Home Digital Magazine Kashmir: A moment of Truth for the Idealists and Naysayers

Kashmir: A moment of Truth for the Idealists and Naysayers

A consummate Pakistani diplomat for over 40 years, analyses how Indian actions, revoking the special status of Kashmir and imposing a blanket curfew and communications blockade, will only give force to those believing that the gun solution is their last resort for self-determination. He articulates the four forces that may stop India progressing on the disastrous course it is set on.

Kashmir

The abrupt, unilateral, illegal and militarized attempt by PM Modi’s BJP government to erase Jammu and Kashmir’s identity and end its “special” and “autonomous” status under the Indian Constitution is a moment of truth for Pakistan, India and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

In Pakistan, those who believed that a compromise on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, even if this amounted to a humiliating acceptance of the status quo, would bring an end to Indian hostility, trade, and cooperation, have had their eyes opened by the revelation of Hindu India’s determination to impose a fascist “final solution” for Kashmir and violently suppress India’s Muslims.

PM Imran Khan has concluded that Modi saw his early peace overtures as weakness and appeasement. So too were the Army Chief’s offers of a modus vivendi. For Modi and his RSS ideologues, the Hindutva agenda is not only an electoral artifice; they are committed to imposing their supremacist vision of a Hindu India. Its realization requires the mobilization of religious, cultural and political hatred of Pakistan and India’s Muslims.

Jammu and Kashmir offer the most convenient focal point to generate this hatred. The global campaign against terrorism provides the most convenient vehicle to justify the mobilization of hate against the Kashmiri freedom fighters, by portraying them as Islamic terrorists and Pakistan as the sponsor of Islamic terrorism.

In India too, the secularism preached by Nehru’s Congress, which was designed initially to forestall the creation of a Muslim Pakistan and, after partition, to preserve peace and harmony in a multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-caste Indian Union and to justify the claim to Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir, has been decisively rejected by the popular support for Hindu supremacy preached by Modi, the BJP-RSS and their associates in the Hindu Rashtra movement.

The Hindu hawks know full well that their aim of political integration and ethnic transformation of Jammu and Kashmir is unacceptable to the State’s people and cannot be achieved peacefully.

 

Modi and his malevolent cohort have emphatically reaffirmed the rationale for the creation of Pakistan. Today, India is unambiguously a Hindu State ruled ruthlessly by Brahmin, upper caste and wealthy Hindus. Muslims, in particular, but also Christians, tribal peoples, and Hinduism’s lower castes are not only “second class” citizens; they are persecuted segments of India’s 1.2 billion people.

The Vale of Kashmir has been described as a vast open-air prison. There are today actual concentration camps in Bihar, Assam and elsewhere where hundreds of thousands of Christians and Muslims accused of illegal presence in India or other concocted crimes have been incarcerated.

One or more tactical considerations may have determined the timing of Modi’s move on Kashmir: to disrupt the diplomacy to improve Pakistan-US relations (consequent to Pakistan’s facilitation of the Afghan peace process); to disrupt this process, and/or to divert attention from India’s sputtering economy and Modi’s failure to generate jobs.

While the timing may have been tactical, Modi’s move on Kashmir is part of the RSS’ strategic plan and would have been imposed sooner or later. The Hindu hawks know full well that their aim of political integration and ethnic transformation of Jammu and Kashmir is unacceptable to the State’s people and cannot be achieved peacefully.

Modi and his malevolent cohort have emphatically reaffirmed the rationale for the creation of Pakistan.

The total lockdown imposed on occupied Jammu and Kashmir was designed to forestall a popular reaction by its people. New Delhi may calculate that this reaction can be contained for now by its show of force and that, as the “shock” wears off, the Kashmiris will come to accept the new “realities.”

Similarly, it may believe that Pakistan, fighting off India’s hybrid war (incessant threats of force, the LOC ceasefire violations, pressure (through FATF) to restrain the pro-Kashmiri “jihadists”, BLA and TTP terrorism from Afghanistan) is unlikely to do much to oppose Modi’s move on Kashmir, beyond diplomatic activity and political rhetoric.

Read more: India’s ‘Final solution’ for Kashmir: President AJ&K

Naturally, Pakistan’s response so far has been in the form of diplomatic, political and media action. Recall of Ambassadors, termination of trade and transport, etc. are obvious initial steps. Islamabad’s decision to raise Kashmir in the Security Council was bold and successfully executed.

Islamabad will no doubt maintain the diplomatic pressure on India in the Security Council and other international forums, such as the UN Human Rights Council, the UN General Assembly, and the Islamic Conference, among others.

The Security Council’s prompt decision to convene “informal consultations” under the agenda item: “India-Pakistan Question” was a clear diplomatic victory for Pakistan. It required the concurrence of all 15 council members. After almost 50 years, Pakistan has succeeded in reviving the Security Council’s active consideration of the Kashmir dispute.

According to unofficial reports of the meeting, the positions of council members reflected the emerging geopolitical configurations. Although India called in all its chips, all Security Council members agreed to the meeting and expressed concern about the situation. All, except France, Germany and the US, were prepared to issue a statement affirming the UN secretary general’s statement and calling for restraint.

India may well reject such censure and demands for redress. It will resort to its usual deceit and trickery to avoid such decisions and actions.

China’s support for Pakistan’s position was strong and categorical and a reminder that it remains Pakistan’s strategic and diplomatic anchor. Russia’s position was “balanced” between its old and new relationships (India vs. China and Pakistan).

The US accepted the meeting and toyed with a statement, (no doubt to sustain Pakistan’s “goodwill” in the context of its Afghan talks facilitation); but, in a last-minute switch, opposed an outcome, (no doubt in response to India’s demarches, thus reaffirming its strategic partnership with New Delhi).

Kuwait was sympathetic; but Indonesia, the largest Islamic country, was surprisingly negative and indifferent to the plight of Kashmiri Muslims (perhaps due to Pakistan’s alignment with China on the South China Sea disputes).

While the positions of Security Council members and other states, on the substance of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute are as yet unclear, no one accepts India’s assertion that Jammu and Kashmir is its “internal” matter. Of course, to escape “taking sides,” most third parties advocate “bilateral” efforts by Pakistan and India to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

But, New Delhi’s latest actions, and the vociferous rejection of bilateral talks by Indian ministers, are making it evident that third party involvement is essential to address the process if not the substance of the dispute, to avoid the danger of another Pakistan-India war, and to redress the human rights situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The human rights situation in occupied Kashmir has aroused the greatest concern in the international community.

The human rights situation in occupied Kashmir has aroused the greatest concern in the international community.

Expressions of concern regarding the India’s round the clock curfew, communications and news blackout, arbitrary arrests, and violent and lethal suppression of any protest or demonstration have emanated from across the international community: the UN secretary-general, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, other UN officials, several Western and some Islamic governments and numerous NGOs, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists ( ICJ).

Even prior to this latest crackdown in Kashmir, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had issued reports in 2018 and 2019 voicing concern about human rights violations in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and calling for the establishment of a UN Inquiry Commission to investigate and report on these violations.

Read more: India losing narrative war on Indian Occupied Kashmir

Thus, despite India’s anticipated, active opposition, the Human Rights Council, and other human rights bodies, could adopt decisions or resolutions regarding the human rights situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir in the ensuing weeks. Much will depend on how well Pakistan projects the human rights violations are taking place in Kashmir and how vigorously it presses for decisions in these forums.

India may well reject such censure and demands for redress. It will resort to its usual deceit and trickery to avoid such decisions and actions. Such censure will, however, cause considerable damage to India’s “democratic” credentials and “image.” Hopefully, it may persuade it to ease some of its oppressive measures in occupied Kashmir.

By itself, censure for its human rights violations and oppression may not be sufficient to convince the Modi government to step back from its designs on occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Apart from international censure, four other forces may, in combination, oblige the BJP-RSS ideologues to retreat from their disastrous course.

There are today actual concentration camps in Bihar, Assam and elsewhere where hundreds of thousands of Christians and Muslims accused of illegal presence in India or other concocted crimes have been incarcerated.

The first among these is pressure from the major powers (the P-5) and the UN Security Council. Of the 5, China has already declared its support for Pakistan’s position. It will continue to press, in the Security Council and elsewhere, for a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Charter, relevant resolutions and bilateral agreements. While sympathetic, China will be more circumspect in condemning the human rights violations in occupied Kashmir (due to its vulnerabilities in Hong Kong and Xinjiang).

China’s support for Pakistan will damage Sino-Indian relations to an extent and move India even closer to the US; a price which China appears willing to pay to preserve its strategic partnership with Pakistan. Russia also wants to hold back the Indo-US “alliance” and to continue its large arms sales relationship with India.

The crisis in Kashmir provides Moscow a lever to press India on these objectives. At the same time, Russia has developed a robust strategic partnership with China and also requires Pakistan’s (and the Afghan Taliban’s) cooperation to eliminate the threat of IS, Uzbek, Chechen and related terrorism emanating from Afghanistan.

Russia will thus walk a fine line on Jammu and Kashmir, publicly advocating bilateral dialogue between Pakistan and India and privately deploying stronger efforts to convince India to accept an equitable solution, avoid war and normalize relations with Pakistan.

The US will also “use” India’s self-created vulnerability in Kashmir as a means of “keeping it on the (US) reservation,” even as the Trump administration flirts with Pakistan to secure its continued facilitation of the negotiations with the Afghan Taliban.

Trump has stepped back from his offer of “mediation.” Yet, Washington will join in expressing mild censure on the human rights situation in occupied Kashmir to respond to its domestic human rights lobby, appease Pakistan and retain leverage with India. It is, however, unlikely that Kashmir or Pakistan-US cooperation on Afghanistan will change the US desire to establish an anti-China “strategic partnership” with India.

Read more: Imran Khan’s Kashmir Policy? Is there One?

France is desperate to sell its fighter aircraft and other weapons to India and exploit the opportunities in India’s large and growing market. It describes India as a “strategic partner.” It will continue to be unhelpful in the Security Council and other international forums, even if embarrassed by its indifference to India’s gross human rights violations.

The United Kingdom may be more forthcoming on the human rights situation due to the influence of Kashmiri groups in the country’s politics and the group of pro-Kashmiri MPs in the British Parliament. Nevertheless, in the Security Council and in any serious diplomacy, the UK will try to avoid taking sides by advocating a “bilateral” resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

Washington will join in expressing mild censure on the human rights situation in occupied Kashmir to respond to its domestic human rights lobby, appease Pakistan and retain leverage with India.

In sum, the major powers and their friends and allies may press India to avoid war with Pakistan and grave human rights violations in occupied Kashmir; but they are unlikely to be able, collectively or individually, to persuade India to change its policies on Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan – unless other factors come into play.

The second factor in India’s policy calculations would be the impact of its Kashmir “takeover” on its economy. The Indian economy is already slowing. It grew by 5.8pc in the last quarter; down from 6.7pc a year ago. During Modi’s rule, India’s youth has been largely “jobless.” The previous Indian budget evoked a scathing critique from the “Economist” magazine.

Read more: Kashmiris are Angered, Seek Pakistan’s Help & Foreign Intervention: Indian Journalist

If India faces strong international censure for its heavy-handed policies in occupied Kashmir; or, even worse, if the danger of a war with Pakistan intensifies, it will further dampen the prospects of domestic and foreign investment in India.

A dramatic slowdown in the economy will exert pressure on Modi and company to “normalize” the situation, including reviving dialogue with Pakistan. The third factor that could change policy in New Delhi, and other capitals, is the threat of general war between Pakistan and India.

After the February aerial bombings, incursions and dogfights, PM Modi, far from reciprocating Imran Khan’s gesture of releasing and repatriating the captured Indian pilot, warned that the Balakot bombing was only the “trailer” and Indians should wait for the full movie.

Modi’s move to seize occupied Jammu and Kashmir is likely to propel a qualitative change in the Kashmiri freedom movement. There is likely to be a surge of support for complete freedom from India, including from those who were “sitting on the fence” or were pro-Indian.

Pakistan fears that in order to divert attention from its massive repression in occupied Kashmir, the Indian government may resort to a “false flag” terrorist incident and use it as an excuse to launch another aggression against Pakistan. Another Pakistan-India military exchange is unlikely to remain as contained as the February crisis.

Modi’s hyper-nationalists will demand a visible humiliation of Pakistan. PM Imran Khan will come under considerable domestic pressure not to hold back from escalated retaliation as he did in February. Pakistan should appraise the world, in particular, the Security Council, that if India provokes another conflict, it may not remain as contained as the one last February.

Read more: “Terrorist terrorist, Modi is a terrorist!” protesters in London

One consequence of a conflict, or imminent danger thereof, will be the immediate and active cognizance of the situation by the UN Security Council and the likelihood of decisions which oppose India’s actions in occupied Kashmir and aggression against Pakistan.

None of the preceding forces will, of themselves, secure freedom (Azadi) for the people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir. In the final analysis, the fate of Jammu and Kashmir will be decided by its people. Confronted by Modi’s attempt to annex Jammu and Kashmir, its people have no choice but to launch a revived freedom struggle.

The Kashmiri struggle during the 1990s, which was led by the Pakistan-based “United Jihad Council,” was effectively suppressed by India in 2001-2002. This was achieved mainly by the portrayal of the Kashmiri struggle as “terrorism,” following the terrorist acts committed by Doval’s infiltrators in the name of Kashmiri militant groups and after 9/11 by their equation with Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

After the January 2002 attack on the Indian parliament, the Musharraf government was obliged by the US to accept an undertaking not to allow the use of Pakistan territory for external terrorism, thus virtually equating the Kashmiri struggle with global terrorism. Pakistan agreed to “list” JeM, after one of its segments tried to assassinate President Musharaf, and, the LeT, after the Mumbai attack, as terrorist organizations.

The indigenous militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, enjoys broad popular support within occupied Kashmir; but its insurgency operations have been limited.

Thereafter, attacks undertaken by these Kashmiri groups, even against Indian military targets (Uri, Pathankot, and Pulwama), were automatically categorized as “terrorism’, even by Pakistan. These organizations have been further constrained within Pakistan, under pressure from US-India and the FATF.

Since the assassination of Burhan Wani in 2016, the Kashmiri freedom movement has been a peoples’ struggle – undertaken without identified leaders mostly by Kashmiri youth-boys, girls and even children-facing India’s bullets, pellets, detention, torture, and humiliation, armed only with stones and freedom slogans.

The Hurriyet leaders have sought to channel the direction of the popular movement but did not lead it. The indigenous militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, enjoys broad popular support within occupied Kashmir; but its insurgency operations have been limited. Among the proscribed groups, JeM has remained active while the LeT has recently been dormant.

Read more: India’s Constitutional Deception turns Kashmir into a Volcano

Modi’s move to seize occupied Jammu and Kashmir is likely to propel a qualitative change in the Kashmiri freedom movement. There is likely to be a surge of support for complete freedom from India, including from those who were “sitting on the fence” or were pro-Indian.

Second, from the slogans and sentiments voiced at the defiant demonstrations held after August 5, it appears that there is growing support for the “gun solution,” i.e., armed resistance. The Hizbul Mujahideen will be strengthened by large recruitment. Other militant groups will emerge or, like the JKLF, re-emerge. Proscribed groups (LeT, JeM, etc.) will attempt to find alternate avenues to join the freedom struggle.

Pakistan will have no choice but to stand firm against India’s threats, respond to any aggression, and rely on nuclear deterrence to prevent a major war.

Terrorist groups, including IS and Al Qaeda, may try to join the Kashmiri freedom movement as well. Pakistan will need to adopt a clear and legally and politically defensible position on the freedom struggle.

On the one hand, Pakistan should defend the legitimacy of the Kashmiri freedom struggle, citing international law and relevant UN resolutions, such as General Assembly Resolution 1540 (1960) on “The granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” and resolution 2649 (1970) on “The Right of Peoples to Self Determination”. On the other hand, Pakistan will need to distance itself from terrorist organizations which may enter the fray in Jammu and Kashmir.

As the Kashmiri freedom struggle picks up momentum, India and its friends will no doubt seek to deny its legitimacy and support by portraying it as terrorism. India may, as discussed, threaten the use of force and perhaps undertake “limited” military strikes or incursions against Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) territory.

Read more: Article 35-A: Court’s move could be problematic for Indo-Pak relations

Pakistan will have no choice but to stand firm against India’s threats, respond to any aggression, and rely on nuclear deterrence to prevent a major war.

Ultimately, the combination of the multiple pressure points – the major powers and the Security Council, human rights censure, the negative impact on India’s economy, the danger of a full-scale Pakistan-India war, and a determined Kashmiri freedom struggle – will convince the BJP-RSS extremists, and the world, that it would be advisable to halt the repression in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and negotiate a mutually acceptable political solution with its people and with Pakistan in accordance with the UN Charter and relevant Security Council resolutions.

Of course, if India rejects recourse to negotiations, doubles down on its repression or provokes a war with Pakistan, the entire political and strategic scenario in South Asia would change radically, with unpredictable and unintended consequences.

Ambassador Munir Akram has a foreign service career spanning four decades, joining the elite cadre in 1967. His last position was as Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations during 2002-08. Prior to that Ambassador Akram has held positions as Pakistan’s Additional Foreign Secretary, Ambassador to EU, Ambassador to UN’s Geneva office, he has specialized in multilateral diplomacy and has held positions in many intergovernmental organizations including UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament and President of the Security Council.

The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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