Whenever there is a decline of Dharma (Righteousness) and a predominance of Adharma (Unrighteousness), O Arjuna, then I manifest Myself. I appear from time to time for protecting the good, for transforming the wicked, and for establishing world order Dharma. (Bhagavad Gita 4.07-08)
The Hindu scriptures as all other religions teach and remind that Providence is there to balance and rectify unjust actions.
The annexation by India of the part it occupies of the disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019 has very grave consequences for the people of Occupied Kashmir, for Pakistan and India, for peace and security in the region and beyond, but most of all for the Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities in the whole of India. Muslims and other minorities are becoming second-class citizens under a Hindutva-inspired BJP government. We are witnessing the unfolding of ethnocide in all of India, not just in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
What does this mean for Pakistan? What will be its approach? How will India proceed? What will be the consequences for Pakistan and for peace and security in the region?
It is clear that Pakistan – from its actions, and its Prime Minister’s address to the nation on August 26 – will follow five tracks. First of all, to project the illegality of the Indian annexation as violative of the UN Security Council Resolutions which clearly specify the right of the Kashmiris to self-determination: ‘The future of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations’. The UN Secretary-General has publicly acknowledged that the position of the UN is grounded in the Security Council Resolutions. After 54 years the UN Security Council has held a meeting on the ‘India Pakistan Question’ which has been on its agenda since 1948; and which led to the formation of UNMOGIP, the UN Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan, which has been continuously monitoring the LOC in disputed Jammu and Kashmir since 1948. Having the meeting take place was a signal achievement given that India moved heaven and earth to try to stop it from taking place.
Secondly, to further highlight Indian breaches of human rights, humanitarian law, and the Geneva Conventions in Occupied Kashmir. Thirdly, to focus the attention of the global community on this threat to regional peace and security. Any conflict that might be provoked by India may transcend into a nuclear exchange. Fourthly, to keep the military on high alert to discourage any misguided Indian adventurism, especially if it uses its signature false flag operation to try and blame Pakistan. Fifthly, to mobilize the Pakistani diaspora to support the Kashmiris’ cause abroad. NADRA with its 8.8 million National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) address details provides a good basis for reaching out in almost all countries to activate our communities to take up the Kashmir and Indian Muslim cause with policymakers, parliamentarians and NGOs abroad in a systematic manner. I suggested this in a study three years ago and it requires coordinated follow-up now.
The international media, international humanitarian NGOs, and the UN human rights machinery have picked up the humanitarian aspect, and the capitals of major powers – well aware of the possibility of conflict and its consequences – have called for restraint by both countries and voiced concern on the human rights aspect. If the situation deteriorates no doubt another meeting of the Security Council will be called.
Pakistan has always upheld the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, unswayed by out-of-the-box proposals by any Pakistani leader. On January 2, 2004 Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to Islamabad for the SAARC Summit led to the relaunching of the Composite Dialogue Peace Process of which the Kashmir dispute was an integral and pivotal part. Pakistan, to correct an impression in some international newspapers suggesting that Pakistan was moving away from the Security Council Resolutions, addressed a letter to the President of the Security Council and UN Secretary General. It stated:
In the third week of December 2003, several media articles speculated about Pakistan’s position on the UN Security Council Resolutions on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
As you are aware the UN Security Council has been seized of this situation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir since 1948.
The UN Security Council Resolutions on Kashmir recognize and confirm the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people. The right of the Kashmiris is inherent and inalienable. Pakistan continues to firmly support this legal and principled position, upheld consistently by the United Nations.
Neither Pakistan nor India not even the Security Council could ever set aside the inalienable rights of the Kashmiris to self-determination. This is the reality under natural and international law. The inherent right of the Kashmiri people cannot be withdrawn by anyone.
Under the UN Security Council Resolutions, Pakistan and India are recognized as parties to the dispute. Pakistan fully subscribes to the Security Council Resolutions on Kashmir and will continue to support the right of the Kashmiri people to self-determination.
The modalities for enabling the Kashmiris to exercise their right of self-determination are also set forth in the relevant Security Council Resolutions. It is important that the international community and in particular the United Nations press India to respect the Council resolutions and grant to the Kashmiris their inalienable right to self-determination.
Kashmir is the central issue between Pakistan and India, Pakistan is desirous of peaceful solution of this core dispute and for this purpose has continued to urge resumption of dialogue with India. Pakistan’s efforts in this regard are self-evident.’
I would like to concentrate on what this recent development in Kashmir means for India.
The manner of the annexation belies the claim that this is in the interest of the people of Occupied Kashmir. 700,000 troops were already occupying Jammu & Kashmir making it the highest concentration of occupying forces anywhere in the world. 180,000 additional troops were brought in to reinforce. In 1948 India tried to justify its occupation by a backdated Instrument of Accession by a ruler on the run from a popular uprising and revolt. Even that letter specified that no administrative or constitutional changes could be made without local consent, and this was reaffirmed in the agreement with the local puppet regime when India made the state part of India but safeguarded by a special status under Article 370. But now even that tenuous umbilical cord has been severed.
The local legislature had already been dissolved and Occupied Kashmir was under the Governor’s rule. There was no consultation with even a puppet legislature or the public in any way. A draconian lockdown was imposed and is still in place. 4,000 Kashmiris are arrested and detained in unknown locations, many out of the state. All Kashmiri opposition and formerly pro-Indian government politicians were detained. A communications blackout was put in place; the right to assemble and protest forbidden. Prominent Indian opposition parliamentarians trying to visit to ascertain the situation were forcibly sent back on arrival at Srinagar Airport. Occupied Kashmir has been a prison for the past 72 years but now recognized as such by visiting human rights activists and the foreign media. Even in current conditions demonstrations have taken place.
All this after months of demonstrations following the kill-not-capture ordered elimination of the charismatic young resistance leader Burhan Wani; demonstrations that were met by barbarous fire aimed at killing, maiming, or at least blinding protestors. More than a hundred Kashmiris died, thousands were maimed, and hundreds blinded by pellets. The legal impunity traditionally accorded to occupying forces has made the situation worse. The human rights situation which has been precarious since 1947 has been continuously criticised by international and human rights organisations; and most recently in June 2018 in the damning and conclusive report by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
While the indomitable Syed Ali Shah Geelani remains a respected and consistent beacon for Kashmir’s liberation from India and integration with Pakistan, the activists of the freedom struggle are now in large part composed of a younger generation not clearly identifiable by India and for that matter by Pakistan. Hence the widespread arrests of so many young people by India.
The genesis of this annexation lies in the aspirations of the BJP government and its party’s vision of recreating India in its former Hindu Kingdom’s glory before the rule by what it considers foreigners and the English. The BJP’s manifesto of 2014 lays out the guiding vision in its preface which the following summarises. The historic achievements of India’s essentially Hindu civilization, the most ancient in the world, from the Vedas up to the 8th century before the Muslim kingdoms and British colonial rule; and in the colonial period the vision of sages such as Sri Ma and Swami Vivekananda and the Indian freedom fighters partly inspired by him, are prominently highlighted. The continuum of Indian civilization, as defined by the BJP, must be revived. After achieving independence, the leaders at the helm of affairs lost the spirit and the vision, which the freedom movement had evoked. They discarded the vision and adopted the institutional framework of administration created by the Britishers which was quite alien to India's worldview. It is unfortunate that these leaders could not comprehend India's inner vitality, which was the main force responsible for India's survival despite several attacks and prolonged foreign rule and thus, failed to rekindle the spirit.
The official ideology of the BJP is ‘integral humanism’ and the party is committed to Hindutva, historically reflecting Hindu nationalist positions. The concept became a central article of faith of the Hindu nationalist volunteer organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Hindu Sena. The Hindutva movement has been described as ‘almost fascist in the classical sense’, adhering to a disputed concept of homogenised majority and cultural hegemony. Other observers term Hindutva an extreme form of ‘conservatism’ or ‘ethnic absolutism’. It is in this light that we should view and link this illegal annexation of Kashmir with the anti-Muslim and anti-Dalit developments in India itself.
Muslims have become targets throughout India, including for not subscribing to some Hindu practices. In some states the slaughter of cows for meat has been forbidden. Muslims falsely accused of involvement in this trade have been killed by vigilantes. A famous Indian actress, daughter of a prominent Muslim poet, has complained and brought to light the widespread fact that in several major towns landlords will not rent houses or apartments to Muslims. Under the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016, under which in Assam one has to prove Indian descent before 1971, exemptions have been made for Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Christians but not for Muslims. As a result, under this anti-Muslim pogram in Assam, four million Muslims who were born in Assam and who have voted in elections had their IDs and nationality challenged and are at the risk of being thrown out of India into Bangladesh which is already burdened by over a million Rohingya refugees.
The chair of the U.S. government’s advisory Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Tony Perkins had already voiced concern over India’s drive to register citizens in the north-eastern state of Assam amid fears that it could disenfranchise millions, most of them Muslims. In his statement he expressed concern over the potential abuse of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and the resulting introduction of a religious requirement for citizenship, which are contrary to the ideals of religious freedom in India.
The result of the NRC exercise was announced on August 31, 2019 to the effect that 1.9 million Assamese residents, mainly Muslim, were denied Indian citizenship, and made liable to detention and expulsion from India. But even this result was immediately criticised as erroneous by the BJP’s Finance Minister in Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma who stressed that “more illegal migrants should have been excluded” and that the party’s fight to “exclude every single foreigner” from the state will continue.
There has been a sharp escalation in violence against Dalits since 2013 which has steadily increased since the BJP took power in 2014. In every year during 2014-2018 period, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) registered a six to eight-fold upsurge in the rate of crimes committed against Dalits compared to the crime rate in the preceding five years – with violent incidents such as murder, assault, and rape constituting the major share of some 193,000 crimes against Dalits during this period. Conviction rates for caste crimes has only been 26%.
In Indian-occupied Kashmir, India will try to consolidate its hold by new delimitations of constituencies, making demographic changes by bringing in and settling outsiders, and through such engineering try to hold rigged elections. The objective is to formally legalise the annexation through a new Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.
How will the Kashmiris react? They will protest whenever they are physically able to do so. If met by force and the Indian government’s determination to end Occupied Kashmir’s special status and to bring in and settle outsiders hitherto forbidden under Article 35A, this may in time lead to higher and more active forms of self-defense. There have been such phases before and these may reoccur.
The desperation and frustration that led a Kashmiri youth to sacrifice himself at Pulwama would not be confined to Kashmir. There are some 180 million Muslims in India proper outside of the 11 million Kashmiris. There are some seven significant Muslim majority or near majority districts mainly in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal and one in Punjab-Malerkotla apart from sizeable concentrations elsewhere including Kerala. It may be recalled that in late 2013, before the last elections in the anti-Muslim riots in Muzaffarnagar, many Muslims were killed and 50,000 displaced.
In Assam there are six Muslim majority districts and that is why Prime Minister Modi and the BJP have first targeted Assam for ethnic cleansing, providing the machinery to expel as many as possible of four million Muslims, termed termites by Home Minister Amit Shah.
But ethnic cleansing and ethnocide as it took place in Gujarat under the present PM’s watch when he was Chief Minister of that State, and for which the ground is being prepared in Assam would backfire in the rest of India as it would in Occupied Kashmir. These significant pockets of Muslim populations would become centres of resistance.
Many of the Muslim youth are equally frustrated as in Occupied Kashmir, lacking educational opportunities and jobs. This Indian action in Kashmir has repercussions throughout India. One can foresee the rise of indigenous extremist movements not only in Kashmir but throughout India. Fertile ground is being unnecessarily created by India for Daesh and Al-Qaeda who are on the run elsewhere and in constant search of new havens, opportunities, and recruits.
India has been hard-pressed these past 72 years to occupy Kashmir by fielding 700,000 troops. Prominent Indians have said that India will keep Kashmir at the cost of every Kashmiri life. Will it be able to control the country at the cost of every Muslim life in India proper? What of the many other insurgencies that are active or simmering in India?
Pakistan has constantly urged India to lessen and end its repression in Occupied Kashmir, not only because it is a betrayal of Indian commitments to a plebiscite in Kashmir originally articulated by Prime Minister Nehru, but also as it triggers extremism in the entire region. It has urged India to reopen talks towards the settlement of the dispute acceptable to both countries and to the Kashmiri people.
While the Kashmiris will do what they can to resist, and Pakistan faced with its most serious challenge since 1971 will continue to support them morally, politically, and diplomatically, and plead their cause internationally; it is the responsibility of the United Nations and the international community to act proactively towards India to protect Muslims in Occupied Kashmir and throughout India against a humanitarian and ethnocidal catastrophe which would destabilize the entire region and beyond. So far the international community has not spoken out adequately on Occupied Kashmir and has not yet registered the ethnic cleansing being set in motion in Assam which would outrival the Rohingya crisis in numbers.
It should be recalled that Pakistan has a deep interest and, as bilaterally acknowledged by India, stake in the well-being of the Muslims in India. Both countries agreed under the Liaquat-Nehru Agreement of 1950 signed by their Prime Ministers that:
“The Governments of India and Pakistan solemnly agree that each shall ensure, to the minorities throughout its territory, complete equality of citizenship, irrespective of religion, a full sense of security in respect of life, culture, property and personal honour, freedom of movement within each country and freedom of occupation, speech and worship, subject to law and morality. Members of the minorities shall have equal opportunity with members of the majority community to participate in the public life of their country, to hold political or other office, and to serve in their country's civil and armed forces.
Both Governments declare these rights to be fundamental and undertake to enforce them effectively.”
It is not solely the responsibility of Pakistan but also that of the international community to protect Kashmiri and Indian Muslims from the excesses of a nationalist Hindutva government which have started manifesting themselves openly. Strategic, realpolitik, commercial interests, defense sales and market opportunities have dominated the policies of the western powers and, to a large extent, that of Russia. However, it is not in the long-term interest of these countries or indeed any other, including India’s neighbours, all of whom are facing challenges from extremism without exception like the human rights challenge in Occupied Kashmir and India.
Pakistan for its part would avoid escalation or a military conflict though it is not in our hands and in the past few years the annual LOC breaches by India – upward of one thousand – targeting civilians have become a heavy burden. However, in three eventualities Pakistan will have to consider activating other options and modalities for support for the Kashmiris’ cause and be prepared to face whatever the cost. First of all, if the Kashmiri freedom struggle is ruthlessly suppressed with significant casualties. Secondly, if India launches a move to try to seize some territory on Pakistan’s side of the LOC as it has done in the past. Thirdly, it also should be remembered that for a decade plus when the freedom struggle was active in Occupied Kashmir till around 2000, India’s ambitious plans to build even more dams on the rivers allocated to Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) were stalled, including the then major Indian hydropower project, the Baglihar Dam.
One of the Indian objectives has been to build enough run-of-the-river dams, which are permitted under the IWT to be able to use in synchronity their storage capacity for electricity generation to hold back water for 20-30 days in the crucial Rabi sowing season. Should India tinker with this treaty and the flow of waters, all bets would be off and the consequences incalculable.
In the medium and long-term, to sustain support for the Kashmiris’ struggle Pakistan clearly has to build up its economic strength through enhanced educational opportunities, technological focus, consistent economic and fiscal policies, and political stability – the third necessary leg of the triad to match its existing and effective deterrent strategic and conventional capabilities.
India continues to try to destabilize Pakistan through funding insurgency in Balochistan through Afghanistan, and funding and arming terrorists in FATA and in the country apart from trying to cause sectarian strife in Gilgit-Baltistan. It has tried to turn the capture within Pakistan of a high ranking serving Indian military and intelligence official Kulbhushan Jadhav engaged in planning and executing terrorism into a consular access matter to draw attention away from the state-sponsored terrorism that India is engaged in. The world community may not have taken sufficient notice yet but such actions have grave repercussions.
It has long been recognized by most people in both countries that good bilateral relations are essential to fully allow both countries and peoples to progress. The Indian annexation is virtually closing the door on good or any meaningful relations with Pakistan. I recall a delegation call on Foreign Minister Natwar Singh during the first nuclear CBM talks with India on June 19, 2004. The Foreign Minister met us warmly and repeatedly said that the Congress-led government would like to take forward the dialogue process initiated by the previous government of Prime Minister Vajpayee. He said that there should be no scepticism on that count, adding that if India and Pakistan did not make progress on their outstanding issues, future generations would not forgive their leaders, He concluded by wistfully and wisely saying that both countries had so much talent, if they could resolve their differences they would outshine other countries.
Power and overwhelming electoral success is a temptation our neighbour has succumbed to, overplaying its hand. One hopes for a return to rationality and civility.
The writer was Additional Secretary UN and led Pakistan’s delegations in Nuclear and Conventional CBMs and in the Anti-Terror Mechanism with India in 2004-2007. He is also a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the National Defence University.
E-mail: [email protected]
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