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September 17, 2020

Where’s the focus on Kashmir?

Opinion

September 17, 2020

The writer is a Kashmiri activist and former journalist.

The question is often raised in political and media debates about the muted response of the international community in response to the gross human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.

The way international politics has reshaped its contours and collusions after the 9/11 attacks on US, it has become evident that the world stands divided into two ideologies which reflect its policy on India and Pakistan.

Earlier, it was the cold-war era that had a lot to do in framing the foreign policy of the two newly independent countries after partition. The Russian bloc provided military and diplomatic support to India at every level and in every difficult hour, compared to the loss suffered by Pakistan by joining Cento or Seato. Washington’s intentions had become open when the UN deliberated on the Kashmir dispute or in the war of 1971 or to get Pakistan as a launch pad in the jihad against Russia in Afghanistan. Even Pakistan’s internal political upheavals and manoeuvrings did not spare the US intervention.

The world has changed recently. Many superpowers, that used to create chaos and uprising in other regions, are also suffering from internal political and economic turmoil. If the institutions and administrative systems of these countries were not strong, they would also be suffering from the malaise we are facing in South Asia today. Since Trump came to rule, American society has become a split society, economically, socially and ideologically. According to some analysts, the global image of the US has become reduced to that of a rogue ‘policeman’.

Britain decided to leave the European Union. Brexit has not only weakened the European alliance, it has also eroded the image of the Britain that used to claim the sun never sets on the island. Germany, France and other European countries are currently in a rat race to save their plummeting economies. The pandemic has hit European markets the most and consumed lives and livelihood.

At the diplomatic level, new blocs of world politics have started to emerge in which the sphere of influence of China and Russia is seen to be growing at a pace. If China has tightened its grip on international markets, Russia has infiltrated again into the Muslim world to restore its lost face. Fearful of the policies of the US, many Muslim countries are coming close to Russia, and becoming part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative.

On the one hand, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, Malaysia, China and Russia are getting closer, while India, the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia are in the race to form a new bloc to counter China’s economic expansion. In this changing political context, when looking at the global support for the Kashmir issue, it is important to keep in mind the position of Pakistan that has become an “area of interest” for the Indian bloc. The support for Pakistan’s stand is limited to a few Muslim countries, even though the emerging new bloc shares concerns about the growing influence of ‘Hindutva’.

Why do countries like Russia and even China not support Pakistan’s position on Kashmir? After 9/11, the political thinking of the non-Muslim world towards Muslims has changed considerably. The media seems to propagate every legitimate movement as ‘Islamic terrorism’, be it the Kashmir movement or the Palestinian movement. Even the peaceful leadership associated with these movements was classified as terrorists.

What happened to those organisations which preferred political sharing through democratic processes?

Hamas disappeared from the political scene despite winning a democratic election in 2006. The election results of the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria were rejected outright in 1992, and the political leadership was permanently removed from the scene. In 1988, the victory of the Muslim United Front in Kashmir was turned into a defeat and the candidates were mercilessly beaten and incarcerated.

The Taliban were ‘Mujahedeen’ as long as Russia was the target, and then labelled ‘Islamic terrorists’ when they launched a campaign against the coalition forces.

The UN and other powers have been assured by the government of India that it will manage Kashmir in its own way with their tacit support. That is why the major powers did not react to the August 5 decision last year when Occupied Kashmir was robbed of its land, identity and constitution, even though the international media did not spare any effort to cover the ground situation of incarcerated Kashmir for the first time.

The UK continues to pursue the same policy today as it had in 1947 when the Maharaja of Kashmir asked Lord Mountbatten, to keep the state independent instead of merging with India or Pakistan. Mountbatten had come after having consultation with Nehru, so he persuaded the Maharaja to join India. The Radcliffe Commission had already cleared the way when Gurdaspur was placed within the Indian border, intended to end all land links between Pakistan and Kashmir. Obviously, Britain’s policy is a copycat of American policy, be it Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan or Iraq.

According to reports of US and European think tanks, what is bothering the international community the most is the threat of the valley becoming a “safe haven” for extremists if Kashmir is granted independence. Many Western intellectuals have been heard to say that in the event of Kashmir’s independence, the Taliban could spread and establish its influence in the region.

Not only are they supporting the Indian position, they also see the right to remove Article 370 as correct. To substantiate its narrative, India has been providing a list of ‘terrorists’ killed in daily encounters in Kashmir. According to some reports, India is trying to convince the world that it actually wants to eliminate so-called ‘terrorist bases’ in Pakistan.

China’s repeated intervention in Ladakh has opened the second front of the war, so attention has been diverted from Pakistan to China for which international lobbying is intensely being done in powerful capitals. China believes that by Kashmir becoming a Union Territory of Ladakh, India will try to escalate border tensions, which could lead to a new insurgency in Tibet, and then the economic initiative through northern Pakistan would become India’s military priority.

A recent report from Ladakh states that China has occupied about 1,000 kilometres of the area, which includes those strategic points that are critical to the security of the economic corridor. And, after many clashes and meetings, China has refused to leave the area it has captured.

As a result of tacit international support, India first separated Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir and it is believed that by making Jammu a separate province, Kashmir will be confined to the valley so that it would become easy to end the independence movement under the guise of ‘terrorism’. And the main target is to change the Muslim character of the valley for which the recently enacted domicile law has started to settle non-Muslims from India by issuing residency permits in thousands daily.

In this context of global diplomacy, ideological thinking and Indian narrative, Kashmir, Pakistan and other supportive countries may have to formulate an integrated strategy on how to gain support for Kashmir’s independence movement.