Why has the Kashmir Issue Lost its International Appeal?

WITH Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s candid admission that Pakistan “is the only nation which stands by the people of Kashmir,” the obvious question that arises is- what has made the same nations who voted in favour of UN resolutions on Kashmir so unconcerned about the ‘K’ issue today? The answers are not hard to find provided we honestly do some soul searching and accept our own mistakes. However, if we continue to try and pretend being victims of a complex international conspiracy hatched by influential nations and guided by their lust for money, power and religious domination, then the truth will always elude us!

The Hurriyat leaders want us to be grateful to Pakistan for having supported our struggle for the ‘right to self determination’ and none of us should grudge doing so. However, while we wholeheartedly express our gratitude for the good things Islamabad has done for us, aren’t we are well within our rights to demand an answer to the wrong things that Pakistan has done? If one goes through its ‘report card’ on Kashmir, then it would be more than evident that Islamabad hasn’t fared very well and the biggest  proof of this is its inability to even move an inch forward as far resolution of the Kashmir issue is concerned. On the contrary, its impulsive actions have adversely impacted the movement for ‘right to self determination’.

Speaking to PTI ahead of the NSA meet (that never was), Peter R Lavoy, who is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council of the White House, has made some very disturbing statements such as:

• “Kashmir is a disputed territory. Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory. I think it’s up to them (India and Pakistan) to address these issues together. 

• “There is no change on the US position on Jammu and Kashmir. We do acknowledge that this is a contested territory, a contested border between India and Pakistan… We do not seek to insert ourselves in this process.”

• “This (Kashmir) is a bilateral process for India and Pakistan to resolve (between) themselves.”

• “There is a legal case ongoing to address those and of course we support the rule of law and recognise that Pakistan has some obligation to support legal action against perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack and to follow this case to the fullest inside Pakistan.”

• “India has every right to engage Pakistan, to communicate with Pakistan and to ensure that Pakistan lives up to its obligations and its own commitments (on terrorism).”

However, Geelani sahib’s admission and Lavoy’s exposition are not the only instances how the Kashmir issue has been mishandled by Islamabad as every time we receive some good news on the Kashmir issue, it is invariably followed by a bad one and here are some recent examples: 

• The first good news concerns raising the Kashmir issue at the United Nations by Pakistan; the bad news is that just like before, this appeal too has gone unheard. 

• The second good news is that Pakistan has sought intervention of the OIC to help resolve the Kashmir imbroglio but the bad news is that this plea hasn’t evoked any response either. 

• The third good news is that Islamabad took a ‘principled stand’ on Kashmir by refusing to extend an invitation to the J&K speaker for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC). The bad news is that none of the other 53 member nations saw anything ‘principled’ in Pakistan’s stand. 

• The fourth good news is Islamabad’s declaration that rather than compromise on Kashmir, it had decided to call off the CPC meet. The bad news is that it has now come to light that it was not Islamabad but the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) that met in UK and took the decision to that the CPC talks would now not be held in Pakistan.  

What Lavoy has said and what the other related events illustrate raises the following questions that Islamabad and the separatist leadership must answer:

• Question #1- Why is the UN which has itself passed resolutions on the Kashmir issue not respecting Pakistan’s request for intervention? 

• Question #2- Why is it that none in the 53 nation strong Commonwealth community is in agreement with Islamabad’s contention that being a disputed territory, inviting the speaker of J&K assembly was against the spirit of the UN resolutions? 

• Question #3- While US accepts that J&K is a “dispute”, why does it view this ideological issue as a mundane case of “a contested border between India and Pakistan” rather than an unresolved international issue on which the UN has passed many resolutions? 

• Question #4- When the Kashmir issue concerns the ‘right to self determination’ of the people of Kashmir, why does the US still consider it to be “a bilateral process for India and Pakistan to resolve (between) themselves”?

• Question #5- By stating that “India has every right to engage Pakistan, to communicate with Pakistan and to ensure that Pakistan lives up to its obligations and its own commitments,” why is the US linking the issue of Kashmir with terrorism?

The answers to the above questions may be unpalatable to some, but yet in the overall interests of resolving the Kashmir imbroglio we must have the courage to accept the same and make amends in our thinking and outlook. The movement for ‘right to self determination’ is today in a vegetative state since both the Hurriyat, which is leading it and Pakistan, which is supporting it have unwittingly given an impression to the international community that their campaign is being propelled by vested interests and not principles.  

Through its selective approach and impulsive actions, the Hurriyat has severely damaged its own credibility and to restore the same, it has to rethink its current stance on three fundamental issues:

• Issue #1- UN resolutions on Kashmir are applicable to entire J&K without any exceptions. So, the Hurriyat leadership cannot claim to be representing the ‘true aspirations’ of Kashmiris if they only restrict their demand for implementation of UN resolutions to Indian administered Kashmir (IaK) only and maintains stoic silence regarding Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK). 

• Issue #2- The Hurriyat has to unambiguously state as to what is the character of the ‘right to self determination’ movement. It cannot claim on the one hand that this movement is a peaceful campaign and on the other, simultaneously declare that the ongoing ‘armed struggle’ is also a part of this movement. With IS flags now being displayed by protesters in Kashmir, the movement for the ‘right to self determination’ will further lose its respectability.   

• Issue #3- Even though the Hurriyat may favour merger of Kashmir with Pakistan, there is a section of society that does not share this viewpoint. So, if the Hurriyat wants to be considered as the leader of the masses, then it has to avoid playing favourites and display the magnanimity to listen to and respect a differing point of view. Excessive public display of affection towards Pakistan and outrightly denouncing those who think differently has given the international community an impression that the Hurriyat is nothing but an entity created by Pakistan as a proxy to serve its vested interests in J&K. 

By repeatedly attempting to find a military solution to the Kashmir issue, Pakistan has forfeited its moral right to demand implementation UN resolutions on Kashmir. Islamabad accuses New Delhi of ‘illegally occupying’ parts of J&K and wants it to vacate the same. However, Islamabad conveniently forgets that it is also equally guilty of this same type of ‘illegal occupation’ and refuses to vacate the areas of Kashmir under its control even though this is a prerequisite for implementing UN resolutions on Kashmir.  Due to its double standards, the international community views Pakistan’s interest in Kashmir as motivated and incase Islamabad wishes to fare better in its efforts to seek early resolution of the Kashmir issue, then it should focus on four major issues:

• Issue#1- Give up the military option to resolve the Kashmir issue in part (Kargil War) or in full (1947 and 1965) as it is because of this that the ideologically inspired Kashmir issue has today been reduced to an insignificant territorial dispute between India and Pakistan.

• Issue#2- Decide whether the national aim of Pakistan is resolution of the Kashmir issue or fighting a proxy war there. As long as militancy persists in J&K, no nation or international organisations like the OIC would like to get involved directly or even indirectly, especially when people like the Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed and terror groups like the Al Qaida, Taliban and The IS openly support ‘Jihad’ in Kashmir. 

• Issue#3- Displaying genuine solidarity with the people of Kashmir by agreeing to vacate PaK (as stipulated in UN resolutions on Kashmir) and thus ‘corner’ India and force it to do likewise so that a plebiscite can be held in the entire J&K.

• Issue#4- Avoid raising the Kashmir issue indiscriminately to avoid a CPC- like fiasco as besides resulting in diplomatic humiliation for Islamabad, it lowers the sanctity of the Kashmir issue and embarrasses its people.

One only hopes that Islamabad will realise the futility of its current Kashmir policy and stop using Kashmir as the battleground to settle scores with New Delhi and concentrate on devising effective means to end the Kashmir deadlock. On its part, the Hurriyat which many believe is Islamabad’s ‘B’ team too needs to refurbish its image by taking control of the situation and showing to the world that the people of Kashmir are capable of independently fighting for their rights and that their ‘right to self determination’ is not negotiable! 

Author is a regular columnist for the Kashmir Observer. She can be reached at: [email protected]

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