February 5th is observed as the Kashmir Solidarity Day in recognition of the longstanding struggle of the Kashmiri people for freedom, justice, and equality. The day is a reminder of the ongoing plight of the people of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), who have been denied their basic rights promised by the UN Security Council’s Resolutions for too long.
Despite adversity and atrocities unleashed by the Indian security forces, the valiant people of IIOJK have stood firm in their resolve for their legitimate right of self-determination for the past seventy-five years. Unfortunately, the situation has become ominous since August 2019, with the BJP government’s revocation of Article 370 which took away Kashmir’s special status as provided in the Indian Constitution.
The unilateral act of integrating the occupied state into the Indian Union not only violated the UNSC resolutions but also nullified the instrument of accession signed by the Dogra ruler of Kashmir with the Government of India. Most importantly it took away the special status of the Kashmiris. It is tragic that following abolition of Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution, the Indian government is allowing Hindu settlements under new domicile law designed to bring demographic and electoral change to the IIOJK. These changes have inflicted more pain and misery on Kashmiris who have now been deprived of their honourable identity and respect.
The Modi government continues to use over 900,000 security forces to unleash a reign of terror in which the rights of the people of the IIOJK are trampled with impunity. These actions have failed to break the will of the Kashmiris who notwithstanding brutal killings, rape, disappearances, and denial of even basic human rights continue their indigenous movement unabated.
It is most unfortunate that the world largely watches silently as the basic human rights of the people of Kashmir are violated. Although there is no doubt that since India’s unilateral action of 5th August, there has been some developing criticism of New Delhi’s actions from a number of quarters including international humanitarian organizations, yet these voices have been largely subdued.
Kashmir Solidarity Day is a reminder to the international community to show support for the people of Kashmir. It is also a reminder of the need to settle this longstanding dispute between India and Pakistan. The International community needs to acknowledge the unending struggle and sacrifices of Kashmir’s by opening up their conscience and legal doors. A stern stance on the non-cooperation of India over human rights violations with the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and not accepting responsibility for unconstitutional acts in IIOJK must be taken up by the international community.
Contrary to the Indian claim that Kashmir is an internal issue, it remains a disputed territory. It is accepted as a dispute under the Simla Agreement. Historically, the issue was taken by India on the 1st of July 1948 to the United Nations. The UN Charter under Article 35 of Chapter 6 dealing with settlements of disputes clearly establishes that it is an ongoing dispute. The United Nations has over 23 resolutions on Kashmir which cannot be rescinded by any country unilaterally but by the United Nations only. As such, the Indian argument of terming these resolutions old and invalid holds no water.
India has progressed to be the fifth-largest economy of the world. The international community should not sacrifice the rights of the Kashmiri people at the altar of economic dividends. The voice of Kashmiris must be heard. The Kashmir Solidarity Day is an occasion to make the world aware of the plight of the Kashmiri people.
The Kashmir dispute needs to be highlighted at various international forums more vociferously. A new pragmatic approach is required to lay out solution-based policies. We require tangible actions based on inputs from experts to devise wide-ranging media and communication policies and bring together Pakistani diasporas and influential Kashmiri and international human rights activists. Mobilizing civil societies and effective use of social media against Indian aggression is the need of the hour.
Any new policy initiatives should focus on gross violations of human rights in IIOJK. The world would be far more receptive to look at Kashmir as a human rights issue rather than only as a territorial dispute. Furthermore, there is a need to build legal expertise on Kashmir which can challenge and counter the Modi government’s narrative on Kashmir.
Pakistan has and would continue to stand with the brave people of Kashmir in their just struggle for self-determination. The Kashmir issue if left unresolved will continue to make the South Asia region unstable and regional peace and intra-regional trade would remain a mirage.
The early resolution of the Kashmir dispute is a necessity. It is high time that the international community starts giving its significance and pressurizes India to abide by its commitments under international law. Without peace in Kashmir, there can be no regional peace or prosperity in South Asia which is populous, poverty ridden, and vulnerable to climate change.
The writer is a Research Analyst at the Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad.