Thursday April 18, 2024

Beyond rhetoric to conflict resolution

By Shireen M Mazari
September 29, 2016

The Kashmir dispute as it has come to the fore once again has also shown the limitations of the traditional rhetoric of both Pakistan and India even as successive generations of Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir continue to lay down their lives in resisting Indian occupation and the brutality unleashed once again by the occupation Indian military.

While India continues to divert attention away from the shameful human rights abuses being perpetrated by its armed forces in Occupied Kashmir by harping on the terrorism mantra against Pakistan; Pakistan, for its part, has awoken from its habitual slumber on Kashmir to reiterate UN Security Council resolutions validating the principle of self determination enshrined in the UN Charter by demanding a plebiscite under UN supervision for Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile the powerful global players, especially the US, insist Pakistan and India mutually resolve this dispute. However, the fact is that Kashmir is not simply a bilateral issue between Pakistan and India – it is an international dispute ever since India brought it to the UNSC in 1948 under Chapter VI (not Chapter VII relating to aggression!) of the charter, thereby recognising Kashmir as a dispute between two UN member states and seeking a pacific resolution of it through the UNSC.

Without restating the chronological history of the dispute within the UNSC, suffice it to say that for Pakistan the UNSC resolutions are the foundation of its raison d’être as a party to the Kashmir dispute; and the Simla Agreement in no way undermines the UNSC resolutions as the only legal basis for resolution of the Kashmir dispute. In fact Article 1 of the agreement specifically refers to UN commitments.

Unfortunately, despite many suggestions on how Pakistan should have moved forward on this and can do so even now, our decision-makers have sought to push Kashmir on the back burner until a new generation of Kashmiris rises against Indian occupation and confronts the fire power of the Indian occupation force with their spirit of defiance and a few stones. Perhaps nowhere else in the democratic world (and India does claim to be a democracy) have mass graves of local people killed by the military been found as have been discovered in Occupied Kashmir.

It is time Pakistan pushed forward a proactive conflict resolution Kashmir policy premised on the UNSC resolutions on Kashmir. A way forward can be the following five-pronged approach:

One: keep reiterating the UNSC resolutions on Kashmir and state their linkage to similar UNSC resolutions on East Timor (UNSC Resolution 384 of December 1975 and UNSC Resolution 389 of 1976), which were enforced in 1999 leading to East Timor’s independence from Indonesia through an UN-conducted plebiscite.

It was not that Indonesia wanted this but it was pressured, especially by the US, into conceding to the plebiscite. While the struggle against Indonesian occupation was going on by the East Timorese, their leaders, Jose Ramos-Horta and Bishop Carlos Ximenes, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996. It is crucial to remind the world of the parallels between Kashmir and East Timor at all diplomatic forums, including bilateral talks between our diplomats in the countries they are serving in.

In fact, the case of the Kashmiris before the UN is even stronger because the occupying power itself took the dispute to the UN under Chapter VI: Pacific Settlement of Disputes. So both Pakistan and India agreed to have UN intervention and to the plebiscite.

Two: draw attention to the human rights violations by India in IOK, especially its most recent use of inhumane weapons of war against which international treaties exist.

Three: demand the UNSC insist on the return of UNMOGIP and other independent observers into IOK.

Four: most importantly, present a blueprint for conflict resolution premised upon the principle of self-determination and a plebiscite. It is simply not enough to just mention UNSC resolutions alone. There exist today a variety of conflict resolution models that have been successfully enforced in different parts of Europe where territorial disputes linked with the issue of self determination prevailed.

There is the Aland Island case, the Trieste case, the Andorra case (which some are now citing as a possible model in the context of Kashmir) and, the most viable in my opinion for resolution of the Kashmir conflict, the Good Friday Agreement, which resolved the Northern Ireland conflict. This agreement was plugged actively by the US, which put pressure especially on the UK in order to resolve the Northern Ireland conflict.

This model has direct relevance to the case of Kashmir because it is premised on two interrelated principles. One, it recognises “the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland” (that is going with the Republic of Ireland). There is also a provision for a periodic holding (every seven years) of a referendum in case the people of Northern Ireland appear to change their minds.

Two, that deweaponisation will follow the implementation of the settlement. Through this agreement, the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 was repealed.

The agreement is an international agreement between the British and Irish governments with two components: the legal agreement between the UK and the Republic of Ireland; and a lengthier agreement signed between eight political parties and the two governments (UK and Irish). While the agreement between the two governments is the actual legal agreement, it incorporates, in its schedules, the two governments’ agreement with the eight political parties.

The principles underlying this settlement are extremely relevant to Kashmir and need to be the basis of any substantive solution relating to this dispute. In fact, out of all the conflict resolution models, this is the only one that is premised on the principle of the right of self-determination and not merely territorial control.

We must make our case in international capitals especially with states like the US, which actively supported this conflict resolution model for Northern Ireland, and the UK, which accepted and implemented it. If we have a concrete proposal for conflict resolution we can get more substantive support from our allies and the OIC to try and create a snowball effect.

Five: reach out directly to the Indian people. There has been a growing awareness of the suffering of the Kashmiri people in some segments of Indian society and there are Indian voices like that of Arundhati Roy, speaking against the Indian state’s violence against the Kashmiris in IOK. If we have a rational conflict resolution model, we have something to present to the Indian people, beyond mere rhetoric, through the mainstream and social media.

Finally, we need to expose India’s wider designs against Pakistan especially through RAW’s covert operations in Balochistan. While we should also remind the world of the seven to eight insurgencies going on across India at present, we must also ensure that the legal difference between these conflicts and the international Kashmir issue is maintained. A bold and resolute mindset is what is needed, not a psychological confidence deficit.

The writer is DG of SSII, a private think tank, and a PTI MNA. The views expressed are her own.