Kashmir Conflict | Kashmiris are suffering and the world is watching
Kashmir is a culturally rich region that covers approximately 86,000 sq miles of area. The land is covered with natural beauty, famously known for its lakes, trees, and snow-capped mountains. The land is heaven on earth with its rich culture and beautiful people. However, due to the territorial conflict of India and Pakistan, over Kashmir, the land is turning to become a graveyard for many Kashmiris who lose their lives while fighting the battle for their independence. The Kashmir conflict started soon after the Independence of Pakistan when Kashmiris were denied their right to choose their side during the partition. Since then, the conflict has been taking a toll on Kashmiris killing more than 40,000 people until now.
What’s the Issue?
Kashmir, a princely state from before the partition of India Pakistan, continues to remain a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. The 74 years long dispute has taken many turns but none came to resolving the issue. The dispute resulted in many clashes between the two countries in the course of history i.e. clash in 1948, 1965 war, Kargil war, Siachen dispute, water disputes, a constant war-like situation at Line of Control (LoC), and 5th generation warfare that has taken its place now. The claims of India and Pakistan on Kashmir stems from the Instrument of Accession that was signed by Kashmir’s ruler, Maharaj Harisingh, during partition. From then, the status of Kashmir remained unclear to the world, resulting in both the bordering countries setting their claims.
India considers Kashmir as her integral part and claims Pakistan to be the aggressor that has invaded the territory when Maharaj signed an accession treaty with India. When borders of India and Pakistan were drawn, all the princely states were given the choice to join the country with their own decision or on the basis of the majority of the population. Maharaja Harisingh signed the treaty with India when the majority Muslim population rose to rebellion to force the Hindu ruler to join Pakistan. According to India, Pakistan continually uses the military power to invade Kashmir. Moreover, India falsely accuses Pakistan of state-sponsored terrorism in India and Kashmir.
In reply to India’s stance, Pakistan negates India’s stance and give points as to why Kashmir should be a part of Pakistan.
- According to the Indian Independence Act 1947, princely states were free to accede to either of the two countries. As a result, Muslim majority states acceded to Pakistan and Hindu majority states acceded to India. Because of this, Kashmir, which was the majority Muslim majority state, should have been part of Pakistan during the partition; as it had a 67% of the Muslim population.
- Sardar Masood Khan, AJK President said that even Kashmiris recorded protests in favor of joining Pakistan in July 1947 and wanted to accede to Pakistan.
- The instrument of accession was basically a defense treaty of 20 years that has long expired since 1967. Therefore, exceeding the treaty after its expiration is illegal.
- Lastly, a plebiscite should be held in Kashmir now that it is not any legal bond with India. Pakistan wants the people of Kashmir to decide their fate.
International Law & Kashmir Conflict
International law and international bodies were involved in the issue on January 01, 1948, when India knocked on the doors of the United Nations (UN) security council. As a result, UNSC officially involved parties to stop aggravating the situation in the area. United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR)-47 in 1948 gave the solution for the Kashmir dispute through an impartial plebiscite. 17 resolutions were put forth to settle the status of Kashmir by peaceful means but ended up in failure.
- In 1950, Sir Own Dixen purposed to redraw the boundaries of Kashmir by taking River Chenab as the natural border, which makes the Muslim majority Kashmir a part of Pakistan and Hindu majority part of Kashmir to accede to India.
- The Simla Agreement 1972 introduced the concept of Line of Control (LoC) in the dispute. Though LoC is not an officially recognized border of any of these two countries, its purpose was to ceasefire between the two countries, which, ironically has been keeping the conflict alive to this day.
- Simla agreement also states that both countries to settle the dispute by diplomatic means that is consensus or impartial plebiscite (Clause 6).
- As per this agreement, the future of Kashmir and Kashmiris must be decided by Kashmiris themselves. However, even decades later, the voices of Kashmiris are unheard by international bodies.
As the international progressed to develop, the ‘right of self-determination’ became the key point for states to enjoy their freedom and basic rights. As per the UN General Assembly Resolution 637 (VII), the law states:
“All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.
Role of United Nations
Until now, all the meetings between warring countries and resolutions proposed are put forth through the UN forum. The UN has been playing the role of the mediator in the Kashmir conflict but to what extent UN can interfere in the matter? Although the UN charter proposes the right of self-determination to the people and territorial integrity of any state, it also states the principle of non-interference. Consequently, the principle of non-interference repels international actors to push for any action on the matter. This is a classic one step forward one step back situation.
However, the continuous human rights violation in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) remain unheard by the UN until 2016 when the murder of Burhan Wani by Indian forces put political unrest in Kashmir stared. The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) in a report wrote about the human rights violation in Kashmir by Indian forces that were easily rejected by India. In 2019, international bodies like the UN and international NGOs raised their voices against the brutality of Indian forces on Kashmiris including women and children. However, no solid move has been made by any party involved or international actors to take any action regarding the matter.
What does International Community think of Kashmir issue?
China, on many occasions, has supported Pakistan on various international forums. President Xi has repeatedly asked the involved countries (India and Pakistan) to take a peaceful route to resolve the Kashmir conflict and has extended his support to Pakistan in case of conflicts that are integral to their interests. Since China is a close ally and strategic partner in many projects with Pakistan, and tensions on the India-China border due to ill-defined borders, China’s support to Pakistan is understandable because of her close ties with Paksitan and economic investment in the region – that is based on the geostrategic important position of Pakistan.
Moreover, the increasing ties of Pakistan with Turkey have landed Pakistan another supported in the lobby on the Kashmir conflict. At the start of 2020, President Erdogan announced Turkey’s support for Pakistan.
“We have never forgotten and will never forget the help which the Pakistani people extended by sharing their own bread during our War of Independence. And now, Kashmir is and will be the same for us.”
However, the support of veto powers is essential for any country in the conflict. the strategic partnership of India with Russia has landed India with strong support on the matter. At the beginning of 2020, China and Pakistan’s attempt to speak about the Kashmir issue on the UN forum was not reciprocated by Russia with an open heart. Russian diplomat talked about the special status of Kashmiris an internal matter of India’s constitution and no third party should get involved in the matter.
The differences of opinions of the international community and their unwillingness to resolve the Kashmir conflict is yet another hurdle between Kashmiris and their freedom.
Kashmir conflict & reaction of Muslim Community
Unfortunately, the Kashmir conflict does not get the attention of the Muslim community on a bigger level. Other than Pakistan and Turkey, no other Muslim country has openly supported the resolution of the Kashmir conflict. Pakistan raising the Kashmir conflict in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), failed to get an enthusiastic reply from its actors. The support of Turkey over the issue is linked to the ideological and geographical commitments. Other than that, Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arab, and other Gulf countries, due to their economic, strategic obligations resist talking about the Kashmir conflict. India’s influence in the region makes it difficult for other countries to talk about the Kashmir conflict openly.
Reshaping the region by revoking Article 370
Article 370 gives a ‘special status’ to Kashmir that allows autonomy to the state and prevents the settlement of people outside of Kashmir. It was made as a result of a negotiation between India and Kashmir’s interim government. The opposition of article 370 was always there among Hindu nationalists that, finally, in 2019, was revoked by Prime Minister of India, Narinder Modi. BJP government announced a bill to put the state under control of central government.
Kashmiris condemned the move saying that it will snatch the autonomy of the region and its people. Which, by the way, seems to be the purpose behind the move. Further, Pakistan spoke against it and asked the international community and bodies to fairly deal with the new development. When Pakistan brought America’s attention to the matter, it was not reciprocated very well. Since the Trump administration has taken control of the US, there seems to be a rift between the US-Pakistan relations. However, China being the closest ally to Pakistan and having her own conflict with India over an ill-defined border, asked India and Pakistan to solve the Kashmir conflict by a bilateral means.
Since the Muslim majority in Kashmir does not want to become a part of India, especially after their brutality and violence in the region, any impartial plebiscite will result in India losing hold of Kashmir. However, after revoking article 370, the settlement of Indians in Kashmir can change the demographics easily. This can give India a ground to hold a plebiscite in the future after they are sure of their victory. This indirect use of force is condemable but no proper action is under its way to highlight and counter the Kashmir conflict.
Rising conflicts between India and Pakistan
In the past two years, both countries are in a constant warring state. The continuous conflict on the LoC in form of firing or shelling on the border and invasion of the territory. These rising conflicts have been taking a toll on both countries in terms of their economy and fear of war. Although both the nuclear powers are not ready for a full-scale war, they are engaging in small conflicts on the borders. Pulwama attack and Indian aircrafts invasion of Pakistani territory became the highlights of 2019.
Nonetheless, the international community played its role as a bystander and asked the warring state to resolve their conflicts peacefully. Since then the tension between both countries is high – placing more troops on borders for unforeseen events. Soon after these incidents, Modi in August 2019, revoked article 370 and placed more troops in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) to force people in their homes and curb any bubbling rebellion through violence.
Pakistan with a low presence in international bodies depends majorly on superpowers of the world to raise the issue of Kashmir and get the results in one’s favor. The issue remains unsolved to this day because of the relationship dynamics of the countries. In international relations, there is no true friend or an enemy but the dynamic works on the principle of mutual interests.
What should be the role of Pakistan over the Kashmir conflict?
Ideally, both countries should let the people of Kashmir decide their future. By supporting the ‘principle of non-interference’ and ‘right to self-determination’ both countries can make it easy for Kashmir to have freedom. Following this, the first responsibility of India is to take her forces from Kashmir and stop the brutality. Many Kashmiris have been killed in this fight already, they should not see more deaths and misery.
On the other hand, Pakistan should focus on raising the Kashmir issue on international forums until Kashmiris do not get their freedom. Most importantly, the narrative to include Kashmir in Pakistan is overused and it does not guarantee their freedom. Pakistan should talk about Kashmir freedom and fundamental rights of Kashmiris on international forums like the UN, ASEAN, SAARC, etc. Pakistan must influence the Muslim community over the Kashmir conflict and raise its voice collectively.
There is no doubt that India and Pakistan want Kashmir to become their part but the fight has been going on for decades and no progress has been made so far. In all of this, Kashmiris are the ones suffering – physically, socially, economically, and psychologically. There seems to be no relief for the people of Kasmir. International law and policies contradict each other which cancels out each other’s effects and the issue remains unsolved. Furthermore, no country wants to actively get involved in the conflict and damage its reputation. As a result, the issue has been revolving in circles with no end shortly.
The Kashmir Conflict, over the years, has attracted international attention including many countries and international forums remain an unsolved case. With the increasing violence from India and increasing apathy from the rest of the world, Kashmiris have spent 70 years in distressing conditions. Despite all the efforts, the UN and other international actors failed to give Kashmiris their freedom. More needs to be done in terms of actions from the world to stop the human rights violations in Kashmir.
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