Kashmir Solidarity Day was first observed in 1990 on the call of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was then opposition leader and chief minister of Punjab. Keeping in view the importance of the issue, the federal government headed by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto declared February 5 as a public holiday. Thus the day, with bipartisan support, became a national event. With the passage of time it has evolved into a global event. The day is dedicated to show support and unity with the people of Indian-occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IoK), their ongoing freedom struggle, and to pay homage to the martyrs who lost their lives while fighting for Kashmir’s freedom from Indian misrule.

Keeping in view Indian Prime Minister Modi’s machinations to unilaterally alter the status of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoK), the upcoming solidarity day on February 5, has become of special significance. Foreign Secretary of Pakistan has briefed the Ambassadors of the P-5 countries and the EU, based in Islamabad, on recent developments about Kashmir. Referring to the indigenous struggle of the Kashmiris, the Foreign Secretary reaffirmed Pakistan’s unflinching political, moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people. He emphasized that resolution of the Kashmir dispute was pivotal for ensuring peace, security and stability in the region.

Numerous UNSC resolutions (around 20) on Kashmir are gathering dust despite the fact that each year UNGA reaffirms the continuation of the Kashmir dispute. Interestingly, it is not a territory focused dispute, it relates to humanitarians issue and can be easily resolved through democratic process of allowing the people of Jammu and Kashmir to exercise their choice through an impartial vote. Recently Scotland and the Catalans exercised this right. Earlier, people of East Timor and South Sudan were given this right.

Only viable option is to settle this humanitarian issue in accordance with the UNSC resolutions. Pending UN resolutions need to be implemented and for this an enabling environment should be provided by the UNSC—especially the P-5. Elections in IoK are not a substitute of the UN monitored plebiscite. These elections have never been conducted in a free and fair manner. There have been powerful and credible voices from within India, exposing the manipulative electoral process in IoK. Of these, latest one is a statement by a former Indian Army Chief and currently Minster of State for Foreign Affairs—VK Singh, highlighting the use of money during all elections in IoK. Apart from these farcical elections, India has been making desperate efforts to alter the ground situation through demographic changes and dilution of Article 370 of Indian Constitution that gives special status to IoK.

There are continuous human rights violations by the Indian forces in IoK. Human rights organizations like: United Nations Council on Human Rights, Asia Watch, Amnesty International, and even Indian HR organizations have continuously been raising voices about the way Kashmiris are being treated by Indian security outfits.

India’s massive acquisition of weapons further complicates regional strategic stability; adding to India’s unilateralist attitude towards the Kashmir dispute. India’s defence spending has been upped by 12 percent for the current fiscal year; it stands at US$ 38.35 billion against Pakistan’s spending of under US$ 7 billion. Strategic concessions doled out to India by President Obama during his recent visit have further stiffened Indian attitude towards Pakistan in general and IHK in particular.

In a recent statement, Advisor to PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that Obama’s new found love for rejuvenating Indo-US nuclear deal (Agreement 123) for political and economic expediencies would have a detrimental impact on deterrence stability in South Asia. Sartaj Aziz further said that proposals to add new centers of privileges in the Security Council run contrary to the collective objectives of Security Council reforms and have no rationale. Pakistan supports a reformed Security Council that corresponds to the positions and collective interests of all member states and not just a few, he added.

It is in this context that Pakistan has briefed the influential envoys about Kashmir. This refocus was long overdue. The Foreign Secretary has restated the principled stance that Pakistan would continue to support the indigenous struggle of Kashmiris by extending “unflinching political, moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiri people.” Pakistan has been proposing a three pronged Strategic Restraint Regime to India comprising: conflict resolution, nuclear and missile restraint, and conventional balance. Pakistan firmly believes that confidence building, and arms reduction in the regional and sub-regional context is of paramount importance. However, enduring peace would only emerge if all disputed between India and Pakistan, especially Kashmir dispute, are resolved.

After the recent state elections, political stalemate prevails in IoK and the territory stands polarized on religious lines. Indian Army’s deceitful doctrine for Kashmir based on WHAM — Winning Hearts And Minds – has not worked because it is not viable under the prevalent circumstances. Despite having deployed over 600,000 troops enabled by numerous draconian laws, Indian army faces a ‘No War, No Peace,’ situation in IoK. Due to a very high troop to population and troop to land ration, IoK is rightly perceived as an open prison. It remains militarized to the point of one soldier stationed for every 17 civilians. Torture, extrajudicial executions and rape have been systematically used, as tools for repression, by the occupation forces.

At this moment of its heightened national hubris, India unrealistically expects Pakistan to relent on its principled stance on Kashmir. In this context Solidarity Day has attained special significance. The day should be celebrated with added fervor to convey a message to the people of IoK that Pakistan would continue to support them in their struggle for right of self-determination.