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September 23, 2019

Kashmir’s moment


September 23, 2019

The next few days are of pivotal importance to Indian-Occupied Kashmir and its people. The UN General Assembly, to be addressed by world leaders, will be taking up the issue in a few days time and there is conjecture that the prime ministers of India and Pakistan along with President Donald Trump may hold a separate meeting on the sidelines to discuss the issue. PM Imran Khan has said that he will present the Kashmir issue at the UN in a manner that has never happened before and we wait with anticipation to see what approach he will take and what dynamic he will bring into a debate that has lingered over the last seven decades. Imran has already flown to the US, refusing India's offer to use its airspace to do so, and will be speaking over the coming hours. He will need to try and reignite international interest and persuade the global community that the people of Kashmir have to be rescued from terrible human rights abuses that have continued since the mid-1990s but which have worsened over the past few days following the removal of Kashmir’s partial autonomy on August 5. PM Imran’s speech, along with that of his Indian counterpart Modi will then be of central interest.

To prepare for his UN visit and as part of his global diplomacy, Imran Khan with a strong retinue – which included Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Adviser on Finance Hafeez Sheikh and Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Zulfiqar Bokhari – also visited Saudi Arabia. In his meeting with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the prime minister apprised him about the continuing lockdown in Kashmir and the most recent developments there. A similar briefing was given to King Salman bin Abdulaziz. Saudi Arabia has promised support – but precisely in what form this can be offered to the Kashmiris is open to question. More than anything else, the Kashmiris need an opportunity to determine their own destiny, and we hope Imran Khan will be pushing this agenda.

How far the prime minister succeeds in rescuing the people of Kashmir from one of the world’s most abusive situations will depend greatly on the support he receives from other world leaders. Iran has, despite being the chief oil provider to India and therefore a major trade partner, come out in defence of the Kashmiri people and this in itself indicates how the views of the world may be shifting in favour of Kashmir. President Trump has made assurances that ‘behind the scenes’ action on Kashmir has already taken place and that there will be an effort to sort matters out. But at the same time, while President Trump and Imran Khan had a highly successful meeting in Washington, the US government has also invited PM Modi to address a rally in Texas and its ties with India remain strong. This can be interpreted both positively and negatively. We need a nation on good terms with both Islamabad and New Delhi to sort out what has become an extremely troubled situation. Whether the US is willing to step in and play any role in this will become clearer after the New York General Assembly session has been concluded and other discussions during the occasion held.

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