Opinion: Kashmir’s summer of unrest embodies symptoms of larger failures

nasr-missile-battlefield-ready-pakistan

Pakistan’s Nasr missile — battlefield-ready nuclear tactical weapon

Irshad Salim; Sep 22, 2016: A mounting death toll (100 so far) in occupied Kashmir is stoking long-smoldering public anger with Indian rule in the Himalayan region — the violence stretches into a third month, fueling resentment and raising the prospect of a return to armed struggle (Intifada) until “Mission Kashmir” is achieved.

Stone-throwing Kashmir demonstrators are demanding more autonomy and fewer Indian troops, fueling wider calls for self-determination — a right the Kashmiris could have exercised any time during all these years if the 1948 UN Resolution calling for plebiscite was fully implemented. It did not happen. India erred by dint of having invoked “natural occupancy” right vis-a-vis international call for plebiscite which would have made the Valley by dint of a majority Muslim demographic a natural part of Pakistan — the doctrine behind India, Pakistan partitioning.

Arch-rivals India and Pakistan went to war three times over the dispute but with no results, and therefore there is no guarantee of lasting peace and good neighborly conduct — a medication the regional players and international stakeholders so badly need to tackle “terrorism” in the region. The menace has dwarfed the “new great game”. And, in its exuberance to speed up an “emergency response system”, anything from stone-pelting to armed struggle by Kashmiris for independence or self-rule is being shoved with precise alacrity into “terrorism basket”. India conveniently calls it “cross-border terrorism” of Pakistan by its “operatives” in Kashmir – a spin most international community members discern well by now.

kashmir-killings-grfxThat Pakistan has been seeking proportionate justice, and moral, historical and political correctness by demanding completion of the “unfinished agenda of partition” which the international community has willfully chosen to ignore now resonates more than ever. It has found an institutional ally in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — the world’s second largest organization – after the UN, representing 57 Muslim countries spread over four continents.

The OIC has backed Pakistan and called on India to immediately cease “atrocities” in occupied Kashmir and peacefully settle the issue in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiri people and the UNSC resolutions.

It’s a “blow to India’s isolate-Pakistan campaign, OIC sides with Islamabad on Kashmir,” read one headline in one of the heavily anti-Pakistan Indian presses.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in New York on Wednesday, calling Pakistan “iron brother”, said that Beijing attaches great importance to Islamabad’s position on the Kashmir issue.

“China is standing by Pakistan and will continue to raise their voice in its support at every forum,” he said, adding that the country can help resolve the latest standoff between India and Pakistan.

Two days earlier, PM Nawaz Sharif had brought up the Kashmir dispute issue in his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, and asked him to intervene to resolve it.

Sharif also urged the UN to play a role for peaceful resolution and highlighted latest human rights abuses in the occupied Valley.

General Assembly Seventy-first session 10th plenary meeting General DebateTurkey’s President Erdogan agreed with PM Nawaz Sharif that the OIC Commission on Human Rights should also send a fact finding mission to occupied Kashmir. Earlier in the week, Pakistan had demanded that the UN send a fact finding team to the Valley.

While addressing the UN General Assembly, PM Sharif articulated Pakistan’s position and urged: 1) UN fact-finding mission to Kashmir 2) Freeing Kashmiri political activists 3) Kashmiris’ right to protest and 4) End to Indian occupation of the Valley.

By many analysts and by all geopolitical attributes, Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint – a view shared by many of the international stakeholders also who are collectively striving for security, stability and peace in the AfInPak (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) region. And, Kashmir falls within the larger contour of the restive region.

The US has clarified to India (its new strategic defense partner) that its stance on Kashmir dispute remains unchanged. It’s not an internal matter of India but an international dispute — therefore the US has advised both neighbors to settle it though bilaterally.

However, many observers say China, US, UK, and Russia may sooner or later overtly encourage a negotiated settlement on Kashmir as the two warring neighbors ironically have long term converging trade and economic interests beyond Pakistan’s western borders and all the way to the Caspian Sea — thanks to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and other regional trade initiatives.

nawaz-erdogan-unga-sep-2016Cognizant of the opportunities and the challenges ahead, Nawaz Sharif told the UN body that Pakistan cannot ignore India’s arms build-up and will do whatever is necessary to maintain credible deterrence. Pakistan follows nuclear deterrence as its doctrine to counter India’s threats – both conventional and unconventional.

Sharif said that the  international community ignores the danger of rising South Asia tensions at its own peril, while highlighting that India has posed “unacceptable” preconditions to dialogue for all issues — Kashmir being the major one as it is Pakistan’s “jugular vein”, the defense establishment of Pakistan has said so many times.

Sharif therefore made a strong call for an independent inquiry into the extra-judicial killings in Kashmir and for a UN fact finding mission to investigate “brutalities perpetrated by the Indian occupying forces,” so that those guilty of these atrocities are punished, as well as called the implementation of Security Council resolutions on the subject of Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Modi and Doval known to admire Israel’s tough response to “cross-border terrorism” from Gaza, West Bank and Lebanon, have been told that India’s situation is far more complex than Tel Aviv’s, which enjoys military superiority over all its neighbors. India does not, according to several analysts.

Modi has also discovered there are no plans his defense establishment has ready on the shelf to “punish” Pakistan, push comes to shove! Pakistan’s battlefield-ready nuclear tactical weapons specially the Nasr missile gives Pakistan the “edge” and its eastern neighbor and its South Block the jitters.

nawaz-china-pm-unga-sep-2016The international community however seeks to restrain Pakistan from producing and using these tactical nukes as deterrent. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, India test fired a long range surface-to-air missile developed jointly with Israel. Some analysts have termed it ill-timed and Modi jingoism.

Kashmir therefore continues to remain a flashpoint in India and Pakistan tense relationship capped by their nuclear race, according to many observers.

Did the vision of a future “nuclear flashpoint” and its threat perception force the world organization back in 1948 to call for plebiscite then in Kashmir? Or did the probability and potentiality of a future “cross-border terrorism” and its fear force the world community then to ask the two neighbors to settle the “unfinished agenda” peacefully through plebiscite? Regardless, precious time has elapsed and the clock gone full circle again.

The organized forum of world movers and shakers are complicit in this matter.

Over the years their inaction and apathy has emboldened India at the cost of Pakistan. The latest cozying up of the US and India as strategic allies for trade and defense seems to have made the latter go on a wild goose chase for geotrategic opportunities beyond its settled boundaries — a new dimension has been added by Pakistan’s eastern border.

Kashmir dispute therefore is a symptom of larger failures of the UN and its stakeholders. The summer of discontent in the Valley and its famous Dal Lake symbolize the mass, density and depth of these larger failures. World leaders are failing to manage them.

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