Kashmir: A Call for Peace

Pakistan Defence Forum

Pakistan Affairs

June 15, 2019

Kashmir: A Call for Peace

Jammu and Kashmir dispute is the root cause of tensions and confrontation between India and Pakistan. But even more than that, it is the creation of Pakistan itself which has not been fully accepted by the extremist Hindu nationalists who dream of undoing this political transformation and restoring their utopian Akhand Bharat or Bharat Bhumi. They believe that the creation of Pakistan was a cardinal sin for which Pakistan should be punished and the Hindus should atone for it by recalibrating history.

This kind of movement is being choreographed in contemporary India. Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mr. Gandhi, is being lionized as a patriot. The extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), to which Godse belonged at one point, is the parent organization of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that rules India today. A 597 feet high statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who played a key role in orchestrating occupation of a part of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947, has been built in Gujarat. The modern Indian political idiom says Godse was good, Gandhi was bad; Patel was a patriot, Nehru was not; Hindus are a paragon of purity; and Muslims and other minorities are Mleccha outsiders. A revisionist history of the 1,000-year Muslim rule of India is being popularized to denigrate, besmirch and vilify Indian Muslims, Kashmiri Muslims and Pakistan. Muslims are being asked to expiate for the sins of their past rulers. By doing so, ultra-nationalists want to “cleanse” their society and correct a “historical wrong”.
Militant cow protection (gau raksha) by the Bajrang Dal, a militant squad of the BJP, forced reconversion of Muslims to Hinduism (ghar wapsi), the “love jihad” troll and ban on praying in public places and playing cricket on the day of Holi are used to persecute and brutalize Kashmiris. Anybody on the wrong side of these violent extremists is asked to go to Pakistan. No wonder there is a sharp spike in popular anger and hate crimes against Muslims in India and IOK.

While Pakistan is giving moral and political support to the Kashmiris, in retaliation India in pursuance of a coercive approach has imposed four intermittent but fierce wars against Pakistan: repression against the Kashmiri people in IOK whom Pakistan considers its citizens pending the settlement of the dispute; hostile fire across the Line of Control; subversive proxy wars throughout the territory of Pakistan; and hybrid war against Pakistan.

Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed this kind of “increasing harassment and targeting of minorities, in particular Muslims…” in her annual report to the Human Rights Council early this year.

Three other factors influence Indian strategic thinking. First, the BJP and RSS believe that Pakistan and Muslims stand in the way of India’s great power status. Second, India has not fully accepted Pakistan’s nuclear status which has challenged India’s hegemony and its “myth of invincibility”. Third, the new India, post-Modi, has popularized and practiced the doctrine of Hindu majoritarianism in Indian policies, substituting notions of pluralism and secularism.

In election rallies to appeal to the Hindu voters, Narendra Modi spearheaded a vitriolic anti-Muslim campaign calling Muslims in India subversive, Pakistan an arch enemy and Kashmiris struggling for freedom as traitors. So, he laid out three targets: Muslims, Kashmiris and Pakistan.

The BJP’s 2019 manifesto has declared intent to abrogate Article 370 and Article 35A to snatch the symbolic autonomy given to the state. While Article 370 is an empty cosmetic shell because of repeated Presidential decrees, Article 35A has substance in regard to permanent residence in the state, employment, acquisition of immovable property, settlement and scholarships. The purpose obviously is to radically alter the demographic composition of the region of its distinct Muslim and Kashmiri character.
This background that I have shared with you is necessary to cast a glance at the bigger picture in South Asia and beyond before we understand the centrality of Kashmir in the India-Pakistan conflict.

It is conventional wisdom for any future war between India and Pakistan – conventional or nuclear – the trigger will be Kashmir. And there are risks that a conventional exchange between the two countries crossing a certain threshold can spiral to the nuclear level with attendant dangerous repercussions.

The bigger picture is of the rise of ethno-nationalism and ultranationalism laced with religious chauvinism in many parts of the world – in Europe, the U.S., the Middle East – and the retreat of liberalism in many parts of the world. That’s why the custodians of human rights would not take India to task for its crimes against humanity in IOK, blatant xenophobia and incitement to hatred. Alarmingly, this appears to be an enduring rather than a transient phenomenon. Let us, therefore, brace for a long period of pernicious consequences of hostility from India.

Now let us turn to Kashmir. In 1947, Jammu and Kashmir would have rightfully been part of Pakistan because of the natural inclination of its people, bonds of kinship and commerce, and geographical contiguity. Integration of the state with Pakistan was thwarted by conspiracy, political maneuvering, legal deceit in case of the Gurdaspur district, clandestine troop mobilization from East Punjab and Kapurthala, occupation of Kashmir, and finally massacre of 237,000 Muslims in Jammu.

Pakistan was robbed of Kashmir; Kashmiris were denied their aspirations and statehood.

So, in 1947-48, the quintessential cause of war, or casus beli, was Kashmir; and it remains so up to this day.

Legally, IOK has a sui generis status and India’s occupation of the territory is a transitional phase because it has not been integrated with the Indian state under international law.1 Legally, IOK is not India’s part, let alone an integral part. India only has de facto control, but not de jure capacity.2 What India has exercised is “occupational constitutionalism” to extend its “foreign dominance and control” to the occupied territory “through a series of legal mechanisms and processes across time that institute a state of emergency and permanent crisis in Kashmir”3.

Any political and diplomatic strategy on Kashmir should hinge on a strong Pakistan strategically, politically and economically. If Pakistan is not strong, we would lose the struggle for Kashmir.

The multilateral diplomacy entered later when, in order to be even-handed, the UN Security Council decided to hold a plebiscite to determine the political future of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan and Kashmiris, the aggrieved parties, accepted the decision in good faith; India first agreed and then resiled on its pledges and resorted to moves to perpetuate its occupation of the territory through the use of brute force and dubious political and electoral ploys, which were rejected by the Security Council by its resolutions 91 and 122.

While Pakistan is giving moral and political support to the Kashmiris, in retaliation India in pursuance of a coercive approach has imposed four intermittent but fierce wars against Pakistan: repression against the Kashmiri people in IOK whom Pakistan considers its citizens pending the settlement of the dispute; hostile fire across the Line of Control; subversive proxy wars throughout the territory of Pakistan; and hybrid war against Pakistan.

It is conventional wisdom for any future war between India and Pakistan – conventional or nuclear – the trigger will be Kashmir. And there are risks that a conventional exchange between the two countries crossing a certain threshold can spiral to the nuclear level with attendant dangerous repercussions. This can happen through deliberate or accidental use of nuclear weapons or by miscalculation. With nuclear adventurists like Modi, who recently threatened to wipe out Pakistan by using “mother of nuclear bombs”, nothing can be ruled out. Analysts have warned that a nuclear war would not remain limited to South Asia, but would affect at least 2.5 billion people with hundreds of millions of casualties by bombs and radiation. Moreover, such an exchange could lead to massive outflows of refugees, high incidence of cancer, drastic change in weather patterns and global recession.

The most serious problem is that Indian extremists or the so-called moderates never get it right when it comes to Kashmir. Mr. Modi thinks that by killing and terrorizing Kashmiris en masse, by declining to talk to the Kashmiri stakeholders on the Kashmir issue and by shutting doors for dialogue with Pakistan, he is pursing a muscular policy. Former BJP External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha says that India’s state policy towards Kashmir under Modi is a doctrine of force; and former Congress Finance Minister warns that the so-called “muscular” policy is not working. We appreciate their concern, but its sounds like the pot calling the kettle black because that past BJP and Congress governments have been no less ruthless towards Kashmiris. The fact is, they all do not get it right. They think that Kashmir is India’s province and therefore they fail to recognize the political roots of the problems and believe that the crises in Kashmir arise because of “mismanagement” and Pakistan’s interference. No, it is not mismanagement; the problems accentuate every year because of occupation, oppression and illegal presence. And the seedbed for freedom in IOK is political and indigenous.

Today Kashmir is in ruins. Young men are being killed by trained military personnel, whose number has swelled to 780,000 after Pulwama. Political activists or even ordinary citizens, on the basis of suspicion, are being detained, disappeared, tortured, and killed. Women are being raped. Houses and businesses are being ransacked and demolished; standing crops and orchards are being burnt. There is a reign of terror in the occupied territory sponsored and executed by the Indian occupation forces. Muslims are being targeted by fascist RSS vigilantes because they are Muslim. This kind of systematic persecution confirms and reinforces Kashmiri perception of the Two-nation Theory.

The world must come forward to condemn illegal imprisonment in Tihar jail of our Kashmir leaders, especially Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah and Asiya Andrabi and others and continued detention of Syed Ali Gilani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and many other Hurriyat leaders. Most importantly, Mr. Yasin Malik whose already fragile health is deteriorating fast and other political detainees be released forthwith. The ban on the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and Jama’at-i-Islami is also against all norms of modern polity and highly condemnable.

Any political and diplomatic strategy on Kashmir should hinge on a strong Pakistan strategically, politically and economically. If Pakistan is not strong, we would lose the struggle for Kashmir. Therefore, we must focus on the following ingredients for a future strategy to meet the challenges posed by the new developments in the region:

First, when we talk of a strong Pakistan, economic strength should be an absolute priority, underpinned by a strong defence capability on land, in the air and on the sea, and national unity. We all know that India has launched a worldwide campaign to emasculate Pakistan economically, deprive it of modern weapon systems, and isolate it diplomatically. That being so, preparedness and response in all three areas are imperative.

We should maintain our moral high ground and continue to adopt a constructive approach towards dialogue, engagement and diplomacy at all forums. Moreover, these policies should strengthen Pakistan, not weaken it.

Second, spend more on defence, not less, because even for economic prosperity Pakistan would need strong defensive and national security muscles.

Third, work on national unity which will not happen automatically. All federations and even micro states need policies, resources and mechanisms to craft, maintain and sustain national unity.
Fourth, in the coming years, the space for bilateral diplomacy on Kashmir will shrink. India would first not agree to bilateral dialogue and when it would for fleeting periods, it would use the process to blur focus on Kashmir and gain more time for consolidating its rule in Kashmir.

Fifth, Kashmir must remain on the multilateral agenda. Kashmir is first and foremost an international issue and, therefore, it must be kept alive in multilateral forums, world parliaments and civil society organizations. Our outreach to the world on Kashmir since Burhan Wani’s martyrdom is working. The global community – the UN, the British and European Parliaments, the media, and international human rights organizations – are paying more attention to Kashmir.

Sixth, India has opened a new front – lawfare – to harm and delegitimize Pakistan, be it through its spurious petition in the International Court of Justice in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case; or to connect the dots between the false flag operation of Pulwama, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and the lifting of the hold on Masood Azhar in the UN Security Council. It is, therefore, necessary that we too should incorporate lawfare in our traditional diplomacy.

Seventh, in response to the unprecedented developments in the region and around the world, we should follow a well-thought-out smart and pragmatic policy, and avoid impetuous or overly compromising postures. We should maintain our moral high ground and continue to adopt a constructive approach towards dialogue, engagement and diplomacy at all forums. Moreover, these policies should strengthen Pakistan, not weaken it.

Eighth, a forward looking, long-term national strategy should be devised with the participation of all stakeholders. Such a policy should anticipate the likely policies and postures of internal and external actors and changing dynamics of the world politics.

The writer is the President of the State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and former Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations in New York and Geneva.
E-mail: masood.hatiif@gmail.com

1. Dequen, Jean-Philippe. (2018). A Journey to the Brink of India’s Legal Landscape: Jammu and Kashmir’s Relationship with the Indian Union. South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, 17.
2. Ibid.
3. Duschinski, Haley & Ghosh, Shrimoyee Nandini. (2017). Constituting the Occupation: Preventive Detention and Permanent Emergency in Kashmir. The Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, Volume 49, Issue 3: States of Occupation.