Joe Biden jolts India

Joe Biden jolts India

Iqbal Khan

Almost all presidential candidates talk about resolving outstanding international disputes, including Kashmir. However, they remember very little of that promise, and especially do nothing about Kashmir. Most of them do not even mention it during their presidential tenures. Joe Biden was part of Obama’s promise regarding resolving Kashmir dispute during duo’s two electoral campaigns and subsequently two terms as Vice President and President respectively. Bothe did nothing to move into that direction. Blinded by their anti-China drive both remained more than willing to give anything to India, and not talking about Kashmir was too little a matter for Obama-Biden duo.

However, already caught in the whirlwind of internal strife, economic crises and border disputes with China and Nepal, India was dealt with a blow at the diplomatic front when Joe Biden denounced New Delhi’s legislation with regard to minorities and unlimited restrictions in India Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K).

Trump had also highlighted the Kashmir issue in his 2016 presidential campaign and also offered to help resolve the dispute in a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan in July 2019. Since then, he has twice reiterated his offer at the UN General Assembly and at an international forum in Davos, Switzerland. But has not yet moved beyond lip service.

Now, Biden has sought restoration of peoples’ rights in Kashmir. He wants India to take necessary steps to restore rights of all Kashm-iris, and has expressed disappointment over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act [CAA] and the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. “These measures are inconsistent with the country’s long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy,” according to the policy paper — ‘Joe Biden’s agenda for Muslim American community’— posted recently on his campaign website. “In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights of all the people of Kashmir. Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weakens democracy”, paper reads.

Indian News Paper ‘The Hindu’ reported on June 26, “Joe Biden has been disappointed by the measures that the government of India has taken with the implementation and aftermath of the National Register of Citiz-ens (NRC) in Assam and the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act into law, the policy paper said”.

While welcoming Biden’s statements over the restoration of rights of Kashmiris, Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan has said that Biden’s remarks are a proof that the world community has refused to buy the Indian narrative on Occupied Kashmir.

Biden as United States Senator for decades and as vice president under President Barack Obama for eight years has been known as one of the best friends of Pakistan. He was instrumental is passage of “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009” (notoriously known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act). It authorized the release of $1.5 billion per year to the government of Pakistan as non-military aid from the period of 2010 to 2014.

Pakistan on June 28 rejected the Indian authorities’ move to grant domicile certificates of Indian-occupied Kashmir reportedly to thousands of Indian nationals, terming it a part of New Delhi’s attempt to change the demographic structure of the disputed region. “As many as 25,000 non-locals have been granted domicile certificates in Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir since May 18, which local politicians believe is the beginning of a move to disturb the demographic profile of the region”, Anadolu Agency reported. This certificate entitles a person to residency and government jobs in the region, which until last year were reserved only for the local population.

These documents issued to non-Kashmiris, including Indian government officials, under the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure), 2020, are “illegal, void and in violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and international law including the 4th Geneva Convention”, Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement.

This is a vindication of Pakistan’s consistent stance that a major intention behind India’s move to annex occupied Kashmir on August 5 last year was to change the demographic structure of the region and “turn Kashmiris into a minority in their own land. This has long been RSS-BJP’s ‘Hindutva’ agenda. If this process goes unhindered, it could soon turn the original subjects of AOJ&K into an equivalent of “Red Indians” in the US.

Indian government by changing the demographic make-up of occupied Kashmir intends to undermine its residents’ exercise of their right to self-determination through a free and impartial plebiscite under the UN supervision. Through these actions, India seeks to further perpetuate India’s occupation of the IOJ&K, while continuing other rights abuses including continued restrictions on daily life, an excruciating military crackdown, extra-judicial killings and arbitrary detentions. Indian security forces are empowered by nearly a dozen draconian laws granting their operatives comprehensive impunity.

No matter what its tactics, India will never be able to break the will of the Kashmiri people. The United Nations and the international community must take immediate cognizance of these Indian actions, and prevent India from changing the demography of the occupied territory, and hold India accountable for its persistent violations of international law. Hopefully, the international community, especially the UN would pay attention to implications of India’s new domicile law and ask her to repeal it ab initio. It is time for the UN Secretary General to appoint his Special Envoy for Kashmir.

We welcome the content of Biden’s policy paper, and remain optimistic that he w-ould remember its essence if he reached the White House. And that he would make co-ncerted effort to implement it for lessening the hardships of Kashmiri people.

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