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September 26, 2020

A persistent struggle

Opinion

September 26, 2020

Reportedly Indian security forces in Occupied Kashmir have eliminated 300 Kashmiri youth through extrajudicial killings since August 5, 2019 in search and cordon operations, dubbing the victims as terrorists.

While the families of the victims invariably claimed that they were innocent and had no connection whatsoever with militants, the Indian Army never bothered to pay any attention to the pleading of the suffering families as well as international pressure. However, in the aftermath of the killing of three young men on July 18 in Shopian and the pressure that built up on the security forces, the Indian Army perforce had to order an inquiry. The families of the victims had filed a complaint accusing soldiers of killing the young men in a staged gun battle.

In a statement after the completion of the inquiry into the incident, the spokesman of the Indian army, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, admitted “The inquiry has brought out certain prima facie evidence indicating that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded”. However, he still called them terrorists. The families of the killed youth claimed that they were labourers who had gone there for work.

It is pertinent to mention that under AFSPA, the Indian security forces enjoy widespread powers with impunity. It empowers them to shoot-to-kill or arrest suspected people. Section 7 of AFSPA provides virtual impunity for human rights violations by security forces personnel, as any civilian prosecution can only proceed after obtaining prior sanction from the central government.

Though the Indian security forces under the cover of AFPSA have killed thousands of Kashmiri youth since 1989 through extra-judicial killings, the phenomenon is being enacted with more frequency and intensity since Narendra Modi took over as prime minister, more so since August 5, 2019. International human rights entities like Amnesty International have been regularly compiling reports on abuse of human rights in Kashmir and repeatedly demanded repeal of AFPSA. It is probably the first time that Indian security forces have admitted the misuse of AFPSA, rightly prompting Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to call for a transparent inquiry under international scrutiny into the extrajudicial killings.

It was in the backdrop of the permeating situation in Kashmir and the Indian hostility towards Pakistan that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting organized a panel discussion on the objectives of Indian foreign policy in the region and at the global level, with the ostensible purpose to highlight Indian designs, further accelerate the effort to sensitize the world community about Indian machinations and also to seek input from diplomatic minds about the policy options available to Pakistan to help the Kashmiri people in their freedom struggle. The panelists included former foreign secretaries, Riaz Khokhar and Salman Bashir as well as ambassador Aziz Khan and Asif Durrani.

The panelists were unanimous in their view that the objective of Indian foreign policy right from the beginning has been to establish its hegemony in the region; weaken and isolate Pakistan and deny the people of Kashmir their right to self-determination and suppress their freedom struggle through ruthless use of military might – notwithstanding the fact that the UN resolutions on the issue prescribed for settling the question of accession of the state to any of the two states.

It was felt that Pakistan needed to vigorously pursue its diplomatic offensive and employ all possible means to awaken the conscience of the world. Riaz Khokhar however felt that the usual political, moral and diplomatic support was not going to work and the time had come for Pakistan to extend full spectrum support to the people of Occupied Kashmir, because as he maintained there is no ‘conscience’ in this world. He also cited examples of countries winning their freedoms through armed struggles supported by other countries.

I fully agree with the former foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar that there is no conscience in this world as far as conduct of foreign relations is concerned. The indifference shown by the US, France and the UK to what is happening in Kashmir and not pressurizing their strategic partner to respect the UNSC resolutions and stop extra-judicial killings there is a ranting testimony of his claim. They prefer their strategic and commercial interests over humanitarian causes and the principles enshrined in the UN Charter.

However, I feel that the line being pursued by Pakistan to continue extending political, moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris is the right approach which needs to be pursued more rigorously. Pakistan cannot afford to go beyond its traditional support to the people of Kashmir in the permeating environment of global politics. Unfortunately, after 9/11 the struggle by Kashmiris is not recognized as a legitimate freedom struggle and the big powers go by the Indian narrative of it being a strand of terrorism.

The political and military leadership of Pakistan has undoubtedly exhibited unflinching and determined support to the cause of Kashmiris and have vowed to go to any extent to help them win their freedom, while remaining committed to finding a peaceful solution to the problem.

Prime Minister Imran has repeatedly reminded Indian leaders that confrontation between the two nuclear states could prove mutually destructive and that Pakistan, while being determined and capable of thwarting any aggressive designs, is all-out for a peaceful solution. That is why he has been warning the world about the lurking dangers to peace and security in the region posed by the supremacist RSS ideology imposed by the BJP government.

Pakistan must persist with this line ‘conscience or no conscience’. It is perhaps pertinent to point out that the diplomatic offensive launched by Pakistan has surely beaten the Indian narrative of Indian action in Occupied Kashmir as its internal matter though the powers that be still are not prepared to have the UNSC resolutions implemented.

Nevertheless, the persistence of the freedom struggle in Occupied Kashmir will hopefully be the decisive factor ultimately. India and the world will have to recognize that reality one day.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: [email protected]