Indian held Kashmir (IHK) is witnessing incidents of the worst ever human rights violations since the partition of the Subcontinent. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have expressed their ‘concern’ on these abuses.
The number of casualties would certainly swell if the shield of heavy censorship imposed on news from IHK is penetrated by these organisations. But this is not something new in IHK. Such events were witnessed soon after the official rigging of state elections in Kashmir in 1987 and then in separate incidents in January 1993 in the town of Sopore.
It was indeed luck that prevented a war between India and Pakistan, after the attacks on the Indian parliament in December 2001 and the Mumbai hotel bombings in November 2008. As usual, India blamed Kashmiri fighters for these attacks and resorted to the full-fledged aggressive deployment of its forces, at the Pakistani borders. Pakistan was compelled to respond to contain the threat.
Such events have repeatedly endangered peace in the Subcontinent. The complaint related to the war in Kashmir was initiated by India in the UN Security Council in 1948. The UN resolutions that followed explicitly rejected India’s claim on Kashmir and established self-determination as the governing principle for the settlement of the dispute.
Nehru promised to honour these resolutions and is on record to have stated so, close to two dozen times. However, India now believes that the UN Resolutions calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir are no more relevant. The Simla Agreement was signed between the two countries after the 1971 war for a durable peace. The first clause of this agreement states that the “the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations shall govern the relations between the two countries”.
The Second Clause reads: “The two countries resolve to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them”.
These pledges seem to have been forgotten by India. Pakistan is of the view that the Simla Agreement has not altered the status of Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed territory and that the more than 20 UN resolutions on Kashmir need to be implemented. Both sides have communicated more on the so-called CBMs, but hardly progressed on addressing the core issue. As a consequence, the Subcontinent remains a major nuclear flash point.
Today, Kashmir is the most militarised zone in the world, where there is one armed Indian soldier for every 20 civilians. India’s habit of discontinuing dialogue, diminishing diplomatic contacts, denying visas to Pakistanis etc is clearly counter- productive. This attitude has only benefited and strengthened extremists and hawks in both countries.
Both countries are compelled to keep large standing armed forces, which they can barely afford. As Pakistan is compelled to permanently earmark bulk of its troops and intelligence assets on its border with India due to the simmering situation in Kashmir, it cannot manage its border effectively with Afghanistan.
Pakistan has always welcomed third party mediation; however India has rejected such efforts and myopically considers them as interference in its internal affairs.
Five conclusions can be drawn from all this. One, that the UN, EU, the US and the OIC must immediately intervene to stop the current spate of gross human rights violations and violence in IHK. Two, that bilateralism has constantly proved to be a false proposition. Three, as a corollary of the preceding, facilitation, followed by mediation and finally arbitration by the UN or any other mutually agreed third party is the right and the only approach to settle this dispute.
Four, efforts that ignore the will of the Kashmiris are unlikely to succeed. And finally: that the damage caused by a future catastrophe, arising out of Kashmir dispute, shall not be limited to the Subcontinent. The onus of such a disaster shall lie on the permanent members of the UNSC, for their indifference and apathy towards the conflict in Kashmir.
The writer is the former president of the NDU.