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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Kashmir: The Counter Narrative

Over time, the border would become irrelevant, and declining violence would allow a gradual withdrawal of tens of thousands of troops that now face one another across the region's mountain passes. The stillborn plan was the only feasible solution to the complex Kashmir problem.

In a jointly written article “In Pakistan-Held Kashmir, Growing Calls for Independence“, published in the New York Times on 20th September 2019, Three journalists, with different backgrounds, presented a counter-narrative to the plight of Kashmiris in the aftermath of India’s revocation of IHK’s special status. The article written by these three is a reflection of how the views of the West, the Pakistani liberals, and human rights activists belonging to the IHK have merged into a single narrative.

Among the authors, Maria Abu Habib is a South Asia correspondent, based in Delhi. Before joining the New York Times in 2017, she was a roving Middle East correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. Salman Masood is a Pakistani journalist who is a Pakistan correspondent for the New York Times since 2001. Jalaluddin Mughal is a Kashmiri human rights activist, presently based in Azad Kashmir. He originally belongs to the village Keran (Just across the Neelam River) in District Kupwara, IHK. Mughal fled IHK in 1990 from persecution by the Indian occupation army and took refuge in Azad Kashmir.

Read more: India threatens to move ahead with 1994 resolution against Kashmir

Understanding the matter better

Contrary to what their article reported, Salman Masood and Jalaluddin Mughal, being Pakistani and AJK residents respectively, didn’t require permission to visit Azad Kashmir. Maria Abu Habib, being an alien, would have required permission though. Their impressions about the situation in Azad Kashmir:-

  1. Talks about independence are taboo in Azad Kashmir.
  2. Azad Kashmiris fear that their ability to reunify has been slowly slipping away after the Indian annulment of Article 370 and that Pakistan is doing little to stop it.
  3. The only solution, the local Kashmiris say, is an all-out war with India.
  4. By preventing the people of Azad Kashmir from crossing the LoC, Pakistan wants to stifle the Kashmiri freedom movement.

Are talks about independence Taboo in Azad Kashmir? 

Contrary to the impression that the NYT article under review tried to generate, the People of Azad Kashmir keep openly discussing this issue. JKLF, operating from Azad Kashmir, was founded on the ideology of an independent Kashmir, incorporating both the Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir. Their slogan is “Kashmir Banega Khud Mukhtar” (Kashmir will become an independent entity).

Yasin Malik, the renowned Kashmiri leader presently incarcerated at Delhi’s Tihar jail, belongs to JKLF. He has married a Pakistani girl living in Islamabad. Pakistanis have never objected to JKLF’s ideology. Centrifugal tendencies are not something new for Pakistan. Pakistanis, those who matter, are aware that sometime in the not-too-distant future they will have to tackle this question.

Has the abrogation of Indian Article 370 finished the Kashmir Dispute?

Paranoia has been described as a “mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance typically worked into an organized system. It may be an aspect of chronic personality disorder, of drug abuse, or of a serious condition such as schizophrenia in which the person loses touch with reality”.

Read more: Pakistan will always stand by Kashmiris, no matter what the cost: PM

Revoking IHK’s special status is a reflection of the mass paranoia and fear Modi and his cohorts are suffering from. Far from finishing the Kashmir dispute, it has brought it into the International limelight. Kashmir is there, and Kashmiris are there, only the perception of India’s ruling elite has changed. What is Modi up to? He wants to fragment the disputed state and annex each shard with a contiguous Indian state. This, he thinks, will scatter the Kashmiris to the four winds, break their cohesive national identity, and render them unable to unify for a common cause and struggle. This is easier said than done.

The Israelis, for the last half a century, are working on a similar plan. They have splintered the West Bank, dotted it with Jewish settlements, and encircled the Palestinian cities and villages, reducing them into several Bantustans (A term used by the white rulers in apartheid South Africa for the Black African towns surrounded from all sides by white settlements). Israelis have failed to achieve their objective of cleansing the West Bank of Palestinians. The Palestinian population in the occupied Arab territories has swelled to more than one million people. Remember, the West Bank of River Jordan can sit easily into the Chakwal District of Pakistan’s Punjab province. On the other hand, Jammu and Kashmir State, with eight million people, is larger than Pakistani Punjab.

The only solution to the Kashmir Dispute is an all-out war

War, yes. All-out war, no. Both India and Pakistan lack the decisive conventional punch to knock out the other. With both the belligerents being nuclear powers, a limited war under a nuclear overhang is possible, that too only after the enemy has been bled enough not to respond further. If India is successful in generating mass unrest in AJK and GB, it can, in a limited war,

invade Azad Kashmir and GB. Indian-sponsored separatist movements are going on in AJK and GB for a long time, but they do not have the popular support to foment a rebellion. These movements, like the RAW-generated insurgency in Baluchistan and the erstwhile FATA, can cause pinpricks, but not result in India hacking off these areas from Pakistan.

Read more: Kashmir becomes new travel destination for Indian tourists

What is happening in the IHK, though, is diametrically different from Pakistan-administered Kashmir. There is an almost three-decade-long freedom movement which, despite the Indian high-handedness, refuses to die. What the Pakistan Army needs to do is to hold the LoC with force and determination. Pakistan’s strategy, it appears, is to let the Indian Army fight and remain embroiled with the Kashmiri freedom fighters. This is why Azad Kashmir police prevent civilians from crossing the LoC.

Why did politicians on both sides of the LoC shove the Musharraf – Manmohan formula under the rug? 

According to investigative journalist Steve Coll’s article in the New Yorker, India, and Pakistan, after intensive track II diplomacy, had very nearly reached an agreement that would have demilitarized Jammu & Kashmir. The plan called for the creation of an autonomous region in which residents could move freely and conduct trade on both sides of the territorial boundary.

Over time, the border would become irrelevant, and declining violence would allow a gradual withdrawal of tens of thousands of troops that now face one another across the region’s mountain passes. The stillborn plan was the only feasible solution to the complex Kashmir problem.


Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.