Conflict resolution must focus on human suffering
India has rejected a Pakistani call for the resumption of talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. New Delhi cites the brutal killings of its security personnel by “Pakistan-based entities” and the release of 20 postage stamps by Pakistan “glorifying a terrorist’” as its reasons.
For a long time, India has been concerned about Pakistani involvement in the export of terrorism across the border to foment insurgency and chaos in Kashmir, while Pakistan has attributed continuing instability in the Kashmir Valley to India’s suppression of the Kashmir people’s desire for independence from “Indian occupation.”
A 49-page report released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which describes the human-rights situation in Kashmir between July 2016 and April 2018, draws attention to the protests and subsequent human-rights violations following the killing of Burhan Wani by the Indian armed forces. Wani, on the other hand, is considered by New Delhi to be a Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist. India rejected the report, claiming it was speculative and an affront to its sovereignty and territorial integrity. However, Kashmir remains an area where the distinction between terrorism and the struggle for freedom is often blurred.
While Pakistan seeks the enforcement of UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions to resolve the Kashmir dispute, much water has flown since 1948, when the international body mandated the holding of a plebiscite on the issue. Kashmir remains divided, a portion of which India considers to be already under Pakistan’s occupation, although Islamabad prefers to call it “Azad Kashmir.”
But the fact that cannot be wished away is that the area is still disputed territory. India’s objection to China’s Belt and Road Initiative on the grounds that it was to pass through the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region pointed to the complexity of the Kashmir issue. Meanwhile, growing radicalization in the Kashmir Valley forced many Kashmir pundits to leave the Valley. which has changed its character and composition.
The complexity of the issue is further compounded by claims and counter-claims regarding the functioning of democratic institutions in the Valley. While India has cited the successful elections in the Valley as the source of its continued legitimacy, this has been disparaged by Islamabad, which keeps harping on about human-rights violations committed by the Indian security forces. However, there are factors that strengthen Indian claims. For instance, both India and Pakistan are signatories to the Simla Agreement of 1972, which maintained that Kashmir was a bilateral issue and must be resolved through bilateral negotiations and denied any space for third-party intervention.
Growing radicalization in the Kashmir Valley forced many Kashmir pundits to leave the Valley. which has changed its character and composition
Even while Pakistan put forth the argument that the Simla Agreement could not override the UN Security Council resolutions mandating a plebiscite, many major global actors, including the US, EU, Russia, Israel, Australia, Japan, China and the Arab League, have preferred to remain neutral on the Kashmir issue. Moreover, the UNSC removed Kashmir from its list of unresolved international disputes in 2010. Islamabad’s repeated attempts at raking up the issue at the UN have not gained any traction.
Kashmir is mostly populated by Muslims but their presence is consistent with the ideology of secularism that the Indian constitution seeks to promote. Furthermore, the fact that more Muslims inhabit its territory than many predominantly Muslim countries undermines any claims of secession on religious grounds.
In the context of the continued blame game, both India and Pakistan have suffered from huge human and material losses by fighting three wars revolving around the Kashmir issue. Any solutions to the Kashmir issue from a realistic and territorial perspective remain far-fetched and would keep both countries locked into a zero-sum game.
The leaders of both countries must approach the seemingly intractable territorial problem from a fresh perspective. It is only by looking at Kashmir not merely as a piece of territory but as a land of suffering and tormented masses desiring for more independence and peace that the problems can be solved.
While Pakistan’s economy is in shambles, raising the Kashmir issue at the UN seems to be aimed at diverting public attention from the predicament. Islamabad needs to take responsibility for creating suitable conditions for bilateral talks. By April 2018, the terror list maintained and updated by the UNSC included 139 groups from Pakistan alone. Furthermore, Pakistan has been included in the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) “grey list” on the grounds that it failed to freeze assets of terror outfits. This means its financial transactions are subject to global surveillance.
There is ample evidence that the perpetrators of numerous terrorist operations, including attacks on Mumbai, the Indian Parliament, Pathankot and Uri came from Pakistan, but there has been little effort to bring them to justice.