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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Op-ed: Internationalization of Kashmir is India’s biggest weakness

To India’s chagrin, a day after debating persecution of minorities in India, the members of the British House of Commons turned to human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and called for the European Union and the United Nations to be given access to the disputed state.

At the time of Partition, India knew that its policies with regard to the princely states were inconsistent. So, it feared the internationalization of the Kashmir dispute. Vallabhai Patel, presented Kashmir to Liaquat Ali Khan in a platter, so to say, in exchange for Junagadh and Hyderabad. Liaquat Ali Khan did not accept the offer. Saifuddin Soz, former Congress minister, and a prominent Kashmiri politician told The Print Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV’s Walk The Talk show that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was happy to let Kashmir go to Pakistan in exchange for Hyderabad.

Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India, took Patel’s offer to Pakistan on the exact day the Indian Army landed in Srinagar to push back intruders from Pakistan in October 1947. “From the very first day, Sardar Patel was adamant that Kashmir should go to Pakistan. In the partition council, he tried his level best to convince Liaquat Ali to take Kashmir and leave Hyderabad-Deccan,” Soz said.

“But as Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan writes in his book,” Soz said, “Liaquat Ali neither understood history, nor geography. So, he did not accept the offer..”(The Print June 25, 2018).

Read more: India introduces new bureaucratic framework for Kashmir

Mehta’s formula for Kashmir

Till the 1990s, internationalization remained India’s nightmare. Former Indian foreign-secretary Jagat S. Mehta presented a formula, which offered many concessions to Pakistan in exchange for a promise not to agitate the Kashmir dispute on international forums and keep it on the back burner for ten years. He presented his ideas in an article, ‘Resolving Kashmir in the International Context of the 1990s’ (Hindustan Times editor Verghese also gave similar proposals). Mehta had also proposed

  •  Conversion of the LoC into “a soft border permitting free movement and facilitating free exchanges…”
  •  Immediate demilitarisation of the LoC to a depth of five to 10 miles with agreed methods of verifying compliance.
  •  Pending final settlement, there must be no continuing insistence by Pakistan “on internationalization, and for the implementation of a parallel or statewide plebiscite to be imposed under the peacekeeping auspices of the United Nations.”
  •   The final settlement of the dispute between India and Pakistan can be suspended (kept in a ‘cold freeze’) for an agreed period.
  •  Conducting parallel democratic elections in both Pakistani and Indian sectors of Kashmir.
  •  Restoration of an autonomous Kashmiriyat.
  •  Pacification of the valley until a political solution is reached.

Mehta’s quasi-solution, re-coined as Musharraf/Qasuri solution, was advocated by the United States’ Institute of Peace also. Voracious readers may refer for detail to Robert G. Wirsing, India, Pakistan, and the Kashmir Dispute (1994, St Martin’s Press).

Read more: PM Imran Khan reminds UN of its commitment made to Kashmiri people in 1949

UK MPs concern about Kashmir

To India’s chagrin, a day after debating persecution of minorities in India, the members of the British House of Commons turned to human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and called for the European Union and the United Nations to be given access to the disputed state and for Boris Johnson to raise the issue with Prime minister Narendra Modi and for the UK  government to ‘use its influence with India and Pakistan’ and send its own delegation to assess the human rights situation.

MP Naz Shah asked, ‘Without the UN rapporteurs allowed into the region and with every report in the region censored how can anyone assure this house that genocide in Kashmir is not taking place.

The MPs expressed concern about the continuing lockdown and Internet restrictions in J&K as well as allegations of rapes, detentions without trial, unexplained and uninvestigated deaths, disappearances, curfews, communication blackouts, and mass arrests’.

The Indian High Commission in London shrugged off the allegation of “genocide, rampant violence, and torture” as “unsubstantiated”.

Read more: UK MPs stand up against India’s illegal occupation of Kashmir

Ten MPs, drawn equally from Labour and the Conservatives, took part in the debate on ‘Political situation in Kashmir’. India labeled them as ‘backbenchers’.

Conservative MP James Daly called for the UK government, “working with our European partners with President-elect Biden in America to come up with an international program through the UN that will give hope to those poor people in Kashmir.”

MP Sarah Own highlighted the plight of Kashmiris under constant lockdown, “enforced by half a million soldiers” for ten months. She said, “I have heard [that there are] women in Kashmir that are terrified of being assaulted by the thousands of soldiers on their doorstep. Women fear for their lives and do not feel safe.” She urged the UK government to “take a clear position against Kashmir’s illegal annexation.”

Earlier in June 2020, British MP Andrew Gwynne, Chairman of Labour Friends of Kashmiris, along with several other UK MPs had, an online conference, termed Kashmir “an international issue, requiring international intervention to resolve the dispute taking into consideration aspiration Kashmiris” (UK MPS: Kashmir is an international issue’).

With no cogent answer, India indulges in malicious allegations

Instead of answering questions raised about human rights violations, India alleged that “Imran Khan’s government in Pakistan reportedly spent Rs. 30 lakh on a member of British parliamentary group visit to the country [Pakistan] and Pakistan occupied Kashmir [Azad Kashmir] ( Zee News, July 19, 2020).

India is still to answer why it disallowed opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi to visit occupied Kashmir while according VVIP reception to an anti-Muslim group of EU MPs? Why it disallowed UK MP Debbie Abrahams to visit occupied Kashmir?

Debbie alleged she was denied, as she had been critical of India’s decision to abolish the special status of the disputed state. She tweeted, ‘Why did the Indian Government revoke my visa after it was granted? Why didn’t they let me get a visa on arrival? Is it because I have been critical of the Indian government on #Kashmir human rights issues?”

Madi Sharma, a self-styled ‘international business broker’ arranged anti-Muslim EU MPs all-expense-prepaid visit to occupied Kashmir. Why India did not publicize the expenditure incurred.

Read more: EU lawmakers reject Indian unilateralism on occupied Kashmir: report

Madi Sharma: A Raw surrogate

EU DisinfoLab and India’s own NDTV exposed the fake identity of NGOs run by Madi Sharma. The NDTV reached out to Ms. Sharma, having received no response, it asked, “Will the Prime Minister tell as to who is Madi Sharma? Why and in what capacity is Madi Sharma fixing an appointment of Prime Minister with a delegation of EU MPs on a personal visit and why is the Government of India facilitating it? Where is the money to finance the entire trip coming from? Why has the Ministry of External Affairs been totally sidelined?”

Opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi – whose delegation was turned back from the Srinagar airport – have questioned why European lawmakers were allowed amid such restrictions but opposition politicians in India were not.

Read more: Op-ed: India has mastered the art of fifth generation warfare, time for Pakistan to wake up!

AFP has reported that the European Parliament and European Union hierarchy was not involved in this visit. Several European embassies in Delhi were unaware of the visit. It also quoted an unnamed EU official in India as saying the visit was not official and the lawmakers had come at the invitation of an NGO, the International Institute of Non-Aligned Studies (IINS).

It is a fake entity owned by the Srivastava Group of Companies, which was found to have been behind EP Today, a news and opinion website that largely drew its content from state-funded Russian media RT. EP Today’s address, the group’s Brussels office, and the International Council for Inter-Religious are all listed under the same address: 37 Square de Meeûs in Brussels. Since POLITICO’s reporting, incorporating research done by NGO EU vs Disinfo, both Facebook and Twitter had shut down the web site’s presence on their platforms.

The visit was a ‘PR stunt’

The visit described as private, was sponsored by the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, a think tank, according to Madi Sharma’s emails. Its office in Delhi was locked.

Chris Davies, a British Renew Europe MEP, said Madi Sharma invited him to the India trip, promising a “prestigious VIP meeting” with Modi, according to the email he received from her. Davies said his invitation was rescinded after he told Sharma he wanted to meet local Kashmiris unsupervised.

Sharma had reached out to Davies in her official capacity as the director of WESTT, but it is unclear how a think tank with an operating budget of less than €25,000 and one full-time staff member had direct access to the Indian prime minister’s office, its top military officials and its foreign minister — who featured on the trip’s itineraryDavies tweeted ‘the visit a PR stunt’.

Read more: Does recognising Israel mean giving up on Kashmir?

Sharma’s work is also heavily featured on the website EP Today, including her trips to the Maldives and Bangladesh. Sharma herself has written op-eds for the website. In one article she called India’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s special status — widely condemned by human rights groups — a “victory” for Kashmiri women. But, she did not respond to NDTV’s repeated requests for an interview.

Madi Sharma was present when the European MPs met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

India is reminded of the proverb ‘Pot calling kettle black’. It should do some soul searching instead of blaming Pakistan for portraying Kashmir’s real situation.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been writing free-lance for over five decades. He has served federal and provincial governments of Pakistan for 39 years. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies and magazines at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of eight e-books including The Myth of Accession. He knows many languages including French and Arabic. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.