By Rabia Sakhi
After his release from jail Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Sher-e-Kashmir said;
“I am deeply sorry that in order to befog my views from the public, interested people have resorted, right from 1953 to a public campaign of falsehood and every attempt is being made at misrepresentation and distortion. These people wish to keep the Kashmir issue hanging in order to exploit it to serve their own ends in spite of the fact that the progress of their motherland and international peace and amity insistently demand its immediate solution”. (J. C. Agarwal, 1995).
The Kashmir issue has been a victim of sheer negligence over the past six decades. The obstinate attitude of both Pakistan and India vis-à-vis each other never allowed any serious talks on the issue, involving the main stakeholder- the people of Kashmir. This obduracy has left the voices of those around which the whole issue revolves, unheard. To add to this situation, the international community has played a minimal role in bringing people to the core of the issue.
The issue is more baffling than it seems. For the most part, the Kashmir issue is not about Kashmir. Nor is it about the Kashmiri people and their right of self determination. Unfortunately both India and Pakistan has focused on romanticizing Kashmir and the armed defiance by the Kashmiris for their own interests. Consequently, the Kashmir conflict has become an interstate power struggle between India and Pakistan. Due to their egotism and self-interest, both countries have not only lost respect and support for their stance in the international community of nations but also besieged the Kashmiri people for more than six decades. The vested interests of these two hegemons have put the cause in a limbo. Not only are the people of Kashmir politically uncertain, but there is a dearth of economic sustainability and mental and psychological strain that has tormented the Kashmiris for over six decades now.
The most major stake holders in the conflict are the Kashmiris themselves. Their stance at the time of partition was very simple and straightforward. All they wanted was a right of self-rule. The United Nations intervention in the 1947 and the UN resolution of 1947 stated;
“Both India and Pakistan desire that the question of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic way of a free and impartial plebiscite.” (UN Security Council Resolution – April, 21, 1948)”. (NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF PAKISTAN)
A plebiscite was to be put into effect. Seemingly it is a small thing and should have been done instantaneously. However, the lack of confidence between the two nations never allowed it to happen. Hence Pakistan retained the area it had captured during the war whereas India did not reduce its army in the valley. Instead even more forces were deployed in the region due to it’s war hysteria with Pakistan. In 1989, the Kashmiris determined to take affairs into their own hands. This led to an armed insurgency. This resulted in a sequential coercive resistance from the Indian government. Consequently, a popular resentment against India was developed all over the world. Pakistan got the best opportunity prove its stance on Kashmir and intervene in the issue first hand. The whole nation showed its umbrage and the Mujahedeen Movement paced up. All these events led the Indians to label the Kashmiri freedom fighters as an anti state element and the Kashmir’s struggle for their right of self determination reduced to rubble. The brutality of Indian Army in the valley amplified dreadfully. The initiation of the Kargil war by Pakistan Army also deteriorated the stance of Pakistan on the issue on international level. Even after decades of suffering, both Pakistani and Indian leadership is not committed enough to resolve the issue. As quoted by Ayub Khan himslef in his biography;
“Mr. President, Pandit Nehru has the ability to talk scholarly about every issue under the sun, but as soon as there is any mention of Kashmir, he instantaneously puts his head down and fixes his eyes on the floor fixed in the button-hole of his sherwani and keeps quiet and sinks deep into a state of meditation like a Yogi.”(Khan)
During the last decade, a lot has happened that has changed even the feelings of the Kashmiri leadership living in Jammu towards those in Pakistan. Pakistan has really not been able to come up with a solid solution of the Kashmir issue. Consequently the Kashmiri leadership has lost faith in the Pakistani leadership. They are sick and tired of the stubborn attitude of the Pakistan and Indian governments towards elucidation of the issue. JKLF (H) Chairman Javed Ahmad Mir said that statements of Hurriyat (M) leadership in Pakistan were not good in any way for the Kashmir cause.
“There can be no compromise on the Kashmir cause. Before issuing any statement, these leaders must understand their responsibilities and duties,” Mir said. “The leaders should not take undue advantage and misrepresent us.”(The Daily; Rising Kashmir, 2012)
As far as the involvement and intervention of the international community is concerned, it is disheartening that international community has shown a very little interest over the conflict. As a community of nations it was their responsibility to initiate talks between the two wrangled countries. The main reason historically has been the self interests of major world powers like Russia and America as they viewed the two countries as a growing market for their arms and armaments. Their focus on the issues was minimal till 9/11 when they started to view the Mujahedeen in Kashmir as a major source of international terrorism and threat to global peace. The events actually tilted support in favor of India to a great extent. Consequently Pakistan had to officially denounce support of Mujahedeens in Kashmir who were their own formation.
The nuclearization of the Kashmir issue is addition of another chapter to the book of Kashmir conflict. The increased arms and ammunition followed by the nuclear explosion by both countries added to the gravity of the issue. The region is in an immense threat of nuclear catastrophe. The threat of a nuclear war has been hanging over the people of both countries. Though Pakistan divulged a strategy of minimum nuclear deterrence, it does not evade the threat of a nuclear war. Nor does it ensure a long lasting peace in the region.
Both India and Pakistan have started negotiations and some initiatives pertaining to trade and travel between the two countries has begun already, but the question remains the same. When will the Kashmiris get their very basic right of self rule and self determination? Do trade agreements suffice for the decades of sufferings and losses of the Kashmiris across the line of control?
The answer is very clear. Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris. It is their basic human right to rule their land and determine their course of the future.