Modi-led Indian government’s annexation of the Indian occupied Kashmir through the revocation of articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution has added fuel to the fire of the Kashmiris’ freedom struggle which had been re-ignited throughout the occupied territory by the martyrdom of Burhan Wani on 8 July, 2016 at the hands of the Indian forces. The Indian government’s move was in clear violation of the UN Security Council resolutions which mandate the exercise of the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people under UN auspices to enable them to decide whether to accede to Pakistan or India. The same resolutions also prohibit any change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir until the people of Kashmir have given their verdict through a fair and impartial plebiscite. In anticipation of the negative reaction of the Kashmiri people to its illegal actions, the Indian government imposed round the clock curfews and a communications blackout in the occupied territory to prevent news about the Indian atrocities to suppress the voice of the Kashmiri people from reaching the rest of the world.

The people of the Indian occupied Kashmir have thus been cut off from the rest of the world. International news agencies and foreign reporters have been denied access to the occupied territory to prevent them from reporting freely the rapidly worsening human rights situation in IOK. Still according to the reports trickling out of the area indicate that the Indian forces numbering about 700,000 military and para-military troops have let loose a reign of terror to bludgeon the Kashmiris into submission. In the process, thousands of Kashmiris have been arrested, many have been severely injured, and several have been martyred by the Indian forces since 5 August. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have taken note of the Indian gross human rights violations in IOK and called upon New Delhi to release political prisoners and lift the curfew and other restrictions imposed on the Kashmiri people.

Genocide Watch, a US based organization, has issued an alert for the Indian occupied Kashmir in the wake of India’s clampdown in the region following the revocation of its special status. It highlighted the following early warnings of genocide in IOK: the exclusionary ideology of Hindutva, authoritarian Indian military rule without any legal restraints, cut-off of communications and outside access by internet, media, and trade, and widespread violations of basic human rights. It particularly noted that Kashmiri Muslims were locked down and subject to arrest, torture, rape, and murder.

The government of Pakistan has drawn the attention of the international community to the Indian reign of terror and communications blockade imposed in IOK. There are signs of growing awareness of the international community of the gravity of the situation in the territory. Several US Senators and Congressmen have expressed their serious concern over the humanitarian crisis in IOK and have urged the US government to engage with the Indian government and call upon PM Modi to restore telecommunications and internet services, lift the lockdown and curfew, and release political prisoners detained in IOK. There have also been supportive statements by China, Iran, and Turkey at the official level in support of the Kashmiri people.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in her statement at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council also expressed serious concern over the violations of the human rights of Kashmiris by the Indian government as did several UN experts dealing with human rights issues. Probably the OIC Group on human rights at Geneva has recently issued a statement urging India to stop human rights violations in IOK. Separately, Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, after a meeting with the Indian Foreign Minister on 31 August in Brussels, called upon the Indian government to restore the human rights and freedoms of the people of Kashmir. She is also scheduled to address the European Parliament’s General Assembly on the issue during its meeting on 17 September at Strasbourg. Some Nobel Laureates and several reputable Western newspapers have also expressed their serious concern over the worsening human rights situation in IOK.

Thus, Pakistan’s diplomatic and media offensive on the Kashmir issue is slowly gaining momentum but one must face the harsh reality that the support for the Kashmir cause is still shallow and narrow at the international level. Pakistan’s request for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council made last month to discuss the Kashmir issue failed to elicit a positive response. After closed door consultations among its members on the subject on 16 August, UNSC neither held a formal open meeting to discuss the matter nor issued even a statement expressing its concern over the dangerous situation developing in the Indian occupied Kashmir. Basically, the message that came loud and clear from the UNSC was that it would like Pakistan and India to deal with this issue bilaterally, at least for the time being. This certainly could not be construed as a great victory as our government would like us to believe.

The current session of the UN Human Right Council (UNHRC), consisting of 47 member states of the UN, provides another test of our success in turning the tide in our favour on the Kashmir issue. If a large number of the member states take the floor in Pakistan’s support in UNHRC and, more importantly, a resolution critical of India’s draconian measures is adopted by it, we would be justified in celebrating it as a success in our campaign to sensitize the international community about the Indian atrocities in IOK. Our failure to achieve this objective would not only reflect the international apathy towards the Kashmir issue at the governmental level but also the need to reassess our Kashmir strategy. A still bigger test would come at the forthcoming UN General Assembly (UNGA) session. Our failure at UNHRC could jeopardize the chances of our success at the UNGA.

Therefore, despite the growing concern over the worsening human rights situation in IOK on the part of the world media and NGO’s, the harsh reality is that we have not so far succeeded in mobilizing the desired level of support for our point of view on the human rights tragedy unfolding in IOK. We, therefore, need to review our strategy and tactics in dealing with the Kashmir issue.

Strategically speaking, five main factors will determine the final outcome of the Kashmir issue: the stamina and tenacity of the people of Kashmir in their freedom struggle which may have to continue for decades; Pakistan’s sustained support to the just struggle of the Kashmiri people; Pakistan’s national power in the form of political stability, economic strength and advancement, military muscle, and pro-active rather than reactive diplomacy both at bilateral and multilateral levels; an effective campaign to turn the global media in our favour; and mobilization of Pakistani and Kashmiri diaspora in support of the Kashmir cause with a view to sensitizing and influencing foreign media, NGO’s, and governments appropriately. Our tactics in pursuit of our Kashmir policy should be within the framework of a carefully worked out long-term strategy keeping in view the above-mentioned factors.

It would be a mistake to underestimate the heavy odds against us in the struggle for the success of the Kashmir cause because of the growing Hindu bigotry in India, New Delhi’s hegemonic designs, and international apathy. But with firm conviction in the justness of our cause and perseverance in our struggle, we should be able to prevail in the long run if Pakistan is able to build up its national power relative to India.

Javid Husain

The writer is an author, a retired ambassador and the president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs.