Pakistan and India are two neighbouring nuclear powers who share a complex history of strained bilateral relations. But the Kashmir dispute is internationally recognised as a nuclear flashpoint, and also a serious security concern, not only for the region but the world. The Kashmir dispute has been and continues to be the bone of contention and at the centre of bilateral dialogues whenever these take place; rarely as they do.

India had initially agreed to implement the UN Security Council resolutions but afterwards, declined to hold a fair and independent plebiscite to let the Kashmiris decide their future themselves and accede to either Pakistan or India.

It was on August 5, 2019, when both houses of the Indian Parliament passed resolutions to abrogate Article 370, extending the constitution of India in its entirety to the disputed Jammu and Kashmir territory. The parliament also passed another order, merging the valley into the Indian Union, ending its special status.

Prior to these measures, the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi locked down the disputed Jammu and Kashmir territory, increased occupying security forces’ strength to more than a million, imposed Section 144, thus preventing assembly of the people, and placed political leaders including former Chief Ministers of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti under house arrest.

All means of communication such as the internet and phone services were also blocked. This curfew which has just completed its first year is already continuing in an unending manner and Kashmiris all over the world, along with the people of Pakistan observed “Youm-e-Istehsal” on August 5, 2020 as the second darkest day of their history. The people of IIOJK have been isolated completely by the Indian regime from the rest of the world with no access given to human rights organisations and international print and electronic media representatives. These acts of the Indian government have transformed the occupied territory into a place worse than a prison and a concentration camp, where at least the prisoners have access to food, water and movement.

The prevailing situation in IIOJK, following imposition of the longest lockdown, has only exposed the duplicity and hypocrisy of the human rights activists across the globe, but it has also unearthed the underlying differences among brotherly Muslim countries for the oppressed and suppressed people of Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir (IIOK).

Despite the numerous economic and social challenges Pakistan is facing at home, it has and will continue to raise its voice in support of the Kashmiris at all international forums, calling for the peaceful negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute and demanding implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions for holding the promised plebiscite under UN auspices.

Pakistan is brilliantly fighting for the Kashmir cause and has exponentially increased its diplomatic offensive against the illegal revocation of Articles 370 and 35A and the gross human rights violations and brutal killings of the Kashmiris struggling to secure the so-far-denied right of self-determination.

The two visits of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to the United States and his maiden address to the UN General Assembly in the last quarter of last year brought the Kashmir issue to the forefront internationally. In the UN General Assembly, the Prime Minister of Pakistan spoke eloquently on the Kashmir dispute. Along with that, his interaction and engagements with world leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly had certainly and surely contributed quite positively to the unresolved Kashmir dispute.

Our civil and military leadership continue to voice their unending support to the Kashmiris in their just freedom struggle at all national and international forums and in their interaction with foreign dignitaries.

The gravity of the situation, in view of the international community and leaders not willing to exert pressure on the Indian government beyond mere rhetoric, demands the Pakistan government to move beyond extracting verbal statements from the international community. It is high time to make concerted efforts to improve and further strengthen bilateral relations with all possible partners in the international community.

Kashmir, as the jugular vein of Pakistan, needs a serious, unambiguous, apolitical, practical and astute national strategy for its resolution. The opportunity which has thus been provided to Pakistan by the extremist elements in New Delhi ought to be capitalised for IIOK and for serving Pakistan’s own national interests.

It is a bitter but realistic fact that in the context of international relations, importance and attention to the efforts of an individual nation-state are given on the basis of its bilateral relations with other states of the international community.

Pakistan direly needs to evolve a mechanism to effectively counter India’s baseless and false propaganda, blaming Pakistan for patronising terrorists.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office and diplomatic chapters around the world need the much-required necessary stimulation and reformation for achieving this objective and nullifying India’s hostile anti-Pakistan propaganda.

According to the experts of Kashmir and Indo-Pakistan relations, any future possibility of yet another resolution on the Kashmir dispute in the UN Security Council or any other appropriate forum and any other world body or forum would quite obviously hugely depend on this prerequisite of improved and strengthened relations with the members of the international community, which matter a lot.

Pakistan has been organising and should further accelerate the process of frequent visits of the international experts and human rights bodies to Azad Jammu and Kashmir to gain more and more international support; they should be encouraged to make unbiased reports about human rights violations in Kashmir, their research will hopefully play a forceful and positive role in exposing India’s state terrorism in IIOK.

Furthermore, visits of representatives of regional and international organisations should also be organised quite regularly to Azad Jammu and Kashmir and duly encouraged to seek evidence of India’s persistent violation of international law and human rights.

Another diplomatic option available to Pakistan is to encourage brotherly Muslim countries to exert their pressure on India to normalise the situation in IIOK with peace. In case of failure of this strategy, Muslim countries can resort to suspending trade relations with India to press her to cancel the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A.

The momentum that the Kashmir issue got in the international arena after the Prime Minister’s visit to the annual session of the UN General Assembly should be maintained and further boosted.

The Prime Minister’s visits to important world capitals should be organised by Pakistan’s Foreign Office on priority. Besides the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and parliamentary delegations should also be paying frequent visits to important countries.

The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have been holding frequent telephonic conversations to the world leaders and his counterparts of more and more international countries. But personal face-to-face contacts matter a great deal.

One can go on writing about the burning Kashmir issue and sufferings and killings of Kashmiris in IIOK for their innocent crime of demanding implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions and holding of free, fair and independent plebiscite in IIOK under the world body.

Muhammad Zahid Rifat

The writer is a Lahore-based freelance journalist, columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News), Radio Pakistan, Islamabad. He can be reached at zahidriffat@gmail.com.