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 the EU in the Post World War-II period that transformed hostility into an impregnable bonhomie as well as economic and political cooperation is quintessential of this irrefutable reality. The 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. No serious effort has come forth to resolve the disputes that mar the crystallisation of an ambience of cooperation and peaceful co-existence.

The major issue in this regard is the Kashmir dispute which is an unfinished agenda of the partition of the sub-continent. Pakistan and India have fought three wars which has cast them into perennial mode of animosity. Unfortunately the situation is more attributable to the intransigent attitude of India which has all along refused to grant the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir as enshrined in the UN resolutions.

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 maneuvered a resolution by General Council of the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference on October 27, 1950 calling for convening the session of constituent assembly of IIOJK 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 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 the authentic and recorded accounts more than one hundred thousand Kashmiris have been killed since then besides rape of thousands of women. Amnesty International and other international human rights organisations have been regularly putting out reports regarding blatant violation of human rights in the valley.

It is pertinent to point out that the international community did recognise the legitimate right of the people of Kashmir to fight for their freedom. 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 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 Simla 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 the Kashmir dispute and the need for its resolution.

However, since the arrival of Narendra Modi—a staunch follower of RSS ideology of Hindutva—as Prime Minister of India, the security situation in the region has become extremely grave due to the continued bellicose posturing against Pakistan, scrapping of articles 370 and 35 A of the Indian constitution, changing the special status of the state and its subsequent annexation through the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019. Narendra Modi in his speech on the Independence Day of India last year emphatically claimed that he had accomplished within seven months which could not be achieved in seven decades, realising the dream of Vallabhai Patel. This Indian action and continued lockdown in the valley is simply unacceptable to the people of IIOK and Pakistan. The continued resistance by the people of Kashmir is a ranting testimony to this fact.

Indian designs are a perfect recipe for disaster. Pakistan though being capable of thwarting any aggression against her does not want military confrontation with India. It has, therefore, 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 checked by the global community and the UN which is under the obligation to have its resolution on Kashmir implemented. The continued killing spree by the Indian security forces in IIO&JK is an affront to the conscience of the world. The world has already seen the consequences of a supremacist ideology pursued by Hitler and cannot afford a similar ideology pushing the world towards yet another catastrophe.

Indian leaders must also understand that their hostile posturing towards Pakistan and hegemonic designs to dominate the region are fraught with grave dangers for India itself besides jeopardising regional security and the chances of shared economic prosperity for which there existed an enormous potential. Regional instability has infinite cost in the shape of consigning millions to perennial sufferings and poverty. Is it not the right moment for introspection by the Indian leadership?

Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at ashpak10@gmail.com.