This year’s Kashmir Day was special. It was observed all over Pakistan with renewed if not recharged fervour and commitment on the part of both the government and the people, reaffirming their full solidarity with the Kashmiri people in their just struggle for their inalienable right to self-determination, enshrined in the UN Charter. Meetings and rallies were held marking the day of solidarity with the valiant struggle of the Kashmiri people for freedom from India’s military occupation.

Almost coinciding with the event this year was also the 12th Islamic Summit held in Cairo where Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar boldly presented the Kashmir case drawing the Muslim world’s attention not only to the atrocities being committed by Indian security forces against the Kashmiri people, but also to the need for a just and peaceful solution of the longstanding Kashmir dispute. In its final Communiqué, the Islamic Summit reaffirmed its principled support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir for the realisation of their legitimate right to self-determination.

Taking note of persistent human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir, the Summit called upon India to undertake independent investigation into the discovery of mass graves and ensure free and fair trial of those responsible for the heinous crimes. It also urged the Indian government to allow the OIC fact-finding mission and other international human rights groups and humanitarian organisations to visit Jammu and Kashmir. Expressing deep concern over the recent ceasefire violations along the line of control, the Cairo Summit welcomed Pakistan’s proposal for investigations through UN’s Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UMMOGIP).

The Kashmir dispute has, indeed, been on the agenda of the UN for more than six decades as an unfulfilled obligation of the international community to let the Kashmiri people decide their future through free and impartial plebiscite in line with the UN Security Council resolutions. Thousands of Kashmiris have laid down their lives. No amount of atrocities and humiliations could deter them from a cause based on their legitimate aspirations. This is the oldest unresolved international conflict with serious implications for regional and global peace. India and Pakistan have fought wars and still remain in a confrontational mode with frequent violent eruptions along the Line of Control.

This is not a territorial dispute. It is a question involving the future of Kashmiri people, who have been struggling for their fundamental right of self-determination, pledged to them by the international community as well as by both India and Pakistan. Kashmir also represents the key unfinished agenda of the June 3, 1947, Partition Plan. On their independence, the two countries inherited many problems, but the Kashmir dispute is the mother of all. The clash in 1948, the 1965 war, the Siachen dispute, the Kargil crisis, the volatile Line of Control with frequent violent eruptions, unabated war-like military deployments, the growing water disputes, and Pakistan’s unending strategic fears and apprehensions are all directly related to Kashmir.

While all other issues are amenable to easy solution, the Kashmir dispute invokes intense feelings among the peoples of both India and Pakistan as well as the Kashmiri people. Their historical experiences, cultural diversities, religious fervour, scars of partition, wars and conflicts, India’s hegemonic designs, liberation struggle in Kashmir and India’s unchecked human rights violations in the occupied territory all come together in a curious convergence in the unresolved dispute of Kashmir.  This brings us face to face with the stark reality of our geo-political environment that makes Pakistan’s relations with India the “centre-point” of its foreign policy.

This equation, with all its ramifications, has had a fundamental impact on our domestic matters, on our security policy, on our international relations and, indeed, on the very course of our entire post-independence history. Our Kashmir policy since the beginning of the dispute has gone through various phases. One constant, however, remained unchanged: our total commitment to the cardinal principle of self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter. No government, civilian or non-civilian, other than General Musharraf’s, deviated from this fundamental policy rooted in the UN Security Council resolutions on the question of Kashmir.

In the post-Kargil period, taking advantage of global concern with terrorism, India remained locked on to the alleged nexus between “terrorism” and the Kashmiri struggle with the demand that Pakistan cease assistance to the Kashmiri cause. After an interruption of five years, the stalled Composite Dialogue was resumed through ‘Islamabad Joint Statement’ of January 6, 2004, in which India managed to secure an ‘undertaking’ from General Musharraf that Pakistan would not let its territory be used for cross-border terrorist activity. This was also an implicit acceptance of the onus for all previously alleged terrorist activities in India.

No wonder, since 2006, India has been seeking to implicate Pakistan in every act of terrorism on its soil, and most of the time it also kept the dialogue process hostage to its policy of keeping Pakistan under constant pressure. During his last couple of years, General Musharraf went beyond all limits, making unprecedented gestures of flexibility to India. His proposal cosmetically involved dividing Kashmir in ethnic regions, demilitarising them and making them autonomous entities with a joint-body mechanism. It was only a façade behind deceitful legitimisation of the Line of Control with no reference to the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people.

In the process, our principled position on Kashmir, for the first time since independence, stood compromised. In the post-Musharraf era, taking full advantage of our domestic chaos, India sought to redefine the Kashmir dispute purely as an issue of terrorism. Ironically, our civilian leadership made no effort to repair the damage done to our traditional Kashmir position and mostly remained complacent to Indian arrogance. On its part, encouraged by its “strategic” partnership with the US, India also managed to gain unprecedented influence in Afghanistan with serious nuisance potential against Pakistan, which it tried to use as an instrument of its policy to ‘redefine’ the Kashmir issue.

What India should understand is that Afghanistan is not Kashmir and Kashmir is not Afghanistan. The only parallel between the two is that the people in both Afghanistan and Kashmir have special unflinching historic, cultural and religious bonds with Pakistan that India can never match. India will serve itself well by not seeking to redefine the unalterable realities of this region, and instead pursue the peace process with Pakistan in a purposeful manner.

The unresolved Kashmir dispute as the core issue is today a sombre reminder to the world that the Kashmiri people remain deprived of their fundamental values and freedoms. They feel betrayed over the indifference of world powers and their failure to implement UN Security Council resolutions. Despite curfews and military crackdowns, they have often been out on the streets demanding to be freed from Indian military rule.  With Afzal Guru’s judicial murder earlier this week, the valley is once again simmering with tensions. 

Kashmiris’ is the voice of a wronged and neglected people challenging India’s and the world’s conscience. The Kashmir settlement has to be in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people, impartially ascertained, in conditions of freedom from oppression and intimidation. There is no fair, just, legal, and moral solution to other than provided by the United Nations, which both India and Pakistan had accepted. The setting aside of the UN resolutions is one thing, the discarding of the principle they embodied is quite another. The underlying cardinal principle of self-determination cannot be thrown overboard.

India will do itself good by seeing the writing on the wall. Popular movements cannot be suppressed. Brutal military force brings no relief to anyone. Stark lessons are there to read in the unclosed chapters of Afghanistan and Iraq. It is never too late to revert to the path of justice and fair play, and to heed to sanity and rationality. This is the crux of the Kashmir issue.

The writer is a former foreign secretary Email: shamshad2001@hotmail.com