The Nature of Kashmir Dispute: Revisiting Human Dynamics v/s Territoriality

In the context  of sovereign equality of peoples  to the inalienable right of self determination, Kashmir is a disputed territory and not the territorial dispute it has been made into by India & Pakistan. The latter approach has become the major fault line between the two countries and as never before needs correction.

The current fragility of the region emboldens me to say that closure on the festering Kashmir issue is the most critical ingredient of regional stability in South West and South Asia and the human security of 1/5th  of the world population.
Defining the situation in Kashmir as being perilous is not emotional rhetoric but an ominous statement of fact.  It is today, in the enlightened self interest of India and Pakistan policymakers to be on the same page for a win-win Kashmir solution and together flag it on the global radar screen. 

Considering how complex the two countries have made the Kashmir issue and accepting the possibility of its being a nuclear trip wire, how do the two countries come on the same page? 

Fortunately, in this era of globalization with international societies & transnational threats, we have witnessed the resilience of territorial conflicts. This first and foremost requires India & Pakistan to unlock themselves from the 65 year old zero sum game based on appeasement, fear confrontation, political expediency and such other negative inclinations. Through this NDC Conference India and Pakistan are invited to step back, weigh the historical context and make sense of the current situation. In the words of Yusuf Buch, the reputed  Kashmiri intellectual, this means constructing  “a rational framework which rests convincingly on principle and is transparently democratic”. The objective being to identify strategic possibilities which  truly reach out to Kashmiris who are presently the most disadvantaged party as an asymmetric partner.

 It is stating the obvious,  but it needs to be said that this will only be achieved with genuine political will and  India & Pakistan, infact the Region, today desperately needs transformational leaders.

And there is hope……….

Led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,  the year 2013 saw Pakistan’s leadership make genuine and sincere, though overdone, overtures to India’s leadership.  This was initially matched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s diplomatic move taken even before the formal inauguration of the Prime Minister elect. This cordiality however diminished and stopped in its tracks with the Indian Prime Minister’s allegation that Pakistan is the epicenter of  terrorism and compounded by Narendera Modi, BJP’s Prime Ministerial aspirant for a debate on Article 370 promoting Hindutva – RSS stance of “complete and immediate  integration of Kashmir into India” With elections in India on the horizon, the pitch has been queered. One hopes this is just  political  posturing and  that the “rational framework” referred to earlier is pursued  post- India’s election.  I hasten to add that xenophobic ideologies have no place in either Pakistan or India’s politics and  can prove to be the kiss of death. 

Engagement is in both India & Pakistan’s  interest.  A festering Kashmir is not in the interest of an India with global  ambitions and poses a threat to India’s  security due to a blow-back from the Indian army’s heavy handed brutal repression in Kashmir, ranging from mass graves, to involuntary disappearances, rape, torture & much else.  And Pakistan is a  country with a terrorism battered economy and where its  very identity is attacked by such  incidents as gutting founder of the nation, Jinnah’s Ziarat home.

A revisit  of territoriality also flags the ingrained militaristic inclinations the Kashmir issue has generated. Pakistan has a great army, but some not so great officers, such as those who conceived Kargil. And in India disclosures by a recently retired  army chief of destabilizing the Omar Abdullah government, as also  the Northern Command army chief  as having said of  AFSPA,  “don’t touch this pious document” are discomforting.

Mr. Chairperson, may I repeat what I said at the start, Pakistan’s political and military leadership are today on the same page, whereby war is not an option. We seek to bring India on the same page where weapons are silenced and ideas and politics speak.

This  is achievable.  However in the context of  Kashmir it  is a non starter if the recently  long drawn, totally uncalled for, poorly timed aggressive action on the 740 kilometer Ceasefire  Line continues to make it the Line of Conflict.  Equally important is the vital interest of India and Pakistan to regulate & moderate their military  ambitions and nuclear weapons programme. In short the baggage of history must be set aside. Restraint and responsibility are the sine qua non  for constructive engagement.

In any discourse on Kashmir,  Territoriality and Human Dynamics have multiple meeting points, in this presentation it is linked to the Ceasefire Line.  The historical narrative which bears legality is that Kashmir is the unfinished Agenda of the Partition of India. Security Council Resolutions which represent the political voice of the comity of nations,  declared that the State’s future would be determined by its citizens through a free and impartial plebiscite.  They established the Cease Fire Line which divides Kashmir into areas occupied by India or administered by Pakistan and puts in position  the  UNMOGIP to maintain the Ceasefire Line.  The relevant Security Council Resolutions 38 & 47(1948) are  neither obsolete, timebarred or  invalid. The President of Pakistan in his UNGA Address in 2012 rightly said  “Kashmir remains a  symbol of failure of the UN system”.  With the compounded delay,  the UN Ceasefire Line through the  Simla Agreement became the Line of Control and today is  the Line of Conflict. India’s Achilles  Heel is that it is flouting  the UN Charter with impunity. It is also recalled that through serious efforts atleast twenty solutions have been proposed by reputable scholars & intellectuals. It is time India & Pakistan accept their  criminal failure   that six decades later the United Nations  resolutions remain unimplemented.      In the spirit  of shared concern and coming onto the  same page, mention by India’s leadership to make borders irrelevant with the assertion that borders cannot be redrawn is flagged. May we be reminded in the interest of democratic  transparency that the Kashmir border is a Ceasefire Line. Kashmir is disputed territory and proprietary claim is subject to acceptance by the people of the territory. UN Charter Article 1 provision is the non-lapsable right of self determination, Security Council resolutions are binding till repealed and since 1949 to date various solutions have been proposed, with atleast twenty being serious efforts of reputed persons. The result — three wars between India & Pakistan and a Kashmir in turmoil.  The lesson of history is to go back to basics and coming on the same page will mean the world’s largest democracy accepts the international principle of self determination and both India & Pakistan enable UN to fulfill its obligations whereby the future of Jammu & Kashmir is decided through a democratic free fair plebiscite.

Mr. Chairperson, the territorial mind set has played havoc with the human dynamics of Kashmir. These are narrated in the words of  the veteran Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani  who laments  “Innocents are being tortured in  interrogation chambers, families have been expelled forcibly from their agricultural lands, locals are disappearing in custody and some are found buried in mass graves, militarization is at its peak and young boys are picked up on false charges under draconian laws”,  Mir Waiz Umar Farooq  Chairman Hurrieyat Conference petitions envoys in India to use their influence on Indian authorities  “to desist  from brutalizing the people of Kashmir and respect internationally acknowledged basic human rights”.  Mehbooba Mufti  President, People Democratic Party accusing Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of drenching Kashmir  in the blood of innocent people”  warned New Delhi to “change attitude towards Kashmir or prepare for the worst” and Omar Abdullah in November of last year  categorically said to New Delhi to “Resolve the Kashmir issue by first ensuring the human and democratic rights of the people”.

A revisit of the human dynamics of  Kashmir present compelling insights, some being that  the struggle for “Azadi”/ Freedom against the oppressive dogra regime  dates over a century back and that in 1989 Kashmir vibrated with a fearless freedom struggle against militarization. It is recalled that 1989 was the year  that the world shifted its pivot due to happenings which triggered forces that are still shaping our world. The summer of 2010 saw the Intefada  where the guns of the 1990’s  were replaced by peaceful demonstrations of pebble pelting youth & mourning women who  from the front led an indigenous uprising crying for  “Azadi”.  “Yes, I am a stone  thrower”  says 22 year old Yusra Khan and  “I will struggle for azadi until my last breath. One day we will be free and independent”  The resistance space is also being filled by young Kashmiris with music. Kashmir has a long tradition of protest through poetry & music,  M C. Kash the teenage rappers first song titled “I protest”  went viral in 2010, the year of massive non-violent protest with some 120 youth shot dead. This Kashmir resistance to Indian occupation is infact the prelude to the “Arab Spring”.  Educated youth bold & connected to the global e-village are what the writer Mirza Waheed calls the “new age of dissent” Non-violent unarmed defiance has converged with the  power of the pen of writers historians, researchers, for example Pervez Imroz’s  sterling work on extra judicial killings can never wish away the unpardonable  evidence of mass graves. The judicial murder of Azfal Guru is a glaring blemish on an already very tarnished human rights record in occupied Kashmir.

 The message that comes through to Islamabad and Delhi is to abandon the quest  for a solution by force. It is not an entitlement issue but rather a normative issue of human rights and invoking the ideal of self determination,  the historical wrong of militarization & the  denial of right of self determination must  be righted.

Be it territoriality or the human dimension, the Kashmir issue poses a peril for  India & Pakistan. They  have to date been unable to resolve difference bi-laterally. Further, with the withdrawal of NATO & US forces later this year from Afghanistan and its impending consequences there is need to widen the canvas. I refer to the need for Third Party Arbitration through the UN is a pragmatic direction for both Delhi &  Islamabad to move in.  China has offered its good office as has,  just last week the UK. Suffice it to say that resolution of the Kashmir issue poses itself as a challenge not just to India & Pakistan but to global leadership. Recalling amongst other reasons, that suppression of rights & freedoms leads to conflicts which are a rallying call for extremists.

The key to the Kashmir solution lies not in territorial compromises between India & Pakistan but in providing to  Kashmiris  an enabling environment for the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms. To enable this the media is called upon, to put the spotlight on the grave human rights situation in IHK and right of the people of IHK & AJK to be recognized as a concerned party so that the solution matchs their aspirations.

Finally any consideration on the Human Dynamics of Kashmir is incomplete without mention of two important human dimensions. The first relates to the near  unrecognizable peace loving,  tolerant / multi racial/ethnic/religious Kashmiriat. It has been emasculated by decades of lost freedom, fear, oppression, militarized borders, death & destruction. The result is the disaster of a divisive, fractured, unconnected Kashmir. In any discussion of human dynamics it is of the imperative that this victim status is consciously addressed with empathy so that the treasured cohesiveness & co-existence of the six Regions encompassing AJK& IHK of Kashmir is restored. It is cautioned that palliatives of development assistance & anodyne bandaids of CBM’s will not work. The second matter which merits mention is the missing voice of women in the Kashmir discourse. As we know women are the first to suffer in conflict and the Kashmir case is replete with ignomy, humiliation and abuse of women & girls. And yet, the women’s narrative is muted. Without a doubt women who are victims & survivors are also stakeholders in building the three pillars of lasting peace:  economic recovery, social cohesion & political legitimacy.  Again, women like Parveen Ahangar who have organized the Association of Parents of Disappeared persons (APDP) and Association of Families of Kashmiri Prisoners must be given a pro-active role and place at the peace  & reconciliation table. In short the importance of women’s  agency in peace efforts can no longer be overlooked.

I conclude with Majroor  Kashmiri’s couplet which calls on Kashmiri’s to shake of their lethargy and create   “Great earthquakes, winds, thunders and tempests” and respond  with Muhammad Din Fauq, my paternal granduncle’s couplet  “Kashmir is a lion but is asleep, when it awakens it will be difficult to control”  ?  Led the world heed  Kashmir has awoken from its slumber.