Peaceful co-existence and cooperation among states having geographical proximity is undoubtedly the best propeller of their economic well-being and security. The emergence of EU in the post-World War II period that transformed hostility into an impregnable bonhomie as well as economic and political cooperation is evidence of this irrefutable reality. ASEAN is yet another model of shared economic prosperity. But unfortunately, South Asia continues to remain bereft of regional peace and security due to the hegemonic desires of India, which regrettably is locked in disputes with almost all its neighbours including Pakistan.

The major issue in this regard is the Kashmir dispute which is an unfinished agenda of the partition of the sub-continent. It is a historic fact that in spite of giving commitment to the UN and the world community to implement the UN resolutions, India reneged on her pledge. It manoeuvred a resolution by the general council of the All-Jammu and Kashmir National Conference on October 27, 1950 calling for convening the session of a constituent assembly of IOK to decide the question of accession of the state. However, 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. Again, when the constituent assembly in the constitution adopted by it declared accession of the state to India, the UN through Resolution 122, reiterated the same position. It was a rousing denial of the Indian claim of Kashmir having become an integral part of India.

The continued denial of the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir pushed them to taking the option of an armed struggle in 1989. India has been using ruthless force to subdue the freedom struggle. According to authentic accounts, more than 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed since then, besides the rape and abuse of thousands of women. Amnesty International and other international human rights organisations have been regularly putting out reports regarding the blatant violation of human rights in the valley.

It is pertinent to point out that the international community did recognise the right of the people of Kashmir to fight for their freedom as legitimate. But unfortunately, 9/11 changed the whole scenario. USA and its allies became strategic partners of India which gave the latter an opportunity to sell its narrative of the freedom struggle in Kashmir as terrorism supported by Pakistan in spite of the indelible imprint of it being an indigenous uprising.

It is interesting to note that notwithstanding the Indian claim of Kashmir being its integral part, it acknowledged the disputed status of the territory in the Shimla Agreement, Lahore Declaration and has also remained engaged in sporadic dialogues to orchestrate confidence-building measures paving the way for final settlement of the dispute. During the Musharraf era, as a result of back channel diplomacy, the two countries had almost agreed on 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. 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 initiative. The foregoing reality again insinuated that India accepted the existence of Kashmir dispute and the need for its resolution.

However, since the arrival of Narendra Modi – a staunch follower of the RSS ideology of Hindutva – as Prime Minister of India, the security situation in the region has become extremely grave due to continued bellicose posturing against Pakistan, scrapping of Article 370 and 35 A of the Indian constitution, changing the special status of the state and its subsequent annexation through the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019. Narendra Modi, in his speech on the Independence Day of India, emphatically claimed that he had accomplished within seven months which could not be achieved in seven decades, realising the dream of Vallabhai Patel.

Baffled by the resolve of the resistance leaders in IOK and in the wake of some retaliatory actions initiated by them against Indian security forces, India has now also started accusing Pakistan of sending infiltrators from Azad Kashmir to carry out these attacks. Pakistan rightly fears – which is encouraged by the attitude of some powers which are takers of the Indian narrative to protect their strategic and commercial interests – that these allegations could be a premonition to yet another false flag operation against Pakistan with a view to divert attention of the world community from the ever deteriorating human rights situation in IOK.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has been persistently warning the world about the designs of the Modi government and the threat it poses to regional peace and security. In a tweet on May 17, he maintained that India was trying to create an opportunity for a false-flag operation against Pakistan while detracting world attention away from state-terrorism in Indian Occupied Jammu Kashmir. The Pakistani military establishment also shares these fears. I am sure the Prime Minister and Army have credible reports about Indian designs and are not shooting arrows in the air. Pakistan, though capable of thwarting any aggression against it, does not want military confrontation with India and therefore has continuously made peace overtures towards her without any reciprocity. It is fully cognisant of the horrors of a clash between two nuclear states. The madness exhibited by the Indian government needs to be stopped in its tracks by the powers-that-be and the global community before it is too late.

Indian leaders must also understand that posturing is fraught with grave dangers for India itself besides jeopardising regional security and the chances of shared economic prosperity for which there existed enormous potential. Regional instability has infinite cost in the shape of consigning millions to perennial sufferings and poverty.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The writer is a freelance