Reacting to the instructions given to the Government of Pakistan by the Supreme Court of Pakistan for holding elections in Gilgit-Baltistan under the Election Act of 2017, India in a statement said that Pakistan or its judiciary had no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it as the entire union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh including the areas of Gilgit-Baltistan were an integral part of India by virtue of its fully legal and irrevocable accession.

I think the readers deserve an insight into the history of the Kashmir dispute and the legality of the Indian claims or otherwise to make their own informed judgment. It is relevant to point out that in the wake of the war that broke out between the two countries after the landing of Indian forces in Kashmir it was India which took the matter to the United Nations. The UNSC, during the course of its deliberations on the subject passed a number of resolutions calling for the settling of the issue through plebiscite in Kashmir under the auspices of the United Nations.

Subsequently, the Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, in several telegrams to his Pakistani counterpart, kept assuring him that India would fully abide by the UN resolutions. In a report to the All-India Congress Committee on July 6, 1951 he said, “Kashmir is not a thing to be bandied about between India and Pakistan but it has a soul of its own and an individuality of its own. Nothing can be done without the goodwill and consent of the people of Kashmir.”

It is pertinent to point out that when the general council of All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference passed a resolution on October 27, 1950 to convene the session of the constituent assembly to decide the question of accession of the state, the UN, through Resolution 91, repudiated the suggestion and declared unequivocally that the question of accession of the state could not be settled by any means other than a plebiscite held under the auspices of the UN. It was a rousing denial of the Indian claim of Kashmir having become an integral part of India. Logically speaking, an assembly representing only half of the state was not competent to decide its fate.

In the Lahore declaration signed between the visiting Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on February 21, 1999 both sides reiterated implementation of the Simla Agreement in letter and spirit and resolved that an environment of peace and security was in the supreme national interest of both sides and that the resolution of all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, was essential for this purpose. It was again a recognition of the fact that Kashmir was still an outstanding issue between the two states and a negation of the Indian stance regarding Kashmir being an integral part of India.

According to the former foreign secretary Riaz Muhammad Khan the two countries made an effort to address the Kashmir issue in 2005-6. According to him, as mentioned in his article appearing in Dawn on March 29, 2020, “It was a two-pronged approach: first, confidence-building measures across the Line of Control, which led to Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service and limited commerce in local goods; and second, an attempt through a discreet back channel for an interim solution which could ensure optimum benefit for the Kashmiris while protecting the essential interests of Pakistan and India. Kashmir was to be structured in self-governing sub-regions on both sides of the LoC similar to the approach recommended by Owen Dixon (UNCIP) for sub-regional plebiscites. The sub-regions could have had their own administration, police, security and legislator. The Kashmiris could freely move and engage in local commerce across sub-regions, and in that sense, the LoC would have lost relevance for them. These aspects were fully articulated. Some further work was needed on de-militarisation and a joint mechanism to handle issues, in which, besides the Kashmiris, the two countries also had an interest.” According to him with the exception of Syed Ali Gilani, the other leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, who were twice briefed by president Musharraf, were positively inclined. The effort, however, stalled in early 2007, with the judicial crisis in Pakistan which unsettled Musharraf. Later in November 2008, the Mumbai terror attacks dealt a fatal blow to the effort.” The foregoing lines again insinuate that India accepted the existence of Kashmir dispute and the need for its resolution.

As is evident, for the UN no material change has taken place with regards to Kashmir and the legal and moral obligations of the stakeholders with regards to settling it through a plebiscite under the auspices of the UN. When would that be possible under the prevailing global circumstances, cannot be predicted for sure. The other factor to be considered is that even the people of Indian-Occupied Kashmir do not accept Indian claims and are struggling to win their right of self-determination. Their struggle de-legitimises the Indian claims. They have lost one hundred thousand lives since 1989 and continue to bear the brunt of the brutalities of the Indian security forces.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The writer is a freelance