While there can be no two views that dialogue is the best way of resolving disputes amicably, there are certain cases that preclude this option, and unfortunately, the issue of Jammu and Kashmir [J&K] happens to be one such example.
For the unversed to suggest that India and Pakistan should resolve the Kashmir logjam through talks is understandable as they may not be fully aware of the complexities of this issue. However, when an old hand like National Conference [NC] president Farooq Abdullah says this [as he recently did], it does sound odd.
However, while emphasising there’s nothing new in the NC president’s academic observation that “dialogue is the only way to resolve” bilateral issues between India and Pakistan, his view that “Till both the countries do not talk with honesty over the Kashmir issue, all this is a show-off [and] this ‘tamasha’ [spectacle] will go on till then,” does merit dispassionate examination.
The NC president has not specified what exactly his “talk with honesty over the Kashmir issue” demand implies. However, since the stated position of New Delhi and Islamabad on Kashmir are completely discordant, it would be fair to assume that at least one side isn’t being honest.
With the Maharaja of J&K signing the instrument of accession in favour of India, his entire kingdom legally became an integral part of the Indian dominion in 1947. As such, there’s no ambiguity whatsoever in New Delhi’s contention of J&K being an integral part of India, and its stand enjoys overwhelming acceptance within the international community, stands vindicated.
Islamabad on the other hand has interpreted an introductory reference in UNSC resolution 47 [of 1948] to claim that J&K is “disputed territory” and by demanding plebiscite in J&K [as mentioned in UN resolution 47] to ascertain whether the people want to join India or Pakistan, has cleverly transformed itself from being the aggressor be becoming a stakeholder in the Kashmir issue.
So, while there’s no need for New Delhi to be dishonest on the issue of Kashmir, unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Islamabad, as is evident from the facts mentioned in the succeeding paragraphs.
‘Disputed Territory’ Façade
It is common knowledge that disputed territoryis a piece of real estate whose title [ownership] is not clear since it has more than one claimant. Hence, resolved by a court of law competent to adjudicate on the matter, parties laying claim over such property have no ownership right over the same, and hence can’t dispose-off or give away any portion of the same.
However, this is where Pakistan has scored the first of the many ‘self-goals’ in its Kashmir strategy. In 1963, Pakistan signed the Sino-Pakistan Agreement and ceded approximately 5,300 km2 of J&K territory under its illegal occupation to China. So, by unilaterally transferring land that it claims is ‘disputed’, hasn’t Pakistan junked its own ‘disputed territory’ claim?
Similarly, in 2015, Islamabad approved the China Pakistan Economic Corridor [CPEC] joint venture [JV] that runs through POJK. Now, if J&K is indeed ‘disputed territory’ [as claimed by Pakistan], then how could it enter into a JV even before the ownership of the J & K issue has been resolved. Hence, by this illegal action, hasn’t Islamabad served the coup de grace to its ‘disputed territory’ narrative?
Violation of UN Resolutions
Islamabad never tires of boasting that its stand on Kashmir is ‘principled’ as the same is strictly in accordance with UN resolutions on this issue. While such a claim may sound very impressive, the fact of the matter is that Islamabad is guilty of brazenly violating the same very UN resolutions which it professes to treat as a hallowed article of faith.
UN resolutions on Kashmir called for cessation of hostilities between India and Pakistan and envisaged resolving the Kashmir issue through peaceful means. However, while India honoured these aspects both in letter and spirit, it is Pakistan that has violated UN resolutions by attempting to annex J&K through force-not once but twice!
In 1965, Pakistan army launched a covert military operation code named ‘Operation Gibraltar’ in J&K. Rawalpindi’s war plan entailed infiltration of armed regulars disguised as ‘razakars’ [civilian volunteers] across the Line of Control [LoC] who by playing the religion card would incite the Muslim majority population in Kashmir Valley to rebel against the government.
Pakistan’s dictator Gen Ayub Khan expected that widespread civil unrest coupled with targeting of Indian army assets and essential government services by Pakistan army regulars assisted by locals would render India’s position in J&K untenable, forcing the Indian army to vacate this region. However, Pakistan’s grandiose plan suffered a catastrophic failure because the people of Kashmir outrightly rejected the Pakistan army’s call for ‘jihad’ [Holy war] by refusing to revolt.
In 1999, the Pakistan army made an attempt to alter the LoC alignment in the Kargil Sector by infiltrating its regulars disguised as Kashmiri ‘mujahideen’ across the LoC and occupying vacant posts. Needless to say, Rawalpindi’s bluff was soon called and due to the Indian army’s ferocious riposte, the intruders were forced to withdraw, leaving behind their dead!
By the blatant use of force in attempting to militarily resolve the Kashmir issue twice, Pakistan has violated the very spirit of UN resolutions on Kashmir, and as such has no right to invoke the same, leave alone demand their implementation. The world is well aware of Pakistan’s proclivity for running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.
The Plebiscite Farce
Lastly, Pakistan’s demand for holding plebiscite in J&K is indeed laughable, because it is Islamabad that has not only been dragging its feet on this issue but also placing impediments in its implementation. The sequence of preparatory actions to facilitate plebiscite is explicitly mentioned in UNSC resolution 47, and the first step is required to be taken by Pakistan, which is mentioned reproduced below:
“1. The Government of Pakistan should undertake to use its best endeavours:
(a) To secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting, and to prevent any intrusion into the State of such elements and any furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State;
(b) To make known to all concerned that the measures indicated in this and the following paragraphs provide full freedom to all subjects of the State, regardless of creed, caste, or party, to express their views and to vote on the question of the accession of the State, and that therefore they should co-operate in the maintenance of peace and order.”
So, while Islamabad keeps complaining that UN is not ensuring implementation of UN resolution 47, the fact of the matter is that even after nearly seven and a half decades, Pakistan has not yet complied with the stipulation in this resolution that requires it to “secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein…”
Furthermore, Para 7 of so called AJ&K Interim Constitution thrust by Islamabad upon the hapless people of Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir [PoJK] reads “No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan.”
This draconian constitutional clause criminalises freedom of expression as regards questioning “the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan.” While when and how did PoJK ‘accede’ to Pakistan remains a mystery, doesn’t this bizarre diktat unashamedly violate the directive in UN resolution 47 that people of PoJK should have “full freedom … to express their views and to vote on the question of the accession of the State”?
So, when Pakistan itself has created a situation that legally prohibits the people of PoJK from freely expressing their views on J&K’s future, with what face is Pakistan accusing the UN or India of dragging their feet on the issue of plebiscite?
Islamabad’s main problem is that despite being repeatedly cold shouldered by the international community, it continues to believe that a smokescreen of rhetoric and theatrics can conceal its double speak and contrived Kashmir narrative.
It’s abundantly clear that Pakistan has brazenly violated almost all directives contained in UN resolutions on Kashmir. Right from ceding parts of J&K territory to China, trying to militarily resolve the Kashmir issue in its favour and consistently refusing to fulfil its obligations for facilitating plebiscite as mandated in UN resolutions on Kashmir, Islamabad has done it all!
Hence, it’s not at all surprising that the UN has in no uncertain terms ruled that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan that requires being mutually resolved bilaterally without any third party intervention. Thus, it’s amply clear that the UN itself is absolutely clear that a UN monitored plebiscite as mentioned in its resolution 47 is no longer relevant.
That Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir lacks sustainability is evident from UNSC’s outright refusal to entertain Islamabad’s puerile request to intervene on the Article 370 abrogation issue.
To make things even more embarrassing for Islamabad, despite the then Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s pompous announcement that “We have decided to take [the] Kashmir case to the International Court of Justice,” but this hasn’t happened till date.
Most importantly, Pakistan army is guilty of sponsoring terrorism in J&K- a fact admitted by none other than its former army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf as well as its proxy-in-chief Syed Salahuddin who heads United Jihad Council, an ISI created amalgam of terrorist groups fighting in Kashmir. This clearly indicates that while pledging its commitment towards the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue, Pakistan hasn’t given up its covert efforts to resolve this issue by force.
Gen Musharraf has admitted on camera that “Kashmiris who came to Pakistan received hero reception here. We used to train them and support them. We considered them as Mujahideen who will fight with the Indian Army … They were our heroes.” And by accepting that “we are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir,” Salahuddin has explicitly buttressed Gen Musharraf’s revelation.
New Delhi has explicitly expressed its willingness for bilateral dialogue with Islamabad on the Kashmir issue, provided Pakistan ceases sponsoring terrorism in J&K, which is an absolutely reasonable demand. With Pakistan’s absurd precondition demanding reversal of Article 370 abrogation, it’s for the reader to decide which side is being honest on this issue.
So, while the NC president’s plea to “talk with honesty over the Kashmir issue” definitely has a lot of substance, the million dollar question is- can Islamabad afford to do so?