By Saima Afzal
South Asia consists of eight states including two nuclear weapon states and major actors India and Pakistan. There has never been a smooth and cordial relation between two neighbouring states due to many issues and reasons and Kashmir dispute is one of them. This dispute has caused two of the three major wars between the two nuclear powers of South Asia and numerous warlike crises. The landlocked Kashmir territory lies in the northwestern part of Indian subcontinent. Kashmir is considered a most beautiful place on the earth. It is surrounded by the Uygur autonomous area of Sinkiang and Tibet on the northeast (both parts of China), on the South bordered by the Indian states of Himachel Pradesh and Punjab; on the northwest by Afghanistan and on the West by Pakistan. It became disputed territory between India and Pakistan after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.
Kashmir is considered a paradise on the earth due to its unmatchable beauty. Since the partition of subcontinent, the area has lost its status of paradise under the autocratic rule of India. Historically, on 27 October 1947, the Indian government practically rejecting the partition formula of subcontinent annexed Jammu and Kashmir. In the partition formula, princely states were given choice to either join Pakistan, India or remain independent. Kashmiri population and their genuine leadership, for instance Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, wanted to accede to Pakistan in view of existing religious, cultural, economic, and geographical proximities. However, India forcibly occupied Jammu and Kashmir on pretext of illogical instrument of accession signed by Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh with the government of India.
Therefore, to check the unlawful intervention and advance of the Indian army, Pakistan also moved troops to Kashmir and liberated vast area which now known as Azad Kashmir. The United Nation Security Council passed resolutions in 1948/1949, which asked for holding a free and fair plebiscite under its supervision to enable people of Jammu and Kashmir to decide their future by utilizing right to self-determination. But, India refuse to accept the right of self-determination of Kashmiris that was given to them according to UNSC. Primarily India’s Kashmir policy remained consistent throughout the history. However, under the banner of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) the Hindu nationalists did more ruthless killings and indulge in systematic genocide.
However, on 5th August 2019, Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) not only abrogated Article 370, under which the local legislature could make its own laws except in finance, defense, foreign affairs, and communications, but it also revoked Article 35A, which empowered the legislative assembly to define permanent residents and offer them special privileges such as exclusive land rights. Modi also split the three different divisions of the erstwhile state Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh into two union territories.
Subsequently, these changes were welcomed by Indians who saw Kashmir as an integral part of India and felt it must be given equal, not special, treatment. The Kashmiris, however, saw it as a threat to change the demographics of the valley from Muslim-majority to non-Kashmiri and non-Muslim. BJP did not stop there. Knowing well that this decision will invoke a severe reaction from the people of Kashmir, the Modi government rushed 180,000 fresh troops to Kashmir. These troops were in addition to 700,000 troops already stationed there. Curfew was imposed and complete blackout of all sorts of communication was enforced which continued after the lapse of 6 months and later continued on the pretext of Covid-19.
Due to continuous curfew and communication blackouts in IIOJK, there have been reports of severe shortage of food and medicines. The shortage of medicines, lack of communication, and restriction of movement has also been resulting in several preventable deaths. The entire Kashmiri leadership, including pro-India leaders, were arrested. Since August 5, some 4000 people that include minors have been taken into custody and are being kept in jails outside the state. The miseries of the Kashmiri people have further increased as the entire world is grappling with the pandemic of Covid-19 and Illegally Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir is no exception.
Peace and stability will remain a distant dream in South Asia without resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Therefore, Kashmir issue should be resolve for the peace and tranquility in the South Asian region. India and Pakistan have fought three wars on Kashmir and this creates the sense of insecurity between both states which led India and Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapon. The non-state actors also get benefit from the situation and create atmosphere of disturbance and distrust between both states. Humanitarian sufferings among the inhabitants is a separate debate which has cost thousands of lives and affected the lives of millions in the region. The conflict has wasted much of economic resources of both states which can be utilize for poverty eradication, improvement of education and social wellbeing of individuals.
Pakistan is desirous of forging friendly relations with all countries including its neighbors adding that Pakistan wants resolution of all issues through dialogue and peace in the region will remain elusive without resolution of Kashmir issue. On 2 April 2022, General Qamar Javed Bajwa stressed for a peace in the region while addressing at Islamabad Security Dialogue. He said at this occasion, “We feel it is time to bury the past and move forward” but without any compromise on national interest of Pakistan. A constructive dialogue and progressive negotiations between India and Pakistan for the resolution of all outstanding issues will be welcoming initiatives. He also emphasized that all disputes with India, Kashmir included, should be settled with dialogue and diplomacy in order to keep the “flames of fire away from our region”.
* The writer is an Islamabad based analyst and can be reached at [email protected].