Kashmir- the blind spot of the world conscience.[1

Need for Serious Attention of International Community towards Kashmir Issue  :

The Kashmir issue has been on the international agenda since 1947.Since then numerous resolutions have been passed  by the United Nations. The issue has also been discussed by other international bodies, notably the European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation. In addition, numerous  human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, Asia Watch and Human Rights Watch have issued reports detailing human rights abuses in the region. This presentation will highlight the longstanding international interest in the Kashmir issue and demonstrate why it remains important for the unresolved conflict over the status of Jammu and Kashmir not to become ‘a blind spot’ of the world’s conscience.

International interest in the Kashmir issue is almost as old as the dispute itself. Within days of the government of India’s announcement of the ‘accession’ of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir to India, Lord Mountbatten, Governor-General of India, suggested using the offices of the recently formed ‘United Nations Organisation’ to resolve the ‘deadlock’ created by Pakistan’s refusal to accept the Muslim majority state’s statusas part of India, on the grounds that the accession was obtained by  ‘fraud and violence’.[2]

At the end of December,with the military conflict escalating, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru referred the dispute to the United Nations under Article 35 of the UN Charter, which provided for any member to bring to the attention of the Security Council or General Assembly ‘any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute, in order to determine whether the continuance of the dispute or situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.’[3]

In January 1948 the issue was debated in the Security Council, and, less than three months after the  outbreak of hostilities, on 17 January,Resolution 38 was adopted, calling upon both the Governments of India and Pakistan ‘to take immediately all measures within their power (including public appeals to their people) calculated to improve the situation.’ [4]

Three days later, on 20 January,another Resolution was adopted, establishing a Commission of the  Security Council ‘composed of representatives of three Members of theUnited Nations, one to be selected by India, one to be selected by Pakistan, and the third to be designated by the two so selected… to proceed to the spot as quickly as possible.’ Acting under the authority of the Security Council, its objective was to keep the Security Council informed of developments in the region. [5]

Most significantly, on 21 April,  Resolution47,which  increased the Commission to five members, outlined a detailed programme for the ‘restoration of peace and order’ and the holding of a plebiscite under the authority of a Plebiscite Administrator. Four months later, on 13 August 1948, the United Nations Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) adopteda resolution  which made clear that the Governments of India and Pakistan reaffirmed ‘their wish that the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people.’ [6]

Finally on 5 January 1949 UNCIP adopted a further resolution, confirming that ‘the question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India orPakistan will be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.’ [7]  At the same time, the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was established to monitor the ceasefire line, agreed between India and Pakistan on 1 January 1949.[8]

Since that time numerous additional resolutions have been adopted by the United Nations. The provisions of the 1972 Simla (Shimla) agreement – following the 1971 war between India and Pakistan over Bangladesh – in which the governments of India and Pakistan resolved ‘to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them,’ may have indicated that the UN no longer had a role to play. [9] But lack of progress in fulfilling their pledge ‘to put an end to conflict and confrontation’ and establish a ‘durable peace in the sub-continent ’has meant that the United Nations  remains a concerned party, UNMOGIP still retaining a summer office in Srinagar and a winter one in Islamabad. [10]

In the present day, the office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has confirmed that the United Nations is ready to mediate between India and Pakistan for a resolution of the issue, the latest statement coming from his spokesperson, FarhanHaq in February 2014 ‘if both sides were to request that’.[11]

Other international bodies have also demonstrated interest.  In September 2005 the European Union adopted a resolution on EU-India relations: A strategic partnership, supplemented by a further resolution dated 24 May 2007: Kashmir: present situation future prospects.[12] Once again, these resolutions emphasised internationalconcern over the situation in Kashmir, in particular in relation to human rights.In 2008 the EU put forward a resolution regarding the discovery of mass graves in which it strongly condemned ‘the unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and other human rights abuses which have occurred in Jammu and Kashmir since the beginning of the armed conflict in 1989.’[13]

At its 12th Summit in Cairo in February 2013,  the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC)’s Contact group on Kashmir – set up in 1994 – requested the government of India to allow international human rights groups and humanitarian organisations to visit Jammu and Kashmir.

In addition, numerous human rights organisations have condemnedthe widespread abuses throughout the region, Amnesty International being among the most prolific in its issuance of reports. On 8 November 2013, it highlighted how ‘for decades’ the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act ‘has enabled serious human rights violations to be committed by soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir and parts of northeast India.’ [14]

Yet, despite so many resolutions evincing international concern, the issue remains unresolved,  thetendancybeing for other troublespots in the world to take precedence, most prominently, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and, in 2014, the Ukraine. This has not only led to disappointment in the resolve of the international community, but also a growing unease that  Kashmir has become a ‘blind spot’ of the world’s conscience.

Thisapprehension needs urgently to be addressed.

Firstly, because the continuation of a lingeringdispute between two already hostile neighbours has the potential to re-ignite,  causing immense suffering and hardship to the inhabitants of the entire region; as history has already shown, in addition to the 1971 war relating to the secession of East Pakistan and creation of independent Bangladesh,  India and Pakistan have already fought wars in 1947-49, 1965 and 1999 in direct relation to Jammu and Kashmir.

Secondly because-  since 1998- India and Pakistan are both declared nuclear powers. While statistics are difficult to verify, India’s arsenal is believed to  consist  of between 80-100 nuclear weapons. Pakistan has an estimated 90-110 nuclear warheads.[15] This is easily enough for mutual self destruction, a fact sometimes lost on pro-nuclear strike enthusiasts, who seem to think they are talking about using a big bomb.

Granted both countries have agreed not to attack each other’s nuclear facilities, that there are regular exchanges of the lists of their nuclear facilities on 1 January each year, and that  there is a hotline to warn of an accident which might be interpreted as a nuclear attack, butthe danger of renewed hostilities escalatingremains.   As happened in December 2001, after the attack on the LokSabha  in Delhi,  when both countries mobilised their armies along the international frontier, it would be all too easy for a non-state actor to commit an act of aggression,  using the Kashmir issue as the casus belli,  for relations once more to nose-dive.

The effect on relations of Mumbai 2008 – twelve coordinated bombing attacks across the city of Mumbai – killing 164 people and wounding over 300  – was again nearly catastrophic. Soon after the attack,  well known Indian commentator, ShashiTharoor, made it clear  that if there were to be another such attack in the immediate future, the demand for war against Pakistan would be unstoppable.[16]

This brings into focus the third reason why the Kashmir issue must not  becomea blind spot.  It is because of the dangerous rhetoric which exists on television, on the radio, in newspapers and now, in social media. Since 1947 the general domestic narrativein both India and Pakistan has been hostile to the other;  generations have been brought up to mistrust, dislike, hate their neighbour, principally because of the hard-feeling which exists over Kashmir together with the latent trauma over partition. In a media driven age,  where sound bites invariably drive actions, passions can be ignited through any number of the outlets now existing in both countries. This fact  cannot be ignored, especially when TV moguls feel inclined to  depict the Indo-Pakistan relationship as antagonistic because it ‘boosts ratings’.

Whereas Indians are encouraged to regard Pakistanis as potential aggressors who, at the slightest opportunity, would seek to take possession of Kashmir, Pakistanis are accustomed to seeing Indians as oppressors, militarily occupying a region primarily inhabited by Muslims. That narrative has been in existence almost continuously since 1947. Since the government of India is  unreceptive to any third party mediation – even though bilateral negotiations have repeatedly failed –  the relationship seems stuck in a time-warp, occasional glimmers of co-operation and understanding  snuffed out before a new beginning can be made. Even the changing ground realities and  the growth of the independence movement within the state of Jammu and Kashmir has done little to eradicate the potentially explosive relationship between the two countries.

Fourthly, and in many respects this aspect should have been first, the Kashmir issue must not be considered a blind spot   because of the tremendous suffering which has taken place in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.  The fall out from the insurgency – the demand for azadi  which started as a political movement but turned into armed conflict   – has had dire consequences on the people who still mourn severed contacts between Indian and Pakistani-administered Jammu and Kashmir.An estimated 100,000 have died over the past thirty years, mostly young men. At least 10,000 have disappeared which leaves an equivalent number of  ‘half widows’.They cannot mourn their husbands and they cannot remarry. There arethousands of orphans. Thousands have been tortured and women raped. [17]

The region remains militarised. People cannot travel freely, they cannot be certain of going to a court of law and getting justice, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) means that the authorities have the right to arrest and hold anyone suspected of ‘terrorist’ activities. This is no way to lead a life in what still remains one of the most beautiful regions of the world.

Fifthly because of  resources. It is impossible to quantify how much money has been spent both in terms of military defence for conventional and nuclear weapons which both countries can ill afford. India may be booming but in reality  only a fragment of its society is booming.   In 2012, the World Bank estimated that 21.9%   of the total Indian population, now at 1 billion, still live at the poverty line.[18]  Poverty in Pakistan has the same gloomy statistics, over a fifth of the populationliving on $1.25 a day.[19]Moreover, Pakistan has a volatile situation along its western frontier bordering Afghanistan and so the expense of fortifying its borders in the east against India is a luxury its government can ill-afford.

In both countries millions rather than thousands are illiterate. The allocation of resources for health and education is far below that allocated to weaponry. It is also self-evident that economic deprivation brings its own frustrations and lawlessness.

In conclusion, these five reasons are sufficient to indicate why, pending resolution of the ‘dispute’ over Jammu and Kashmir, it remains  important that international bodies do continue to take note of the situation, deadlocked as the deliberations might often appear.

Above all, the governments of both India and Pakistan should consider the effect their failed relationship has had on all the inhabitants of the. If, as the government of India has stated, it does not want third-party mediation to come to a resolution of the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, then its incumbents must  determine – as so many resolutions of the United Nations have urged – and the governments of India and Pakistan  themselves pledged at Simla, to take the lead in resolving the conflict equitably themselves in consultation with those whose lives are directly affected.

Behold! The valley lush and green;

Splendid and serene in all its majesty.

Paradise of peasants, kings and queens

Throughout the ages.

Trees stand tall in verdurous grandeur

Bowing not to time nor wind

But man is blind and cannot see that

Every noble head’s in sorrow bent,,

Each leaf is shedding tears,

Each bough is breaking

With its heavy burden of grief

For man is deaf, he cannot hear

The wailing in the wind.[20]

 

 

VictoriaSchofield, M.A. is a  commentatorand historian, with specialist knowledge and love of South Asia, having travelled widely in India and Pakistan. She is acknowledged as one of the leading international experts on the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir and has given lectures in India, Pakistan, the United States, Europe and Australia. Her   books include Kashmir in the Crossfire (1996), Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unending War (2000, 2002, 2010)and Afghan Frontier: at the Crossroads of Conflict (2003, 2010), Bhutto: Trial and Execution (1979, 1990).  She has also written numerous articles for specialist journals, including Asian Affairs and The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs.

Schofield is a frequent contributor to BBC World TV, BBC World Service and other news outlets including CNN, CBC and Al Jazeera.  She read Modern History at the University of Oxford and was President of the Oxford Union in 1977. In 2004-05 she was the Visiting Alistair Horne Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford.


[1]The focus of this paper is the valley of Kashmir where an insurgency against the Indian government began in 1989. It is acknowledged that the state of Jammu

and Kashmir comprises several regions: the valley of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh, administered by India; Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir  administered by Pakistan,   whose inhabitants have differing aspirations.

[2]Governor-General’s Personal Report No. 5, 7th November 1947, See H.V. Hodson, The Great Divide, p. 465; also Schofield, Kashmir in the Crossfire, IB Tauris, 1996,  p. 153,

[3] UN Charter, Ch. VI, Article 35, referring to Article 34, https://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter6.shtml.

[4]Resolution 38 (1948) submitted by the representative of Belgium and adopted by the Security Council at its 229th Meeting held on 17 Jan. 1948, Document no. S/651, dated the 17th January, 1948.

[5]Resolution 39 (1948) submitted by the representative of Belgium and adopted by the Security Council at its 230th Meeting held on 20 Jan. 1948, Document no. S/654, dated the 20th January, 1948.

[6]Resolution adopted by UNCIP on 13 August 1948.  Document no.S/1100, para.75, dated the 9th November, 1948.

[7]Resolution adopted by UNCIP  on 5 Jan. 1948, Document no. S/1196, dated the 10th January, 1949.

[8]Renamed ‘line of control’ in 1972.  UNMOGIP retains a presence in Islamabad  (Nov-April) and Srinagar (May-Oct).

[9] Simla Agreement, Clause 1,II, http://www.mea.gov.in/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/5541/Simla+Agreement

[10] Simla Agreement, Clause 1, http://www.mea.gov.in/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/5541/Simla+Agreement

[11] http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/un-ready-to-mediate-between-india-and-pakistan-on-kashmir/

[12]See http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P6-TA-2007-0214+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

[13] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&reference=B6-2008-0359&language=EN