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September 6, 2019

Kashmir: Why now & what is next

National

September 6, 2019

Global politics is changing shape in an unprecedented manner and pace during 2019. The intense USA-China trade war and a looming USA-Europe Trade war, UK Brexit decision, New Indo Pacific Doctrine by USA, Afghan peace deal, Iran vs Israel vs USA and other Middle East conflicts are all interlinked and have assumed serious dimensions. Global power play and desire to dominate underline all these conflicts and Kashmir seems to be the latest addition.

At the heart of all this is the rivalry between USA and China as summed up in US Defence Department strategy document on New Indo Pacific Strategy issued in June this year. In his introductory remarks of Indo Pacific Strategy Document, US Secretary of Defense states that USA is concerned at China efforts to reorder the region through its “Predatory Economics” and military Prowess. Indo Pacific region accounts for 60% of Global GDP and holds the pivot for Global supremacy.

USA changed the name of its previous Asia Pacific focus to a new acronym “Indo Pacific” recently mainly to highlights India’s new-found importance as a strategic partner and counter weight to China. India formed an Indo Pacific wing in its Ministry of External Affairs earlier this year and Modi invited heads of its near neighbouring countries from Bay of Bengal to his recent oath taking. Majority of mainstream analysts believe that the new Indo Pacific strategy by USA is a response to China Belt and Road project.

India and USA bilateral Defence trade stands at over $16 billion since 2008 and in mid-2016, USA designated India as its major Defence partner. India and USA have formed a 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue Group (Defence and foreign ministers) and its second annual meeting is coming up soon. Indian defence minister just finished a Japan and South Korea visit under the Indo Pacific vision and Japan India and other allies are increasing collaboration.

On India’s arbitrary and lawless action to intrude Pakistan air space in February this year, USA State Department referred to it as an “Anti-Terror” action. Only yesterday Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells in her tweet reiterated USA support to India for anti-terror actions and lauded new law to penalise four terrorists accused in India Pakistan tensions. USA has been expressing concern at human rights situation in Kashmir after India annexation and need for bilateral dialogue and even offered mediation. However USA stops short of the real solution i.e holding UN plebiscite to determine Kashmiris right of self-determination. USA continues to maintain this position despite UN Secretary General firm and categoric position against Indian Aug 5th decision in which he rejected it as violation of UN Security Council Resolutions on Kashmir. In a statement on Aug 29th 2019, UN Secretary General congratulated Timor-Leste on 20th anniversary of its independence after a referendum held under UN which shows UN commitment to resolve similar conflicts under UN Charter.

Many in global capitals view with heavy concern USA position and that of some other countries who press for Pakistan and India bilateral dialogue over Kashmir instead of UN Resolutions. A couple of days back Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in an interview to a question on unstable international relations remarked “I would say that international relations continue to get steadily worse. You see how our American colleagues along with their closest, most loyal allies are actually aiming to undermine the entire international legal system that developed after the Second World War.” He added, “The very term “international law” is used less and less often by our Western colleagues. They prefer to talk about some “rule-based order. As practice shows, they invent these rules on the spot to suit their current needs“.

The heavy impact of war on terror on Pakistan economy of over $125 billion and internal political wrangling would have emboldened India in addition to above Geo Political Pivots. Pakistan has been in the eye of the storm for a long time but due to undesirable political and economic policies, it has become more and more vulnerable.

India has done Kashmir annexation under its new-found confidence as a global player but would find it extremely difficult to hold on to its Aug 5th action. Human history is full of resilient struggle for independence and Kashmiris battle for their right of self-determination will only become more intense. Pakistan is a party to the dispute and will continue its support as reiterated by the State and Government. China, OIC and major Muslim countries have categorically called for a solution under UN resolutions. The European Parliament has begun deliberations on Kashmir and has heavily criticised Indian unilateral action. On September 5th Amnesty International has launched a global campaign to end Kashmir blackout and highlight human cost of Indian clampdown. Human Rights Watch, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Code Pink many other human rights organisations have severely criticised Indian atrocities in Kashmir. Pakistan foreign minister has stated that he will question the existence of UN bodies like Human Rights Council if they cannot implement their own recommendation issued in 2018 and 2019 against Indian brutalities in his upcoming address to the Council on Sept 9th.

Over 100,000 Kashmiris have embraced martyrdom since 1989 and scores of women lost their honour. India inflicts over $5 billion loss to Kashmiri economy through different restrictions every year in a bid to subjugate them. India has dubious distinction of being Number One in world for internet shutdowns. Out of 340 internet shutdowns since 2014, over half are done in Kashmir alone. UNHCR a couple of days back has raised alarm at Indian decision to make two million stateless in Assam. Different other minorities face intimidation and exclusion in India.

Meanwhile the region continues to come closer in long term cooperation. China and Iran has updated this week a 25 year strategic partnership worth $400 billion to build Iran Energy reserves and allied infrastructure. China Road and Belt project extensions in Pakistan and other regional countries continue to move ahead. Its for India and its global partners to consider and decide that would it be possible for India to play a role in regional and global development if it takes unilateral decision like Kashmir annexation which seriously jeopardise its relations in the region and disturbs regional and global peace. Pakistan has taken a firm and resolute position on Kashmir and it only needs to fine tune its internal political and economic act to face and turnaround the situation and ensure relief for Kashmiris as per UN resolutions. Pakistan political and military leadership has avowed to go to any extent in this regard.

India has begun to trumpet the terror charges against Pakistan as crucial hearings are expected in US Congress, UN Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly in September. However, majority of global power capitals, human rights organisations and mainstream global media have taken up firm positions against India’s unilateral decision to annex Kashmir against its people’s right of self-determination.

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