakistan or attaining independence, saying that it will encourage and respect the result of a United Nations-mandated plebiscite is a clear reminder that, in the territorial dispute between the two Asian rivals, it is India that stands in the way of peace by creating hurdles to resolve the issue.Speaking before thousands of people at a Kashmir Solidarity Day rally on February 5 in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan pledged his support for Kashmiri self-determination. “When you decide on your future, and when the people of Kashmir, God willing, decide in Pakistan’s favour, I want to say that after that Pakistan will give Kashmiris the right that if you want to be independent or a part of Pakistan,” said Khan.
“This will be your right.” Khan’s comments are not only consistent with Article 257 of Pakistan’s Constitution, which states that “when people of State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and State shall be determined in accordance with wishes of people of the State”, but also with United Nations Security Council resolutions, however, India has defied these resolutions in denying eight million residents of India-Occupied Kashmir the right to determine their own future by maintaining military control over the territory, while granting only semi-political autonomy to the local population. But, on 5 August 2019, the Indian government suddenly and without warning stripped Kashmir of its autonomous status by revoking Articles 35A and 370 of the Indian Constitution, imprisoning local political leaders and enforcing a military imposed lockdown.
The message from the country’s far-right government was clear – it intends to illegally annex and colonise the Muslim majority territory with non-native Hindu settlers.The Kashmiri people have been waiting for more than 70 years for the United Nations to come good on its promise to mandate the holding of a plebiscite in the territory. It passed a resolution in 1948 to grant them a choice between joining Pakistan or India, with the former supporting the option of independence to be included in the referendum. India has successfully lobbied the international community into sidelining the Kashmir dispute, knowing that only a tiny percentage of the territory would choose it over independence or Pakistan. It has duped international political leaders and news media into believing that the conflict is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, when, in fact, it is an issue between India and the people of Kashmir.
“The people of Jammu and Kashmir are the key constituent to the dispute because they have to decide about their political future and this is a position recognised by the United Nations,” Masood Khan, President of Pakistan-Administered Kashmir, had said. “This sidelining of the conflict, can be found in any of the world’s major newspapers, where a search of the word ‘Kashmir’ in its archives reveals headlines such as: ‘Rising Tensions in Kashmir’, ‘Kashmir in Crisis’ and ‘Violence in Kashmir’. A more accurate telling of these stories would read: ‘India Rises Tensions in Kashmir’, ‘India Puts Kashmir in Crisis’, and ‘Indian Military Violence in Kashmir’.Pakistan does not murder the Kashmiri people while India has killed more than 100,000 of them since 1989 – the year a Kashmiri insurgency broke out in response to New Delhi rigging elections and shooting protestors.
A 2011 human rights commission inquiry into India’s atrocities in Kashmir found the existence of 2,700 unknown, unmarked and mass graves, containing 2,943 bodies. It was India, not Pakistan that violated the ceasefire line more than 1,300 times in the past year, including artillery and air force strikes. Sure, Pakistan military responds in kind, but the key difference is that it does not target civilians or use human shields. In October 1947 war erupted and India approached the United Nations asking it to intervene. The United Nations recommended holding a plebiscite to settle the question of whether the state would join India or Pakistan.
In July 1949, India and Pakistan signed an agreement to establish a ceasefire line as recommended by the UN.Today, Delhi and Islamabad both claim Kashmir in full, but control only parts of it – territories recognised internationally as “Indian-administered Kashmir” and “Pakistan-administered Kashmir”.
An armed revolt has been waged against Indian rule in the region for three decades, claiming tens of thousands of lives. India blames Pakistan for stirring the unrest by backing separatist militants in Kashmir – a charge its neighbour denies. On 5 August, India revoked that seven-decade-long privileged status – as the governing party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had promised in its 2019 election manifesto. The Hindu nationalist BJP has long opposed Article 370 and had repeatedly called for its abolishment. Telephone networks and the internet were cut off in the region in the days before the presidential order was announced. Public gatherings were banned, and tens of thousands of troops were sent in. Baramulla residents, livelihood was affected, nobody was at peace’ Two former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir were placed under house arrest. ” Pakistan fiercely condemned the development, branding it “illegal” and vowing to “exercise all possible options” against it. It downgraded diplomatic ties with India and suspended all trade.
Religion is one factor: Jammu and Kashmir is more than 60% Muslim, making it the only state within India where Muslims are in the majority. Critics of the BJP fear this move is designed to change the state’s demographic make-up of – by giving people from the rest of the country to right to acquire property and settle there permanently.More than 30 civilian, others were injured in the clashes. Since then, violence has been on the rise in the state. India and Pakistan did indeed agree a ceasefire in 2003 after years of bloodshed along the de facto border (also known as the LOC).
In 2014, India’s current PM Narendra Modi came to power promising a tough line on Pakistan. While Pakistan and India’s premiers promised peace in 2014 but a year later, India blamed Pakistan-based groups for an attack on its airbase in Pathankot in the northern state of Punjab.The deaths of more than 40 Indian soldiers in a pulwama attack on 14 February, 2019 have ended any hope of a thaw in the immediate future. India blamed Pakistan-based militant groups for the violence – the deadliest targeting Indian soldiers in Kashmir since the insurgency began three decades ago.
Following the bombing, India said it would take “all possible diplomatic steps” to isolate Pakistan. Pakistan denied the raids had caused major damage or casualties but promised to respond, fuelling fears of confrontation. A day later it said it had shot down two Indian Air Force jets in its airspace, and captured a fighter pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman – who was later returned unharmed to India. India’s parliament has now passed a bill splitting Indian-administered Kashmir into two territories governed directly by Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir, and remote, mountainous Ladakh., China, which shares a disputed border with India in Ladakh, has objected to the reorganisation and accuse of Delphi) of undermining its territorial sovereignty.Pakistan’s Prime Minister has vowed to challenge India’s actions at the UN Security Council and take the matter to the International Criminal Court. In an ominous warning, he said: “If the world does not act today… (if) the developed world does not uphold its own laws, then things will go to a place that we will not be responsible for.”
Tensions have been rising between Pakistan and India over the disputed region of Kashmir. Ultimately, it is Pakistan, not India, that wants to internationalise this conflict. It is Pakistan, not India, pledging to allow the Kashmiri people to determine their own future, and thus it is India, not Pakistan, that continues to make Kashmir the world’s hottest nuclear flashpoint.
-The writer is a senior journalist and an IVLP alumni. She can be reached at [email protected]