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August 19, 2019

What next on Kashmir?


August 19, 2019

As has been the practice of the UN Security Council for many decades, its latest meeting in New York led to discussion but not much action on the issue of Kashmir where a fierce lockdown enforced by the Indian security forces remains in place. The UNSC had agreed to take up the issue and the UN resolutions on it for the first time since 1965, a silence of over 50 years finally broken through the efforts of China and Pakistan. The meeting was held as demanded by protocol behind closed doors. However, Pakistan’s permanent ambassador to the UN Dr Maleeha Lodhi said after the meeting that the voice of the Kashmiri people had at least been heard from the outside world and from this further action could flow. Whether this will happen is not certain. Till now, only China has openly called for a statement. Much for the people of Kashmir and for Pakistan could depend on how much momentum the US maintains in finding some resolution to the issue. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi confirmed a 20-minute phone discussion between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Trump ahead of the UNSC and Trump continued to call for the two countries to talk.

The focus then is on bilateral discussion. The problem is that as has been the case for the last seven decades, this is easier said than done. At present certainly there appears to be no mood in New Delhi to open up discussion or enter into any dialogue with Pakistan. While India’s Ambassador to the UN Syed Akbaruddin took a softer view than that traditionally adopted by the Modi government, saying that the human rights situation in Kashmir would eventually be resolved and also spoke with Pakistani reporters, there have been no other signs of moves towards peace. Indeed, analysts are increasingly expressing fears of a drift down that dangerous passage of war.

Three Pakistani soldiers, according to the ISPR, have been killed by Indian firing across the Line of Control during the past few days. The ISPR also says there have been civilian casualties and five Indian soldiers have also died. Such skirmishes will simply amp up aggression and the war-like hysteria which appears to have seized the Indian media. There have been irresponsible and completely unjustified suggestions in New Delhi that the Indian government end its policy of no first use of nuclear weapons. The region needs help. China has spoken of the uncertainty and tensions being created. But we still ask if the world is listening or if the UNSC will maintain the kind of silence it has kept for so long. The people of Kashmir can really no longer afford to wait. In Srinagar and towns across Indian-occupied Kashmir, curfew prevails in many places, through lockdowns and the heavy deployment of security forces. News barely seeps out from behind the curtain thrown around the territory by India. The BBC has announced an increase of broadcasts into the area to provide information to people cut off from the world through telecommunications links. For now, the situation stands poised at the edge of a dagger. The world appears to retain its reluctance to become involved in a dispute and force it to take on India, an emerging superpower. The answers though must be found – for the sake of the Kashmiri people and for the region. The question is how this will happen and how quickly it can be achieved.

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