KASHMIR Beyond Rhetorics

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Irrespective of Modi’s claims of its isolation, Pakistan has managed in recent months to place Kashmir high on the global radar screen as an outstanding issue warranting world community’s attention for its solution sooner rather than later in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. In a clear departure from his earlier known position of urging the two nations “to forget their differences and move towards peace and tranquility to co-exist peacefully”, Nawaz Sharif this time made it clear that “peace between India and Pakistan” is not conceivable without resolving the Kashmir dispute. 

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Besides reaffirming Pakistan’s commitment to the legitimate Kashmir cause, Nawaz Sharif, in his usual peacenik beat, could not resist reiterating his ever-readiness to enter into what he called “a serious and sustained dialogue” with India for resolving all outstanding disputes including J&K. Yes, the Kashmiris spontaneously welcomed his GA speech and are now looking towards the UN as mankind’s last best hope to deliver them long-awaited justice that was pledged to them in UN Security Council resolutions. But they are also now looking towards Pakistan to see how it moves ahead with a strong, sustainable Kashmir policy domestically as well as externally.

No doubt, on his return from New York, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did show some urgency in evolving political consensus on the broad para-meters of the country’s Kashmir policy. He convened the APC followed by a joint session of the parliament adopting a resolution condemning India’s brutalities in the occupied Kashmir and reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to a ‘meaningful and result-oriented’ dialogue with India to resolve all outstanding issues especially the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir. So far so good, irrespective of what happened on the floor of the parliament in the form of an ugly political squawk. What next now?

First and foremost, we should come out of the GA speech euphoria and focus on action. To quote Shakespeare, action is eloquence. And action does not mean any form of physical involvement, overt or covert, in the ongoing purely indigenous Kashmiri struggle against India’s illegal military occupation of J&K. This time, the Kashmiris, especially their youth are out on the streets with a new resolve of their own. Indeed, they have gone through a generational change. Their youth has suddenly discovered the power of mass protests, and above all, the dignity of being able to straighten their shoulders and speak for themselves, demanding their birthright — the right to self-determination.

For them, it is nothing short of an epiphany. No amount of atrocities and humiliations can stop them from pursuing their legitimate cause. Not even the fear of death seems to hold them back. No wonder, despite the worst-ever brutalities by the Indian security forces, the Kashmiri revolt has turned into a mass movement not only resurrecting the memories of some of the earlier Kashmiri uprisings but also giving a new dimension altogether to their ongoing struggle for freedom. This time nobody can even blame any foreign hand in the volcanic eruption of Kashmiri wrath against India’s illegal occupation of their State. They consider Indian forces as an occupation force.

India’s brutal response to the anger of people crying for freedom and a respite, at the very least, from the terror of 700,000 troops, is to clamp down even harder. For more than three months now, killings, curfews and media blackouts are designed to hide the atrocities. But it will not work. It has not worked in the past. This time, not surprisingly, the voice that the government of India has tried so hard to silence in Kashmir has massed into a deafening roar. The Kashmiri youth are dying on the streets, not asking for jobs or books. They want freedom. The slogan, “We want Aazadi, nothing but Aazadi” is now viral on the social media and on the streets in the Valley. And in chanting this slogan, they are holding the Pakistan flag.

It is their verdict, loud and clear. Even in this darkest hour, the Kashmiri people are yearning not for peace but for freedom. They want nothing but freedom from Indian occupation. The indigenous Kashmiri struggle goes on undeterred with thousands of Kashmiris already laying down their lives. India will do itself good by seeing the writing on the wall. As someone said “India needs Aazadi from Kashmir just as much — if not more — than Kashmir needs Aazadi from India.” It is in India’s own interest now to salvage its future and reputation as world’s largest democracy by heeding to the voice of Kashmiri youth. Popular movements cannot be suppressed by force.

Even the world’s sole superpower today owes its existence to a long war of independence. And India cannot deny or obliterate its own history. It was the War of Independence in 1857 that laid the road to India’s liberation as an independent state. India is forcibly hanging on to Kashmir when the Kashmiris don’t want to have anything to do with India. They want freedom. For India, it is time to revert to the path of justice and fair play, and to heed to sanity and legality. On our own part, after our reluctant condensation of “excessive and unwarranted use of force” in the Indian-occupied Kashmir, we seem to have been led to the right track.

The Prime Minister has said all the right things in his GA speech and subsequently in his address to the joint session of the Parliament. Both were well-written. But the Kashmiris want us to move beyond rhetoric. Pro forma gestures of ritualistic solidarity are no service to the people of Kashmir. Our Kashmir policy since the beginning of the dispute has gone through various phases. One constant, however, never changed: our total commitment to the cardinal principle of self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter. We must remain steadfast in this position. Besides drawing world’s attention to untold Kashmiri sufferings, we must strengthen the legitimacy of Kashmiri cause.

This requires a well-planned and calibrated diplomatic offensive through our serving and retired diplomats in world’s major capitals and relevant global forums. The world must know that there is but one fair, just, legal and moral solution to Kashmir which was provided by the United Nations and which both India and Pakistan mutually accepted in UN Security Council resolutions. Our commitment to the Kashmir cause is rooted in this legal and moral reality and cannot be given up merely as gestures of goodwill or as a self-serving confidence building measure. Instead of begging for aimless dialogue, we need to strengthen ourselves to be able to sustain our principled position on Kashmir and other outstanding issues that India is currently seeking to redefine by obfuscating them into the larger issues of terrorism.

We should be negotiating these issues with India only when it is ready to come out of its arrogant nay bind and talk to us on just and equitable terms. Obviously, the onus for resumption of a purposeful dialogue lies with India. But given Modi’s known proclivities, any freshness of approach or sincerity of purpose in addressing India-Pakistan issues is beyond his grit or gusto. His intransigence has no parallel. Nawaz Sharif must be careful not to walk into Modi’s bluff traps. Peace in our region will come not through shady ‘back-channel deals’ but only through a position of strength in an equitable and purposeful dialogue and constructive engagement focused on conflict resolution and peaceful co-existence.

Until then, we must continue to extend full political, diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmir cause and keep upholding the Kashmiris’ right of self-determination in every international forum. Perhaps, it’s also time for President Obama in his fleeting sunset hour to wake up and smell the gunpowder in the streets of Srinagar. This is his final call and a real opportunity to earn retroactively his Nobel Laureate title.

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