India’s dastardly, dangerous moves in Kashmir

By ASAD MAJEED KHAN It has now been over three months since India imposed a complete communications blackout and security lockdown in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir, subjecting 8 million Kashmiris to a form of collective punishment.

As stories of torture trickle out of Kashmir — of children snatched from their parents during night raids and shipped to prisons outside Kashmir, and of patients denied medical care dying at home — India’s efforts to gaslight the world have become increasingly farcical.

We have been asked to believe that India is delivering economic development at gunpoint, or that turning Kashmir into an information black hole will somehow boost its tourism industry.

Several recent hearings and statements by U.S. members of Congress on Kashmir have shown that India’s attempts at normalizing its actions in Kashmir are failing to stand up to scrutiny.

Instead, a clear consensus has emerged. First, that what is happening in Kashmir is a serious humanitarian and geopolitical crisis. Second, that Kashmiris have a recognized right to self-determination, and that India is depriving them of this right in contravention of international law. And third, that Kashmir is not an internal Indian matter, but is instead an internationally recognized conflict that needs to be resolved.

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At an October hearing by the House Subcommittee on Asian Affairs, many members of Congress present admonished the Indian government for its systematic human rights violations in the IOK since Aug. 5. At a more recent November one by the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, members of Congress listened to one witness after another paint a dire picture of deprivation, persecution and oppression of Kashmiris by India’s occupying forces.

Anurima Bhargava, a commissioner with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, went as far as warning that “India’s religious minorities currently stand at a precipice. If the Indian government continues on its current trajectory, their livelihood, rights, and freedoms could be in serious danger.”

In Congress, many of India’s justifications for its annexation of Kashmir — even the old canard about “cross-border terrorism from Pakistan” — simply have not passed muster. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said as much last month when she warned India not to “utilize the constant refrain of Pakistan in reference to terrorists.”

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Some members are rightly concerned about the growing phenomenon of religious lynchings in India, which have brought renewed attention to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s links with the RSS, a right-wing Hindu extremist organization.

In the Oct. 22 hearing, Rep. Pramila Jayapal reminded everyone “that the road to fascism is littered with moments where people did not speak up or speak out.”

Now, having failed to normalize its occupation of Kashmir, India is lashing out, blaming Pakistan and gambling that another military escalation on the Line of Control would help the BJP externalize the consequences of its repression.

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We saw the same thing play out in February this year as the BJP geared up for elections. Indiscriminate artillery fire by Indian troops across the Line of Control has already resulted in the deaths of several civilians in Pakistan-administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan does not want to be dragged into a manufactured confrontation. We have continued to show restraint. But Pakistan will respond if its sovereignty is violated.

India has already tested — to its own cost — Pakistan’s resolve to defend its territory once this year. As Prime Minister Imran Khan warned India in February, wars begin because of miscalculation.

Rep. Brad Sherman, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, described Kashmir as “the most dangerous geopolitical flash-point in the world.” Americans should know that India’s actions in Kashmir have made a dangerous region even more dangerous.

The simple fact is that India has been unable to break the will of the Kashmiri people. As a result, India has turned the region into a powder keg of anger and fury — a “volcano waiting to erupt.”

The only solution is a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of its people and in line with the UN’s myriad resolutions on the disputed territory. Kashmir is too important and too delicate an issue to be ignored indefinitely. It needs resolution now.

India has been occupying Kashmir for close to 70 years. It’s time for India to let the Kashmiri people choose their own destiny. Under India’s occupation, they have seen enough dark days.

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Khan is Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.