Living up to their dark traditions of tyranny and suppression, the occupying forces have once again intensified their oppression and brutality by resorting to the use of excessive lethal force against the people in the occupied territories of Kashmir and Palestine. On Sunday, a massive crackdown launched by Indian security forces in the Shopian district left at least 19 Kashmiris dead and more than 100 injured. Similarly, on Friday, Israeli soldiers killed 18 Palestinians and injured over 700 during a mass demonstrations at the border in the Gaza strip. These Palestinians protestors were condemning the crippling land, air and sea blockade that Israel and Egypt had been imposing on Gaza since 2007. They were also demanding the “right of return” for the hundreds and thousands of Palestinians who were displaced from their homes during the creation of the state of Israel. As usual, the world community has chosen to turn a blind eye to these gross inhuman atrocities committed by the Indian and Israeli security forces in the disputed territories. However, paying a lip service to these unfortunate events, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for a thorough investigation into these killings in the Indian occupied Kashmir and the besieged Gaza Strip.
Though the disputed territories of Kashmir and Palestine are situated thousands of miles away from each other, yet both resemble each other in many ways. Both are predominantly Muslim territories. The issues of both Kashmir and Palestine first surfaced in the late 1940s. The people in both territories have been denied their fundamental right to decide their political future. They have been living in miserable conditions in their own territory for the last 70 years. The occupying forces in both territories are employing similar inhuman oppressive tools to perpetuate their illegal occupation on both territories. The miseries and sufferings of both Kashmiris and Palestinians are multiplying with the passage of time. The political future of the people in both territories is currently hanging in the balance. Both Kashmiris and Palestinians are just clueless about their future. So, both issues are getting complicated day by day. Similarly, the world community is hardly interested in minimising the underlying woes of the people living in both territories.
The state policies of the UK, the then superpower, played a pivotal role in giving rise to both Kashmir and Palestinian issues in the late 1940s. Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of the British Indian Empire, just colluded with Indian Congress leaders to annex and absorb Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir on the eve of partition of British India. Through the controversial Radcliffe Award, the Muslim majority district of Gurdaspur was given to India in violation of the underlying principle of the Radcliffe Boundary commission so as to provide India a road access to the state of J&K. Later, Lord Mountbatten also chose to hurriedly accept the controversial Instrument of Accession, executed by the Maharaja Hari Sigh, paving the way for illegal Indian occupation on the Kashmir. Similarly, precisely a century ago, the United Kingdom helped Zionists get their ‘Promised Land’ by establishing a “national home for Jewish people” in Palestine through the Balfour Declaration. The state of Israel was finally established in 1948 in consequence of a partition plan formally adopted by the UN.
The UK helped Israelis and Indians occupy the state of Palestine and Kashmir. However, the US is now absolutely helping both to perpetuate these occupations. President Donald Trump has formally announced the US official policy to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In June last year, the US Senate unanimously approved a resolution stating that “Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel”. So, the US has unilaterally determined the ‘final status’ of the disputed city of Jerusalem. The US spearheaded the so-called Middle East peace process based on the “two-state solution” in 1990s. Now the US appears to have abandoned this peace process to appease the Israel. Similarly, the US is currently also extending an unqualified support to India, its new strategic partner in the South Asia, on the Kashmir Issue.
Unfortunately, the so-called Middle East peace process in currently in the middle of nowhere, so is the issue of Kashmir. Based on the assumption that an independent and sovereign state of Palestine can peacefully coexist with Israel in the Middle East, the so-called two-state solution is widely considered to be the only viable prescription to bring a sustainable peace in the region after putting an end to the current Israel-Palestine stand-off. The 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine, UNSC Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) are important milestones in the evolution of ‘two state solution’ during the last 70 years. Regrettably, now Israel is gradually drifting away from the two-state solution after reviving its own ‘one state solution’. It is hardly interested in concluding the ‘final status agreement’ to create an independent Palestinian state. Currently, on the security pretext, Israel is refusing to grant sovereignty and independence to the Palestinian territories. Therefore, there are only dim prospects for the early and just settlement of the Palestinian issue.
Since inking the Simla Agreement in 1972, Pakistan and India have been trying to settle longstanding disputes, including the Kashmir issue, through dialogue. In fact, India has treacherously persuaded Pakistan into this open-ended dialogue process just to dilute their bilateral tension over this issue, besides hoodwinking the international community. Now, having set a number of unreasonable preconditions for it, India has eventually suspended this dialogue process. Besides this, India is also quite reluctant to include the Kashmir issue in the dialogue agenda. The so-called bilateralism has severely damaged the international character of the Kashmir issue. It has reduced this issue to a territorial dispute between two antagonist states. Therefore, the unrealistic strategies adopted by Pakistan in the name of its ‘Kashmir cause’ have significantly complicated the Kashmir issue. Observably Pakistan’s Kashmir policy has been quite counter-productive. It has somehow helped India perpetuate its illegal occupation on the Kashmir valley. It has just added to the miseries of the hapless and long-persecuted people of Kashmir. This policy has virtually brought them into a blind alley.
The issue of Kashmir is not merely a question of fundamental political and human rights of millions of Kashmiris, but it also involves, directly or indirectly, the fate and future of more than one-and-half billion people living in the South Asian region. Apparently the ‘oldest dispute on the UN agenda’ has become a major hurdle in the way of socio-economic well-being of the inhabitants of this region. Thus every fifth person on the globe has been made to bear the brunt of this longstanding issue. So in terms of its humanitarian impact, undeniably this is the gravest unresolved issue in the contemporary world. Similarly, the just settlement of Palestinian issue is the key to peace and prosperity in the Middle East. A destabilised and volatile Middle East would adversely affect the world peace and order. The world community should make some serious endeavours for the just and pacific resolution of both Kashmir and Palestinian issues.
The writer is a lawyer and columnist based in Lahore.