By Aijaz Ahmad Turrey
Kashmir, considered as a paradise on the earth, has been violently disputed by India and Pakistan since the Partition (1947), which created Pakistan as the Muslim counterpart to Hindu-majority India. The conflict over the Himalayan region of Kashmir has gone on for more than 70 years. It has split Kashmir, with two-thirds going to India and a third going to Pakistan. Figures from India’s interior ministry covering the India state of Jammu & Kashmir show that close to 14,000 civilians have lost their lives in the conflict since 1990, along with more than 5,000 security personnel. As per a CNN report, violence has killed more than 47,000 people in Kashmir, which does not include people who have disappeared due to the conflict. According to Amnesty International, pellet guns alone have reportedly killed 14 people, severely injuring over 6,000 people, including 782 who suffered eye injuries from 2010 to 2016. Two major and several minor wars have been fought over the former princely state, claiming loss to property worth millions. The Indo-Pak War of 1947-48 resulted in a ceasefire with a front solidified along the Line of Control. After further fighting in the Indo-Pak War of 1965 and the Indo-Pak War of 1971, the Shimla Agreement formally established the Line of Control between the two nations-controlled territories. In 1999, armed conflict between India and Pakistan broke out again during the Kargil War over the Kargil district.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says arbitrary detentions by both India and Pakistan lead to rights abuses in Kashmir. The United Nations has accused India again of human rights violations in Kashmir and has called for the formation of a commission of inquiry into the allegations. New Delhi, in response, intensified its security operations in the disputed region, leading to more killings of rebels and civilians. The United Nations (UN) report criticised the special legal provisions for the Indian troops in Kashmir and called for the repeal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which has made accountability for human rights violations in Kashmir virtually non-existent. India rejected the UN report, calling it false, with a motivated narrative. In a statement, Indian government’s spokesperson Raveesh Kumar accused the OHCHR of “legitimising terrorism”. If India says all such reports are false, then why doesn’t it allow international rights bodies to visit Kashmir and investigate so that they come up with a more accurate report from the ground (Note: A randomly assembled and favourably inclined delegation of EU Parliamentarians have been allowed access to Kashmir by the Indian government today). Pakistan on the other hand welcomed the UN rights office’s report on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir but said there was no parallel between the human rights situation in Kashmir and the environment in PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) and Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan claimed that unlike Kashmir which is the “most militarised zone in the world”, PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan remain open to foreign visitors. The Foreign Office said that the solution of Kashmir was essential for the security and stability of South Asia and beyond.
Recently the US President Donald Trump offered to mediate in Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan “if mediation is required.” President Trump said this during his meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in White House in Washington DC. Trump told Imran Khan that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate in the dispute. The US President further said to Pakistan PM Imran Khan that he would love to help if Pakistan wanted him to. But Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar strongly rebutted Trump’s claim and said no such request was made by the Indian Prime Minister to the US President.
A mediation in Kashmir was also requested from the Canadian President of the UNSC, General McNaughton in 1949. His proposal enclosed a scheme whereby Pakistan and India would simultaneously withdraw their regular forces (excluding those Indian regular forces needed for security purposes), the Azad Kashmir forces and Kashmir State forces and millitia would be demobilized and the administration of Northern Areas would remain with the local authorities, under UN supervision, while the region would also be included in the demilitarization process. Pakistan accepted his suggestions, but India rejected them. Sir Owen Dixon under the Dixon Mission mediated the issue and proposed that the areas demilitarized by Pakistan would be governed by the local authorities under supervision by the Commission, according to the “law and custom” of the State before the conflict started. India opposed this idea because it believed that the local authorities were biased in Pakistan’s favour and this would not be in India’s interests. However, India did not offer any substitute ideas. Dixon also proposed attaching a United Nations officer with each district magistrate who would be allowed to inspect and report on the magistrate’s reports and proceedings. But India again objected on it.
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in 2018 expressed and continues to express his concern at the situation in Kashmir and again tried to mediate for both countries to reach a peaceful solution. But India has again opposed the body’s mediation, while Pakistan has continuously sought UN’s good offices to resolve the decades-old dispute. The Norwegian Prime Minister Solberg during her visit to New Delhi in 2018 also offered to mediate the Kashmir dispute if both India and Pakistan assented, but added that both countries were big enough to decrease tensions without outside help. At that time the Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said that there was no scope for any third-party role or mediation the Indian government’s policy.
India has maintained its opposition to third-party mediation in solving the Kashmir dispute, despite India getting offers from several nations and leaders including the South African President Nelson Mandela, UN Chief Antonio Guterres, the Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir and more recently the US President Donald Trump. India wants no international mediation in the Kashmir dispute as it insists that there is no dispute and hence no need for mediation. But it is also true that Kashmiri people are consistently raising their voices and fighting for their rights since decades.
To what extent India is honest and to what extent global reports and voices are correct? Why does India always step back and why does Pakistan welcome steps to solve Kashmir dispute? It simply reflects Indian illegal occupation in Kashmir and threats of losing its hold over Kashmir. If it is not, then what is the problem in solving the dispute through bilateral talks and dialogues or through mediation by a third party? How long will the land of Kashmir be coloured with blood of innocent civilians?
In the present context the possible and most suitable way seems to be a plebiscite, which is not granted to the people of Kashmir because actually no one cares about the pain and sufferings of Kashmiri people on both sides of India and Pakistan. Every time Kashmir is highlighted but Kashmiris are never mentioned. It is not that Kashmiris tolerate violence. It is respect and love they have with people on both sides. Kashmiris want to breathe in a peaceful environment, which has been lost decades ago. The only one thing that is needed is social cohesion and realisation of pain on both sides.
Aijaz Ahmad Turrey is a Research Scholar at the Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, India.
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