The danger in Kashmir
The Nation
October 12, 1997
On Tuesday, the “shoot-on-sight” powers of over 600,000 Indian troops stationed in the length and breath of Occupied Kashmir in its so-called disturbed areas were extended for another year. 1997 is the seventh year that this “shoot-on-sight” strategy is being operated in held Kashmir by India, which claims to be the largest democracy in the world and wishes to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

The one-year extension in this draconian measure was given by Farooq Abdullah’s held Kashmir government, whose power strings are controlled by the powers-that-be in Delhi and which was brought to power through an election boycotted by All Parties Hurriyat Conference and stage-managed again by Delhi. In another move this past week, held Kashmir’s puppet chief minister Farooq Abdullah announced to replace “on an experimental basis,” the army with police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) whose ability to suppress Kashmiri freedom lovers and fighters is not in any way less than that of the Indian occupation army. The CRPF, in particular, has been involved in numerous cases of rape, murder, loot and plunder of the Kashmiri population.

What does this thing called “shoot-on-sight” means must already be clear to everyone. Shoot the innocent and then brand them militants. In fact, in Kashmir’s case, even shooting a “militant” is a crime, if we look at what has been going on in held Kashmir ever since Partition days, when the British unjustly divided the subcontinent, giving rise to the Kashmir dispute and letting the Indians to continue with their militancy in Kashmir for the next fifty years.

One-year extension in “shoot-on-sight” strategy means that India in fact intends to extend its militancy in held Kashmir to the next half century. Will it succeed in doing that? Well, if the international community continues to ignore Indian brutalities against the Muslim people of held Kashmir, as it has done during most of the past five decades, there is a danger that the process of Kashmiri death and destruction may continue as such.

The attitude of the international community towards Kashmir, especially in the post-Cold War period, is something that one fails to understand. There is a long list of well-known Western writers who have exposed India on Kashmir; by highlighting the pledge India’s first prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru made before the international community to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir; by talking about how shamelessly Nehru later refused to follow this pledge; by establishing the fact that it’s the use of force, not the dialogue, which the Indians have always preferred to adopt and practice as a policy in the case of held Kashmir.

Alaistar Lamb has gone to the extent of questioning the basis of India’s claim over Kashmir by disclosing that the Instrument of Accession in fact did not exit at all.

Josef Korbel is another such writer. Interestingly, he is the father of American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The title of his 401-page book is Danger in Kashmir and it covers the “seventeen-year” history of the dispute until the Tashkent Agreement, which had ended the 1965 war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Korbel’s book, published in 1966 by the Princeton University Press, is really hard to find at Pakistani book stores. Incidentally, I got a copy of the book from a friend’s library. Just look what he writes in the concluding section!

“1. The people of Kashmir have made it unmistakably known that they insist on being heard. Whatever may be their wishes about their future, they must be ascertained directly or through their legitimate, popular representatives.

This does not necessarily mean that the government of the State, for the current government has now been compromised by its identification with the government of India and the rising opposition of the Kashmiris. The National Conference, ever since Sheikh Abdullah’s imprisonment in 1953, has steadily lost the support and the confidence of the Kashmiri people. Whatever process is used, however, the will of the Kashmiris cannot be ignored, just as the wishes of the scores of African nations—some of which are smaller and even less developed—could not be bypassed in the decades when nationalism and self-determination were sweeping across continents.

“2. The accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India cannot be considered as valid by canons of international law.

“3. The issue itself cannot be sidetracked. The history of the case has made it clear that time has only aggravated, not healed, the conflict, that neither Pakistan nor the Kashmiris will accept the status quo as a solution. A prolonged neglect on the part of the participants would most certainly turn against their own fundamental interests, their national security, indeed perhaps their national existence.

“4. No high hope should be entertained that bilateral negotiations will lead to a settlement. They took place on several occasions during the past years and produced no results. With the cruel experience of bloodletting last September (1965)…even if Pakistan and India agreed in due course to meet, all the evidence of the accumulated past points to the conclusion that such negotiations would only prolong the agony.

“5. The United Nations has a principal responsibility to seek a solution not only as the chief international agency for maintenance and enforcement of peace but also as an organ which was asked by India and Pakistan to intervene in the conflict and which has committed its prestige and authority to its solution through numerous resolutions.

In terms of its future, it cannot tolerate a prolonged flaunting of its decisions without dissipating completely its influence. In this light, a possible fresh start should take into careful consideration at least the spirit of the original resolutions of the Security Council and the UNCIP, which were and still are the only legal foundations for a settlement of the conflict.”

Every word of what Josef Korbel wrote in 1966 is still valid in 1997. From the recent rounds of the India-Pakistan foreign secretaries’ talks, it is crystal clear that India is not at all interested in the resolution of Kashmir dispute through negotiations.

Recent incidents of Indian firing across the Line of Control, which have caused significant loss of life and property in Azad Kashmir, provide an ample evidence that India does not wish to settle this issue with Pakistan in a peaceful manner; instead, the use of force continues to remain the guiding principle of Indian strategy on Kashmir.

In 1997, as was the case over thirty years ago when Korbel assessed the Kashmir dispute, the core matter remains the will of the Kashmiri people. In fact, unlike those times when the Kashmiris used to look only towards the UN hoping that this world body would fulfil its plebiscite promise; now, for about a decade, the Kashmiris are up arms against the Indians for the very end: the realization of their will, their legal and moral right to self-determination as a people who share nothing with the people inhabiting the India federation.

Josef Korbel was right when he urged, way back in 1966, that the UN must implement its original resolutions on Kashmir “which were and still are the only legal foundations for a settlement of the conflict.” So, when Secretary of State Medeleine Albright visits Pakistan and India in December, we, Pakistanis, must hope that at least she would come out with some concrete international option for sorting out Kashmir. In the post-Cold War period, the United State has a significant clout in the international system. Nothing is generally perceived to move, even at the UN, without American consent.

The United States has done a lot for the Bosnians and the Palestinians. We must acknowledge this. Let’s see what the US does in the case of Kashmir. At least Albright can’t have any excuse. For the Danger in Kashmir may have been one of the books, the work of his father, leaving a lasting impression on her personality back in the sixties. America must be bold on Kashmir. For even if the Indians do not want US mediation on Kashmir, a sole superpower has several other avenues to bring Delhi to terms on this dispute.