Kashmir; for better and for worse
As Prime Minister Imran Khan arrives in United States, determined to highlight the Kashmir issue at United Nations General Assembly meeting, something bothersome that has been in the cauldron for decades now is brewing at home. Khan has had a very clear stance on Kashmir even before India’s aggressive act of August 5th; ‘the issue be resolved as per the wishes of the people of the valley whether they go for or against Pakistan’. Unfortunately, he seems alone in his stance. The Friday Kashmir solidarity hour since day one is characterized by the chants of ‘Kashmir will become Pakistan’. From general publics to policy makers the gravity of this narrative is lost on all and this is not the first time. Pakistan has claimed Kashmir as its integral part with as much fervour as India has forced it since their independence in 1947, but as it is said better have a clever foe than a stupid friend. Over the course of years Pakistan has played a role in damaging the Kashmiri freedom movement as much as India has fuelled it by its relentless usage of power against the citizens of the valley.
At the time of partition Maharaja Hari Singh aspired to keep the state independent to the disappointment of Lord Mountbatten and despite the obvious demographic and geographic alignment with the newly formed Pakistan. The times were ripe and riots broke out in Jammu, the news of which instigated the tribal population of the North-West to lend support to their Muslim brethren. The invasion of the state by the untrained and ill-disciplined militia gave India an excuse to demand the Maharaja for accession of the state upon his request of military support against the revolt and invasion. Albeit with the condition of temporality, a short-sighted move, resulted in a hasty accession of the state. The half-heartedly signed document by a practically dysfunctional Maharaja is used by India to justify its occupation of the valley. Followed were a series of diplomatic blunders on the Kashmir front and Pakistan’s foreign policy in general until in 1980’s Pakistan went ahead with supporting the USA sponsored narrative of Jihad originally fashioned to prepare mercenaries against USSR in the Afghan war. Thousands of men trained for the purpose went jobless soon after and for them Kashmir was a new avenue to exercise their zeal for jihad. In Kashmir however there wasn’t just an occupation army to fight but a power struggle ensued with a local separatist movement; Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) that demanded sovereignty for the state. The addition of Jihadists in the picture not just divided the movement into different fractions, it gave India a reason to taint the resistance as a foreign sponsored interference and Pakistan’s proxy war against India to seize control of the territory. Had Pakistan used its influence on the elements at the time and instead sincerely supported Kashmir’s struggle for their right to self-determination on international forums it would have favored Kashmiris better.
A neutral and humanitarian stance by Pakistan on the issue can also stir some serious concern and attract actionable attention to the cause of Kashmir
With the abrogation of the special status of Kashmir, curfew, largest forces deployment and complete annihilation of human rights for nearly two months now, India has unwisely given Pakistan one last opportunity to prove its sincerity towards the people of Kashmir. Pakistan’s insistence on repeating slogans like the mentioned, signals that all Pakistan wishes for Kashmir is to come out of Indian occupation and get under its umbrella. The assumption that Kashmir would but want to join Pakistan validates India’s account that Pakistan’s interest in Kashmir is to accede the territory, equally valuable to both and has little to do with the aspirations of the people. Prime Minister Khan though has announced himself as an ambassador of Kashmir but has very subtly distanced himself from the common line and focused on Kashmir’s right to self-determination. Earlier too and when India tried to put the blame for Pulwama attack on Pakistan, he has publicly stressed that it is not in Pakistan’s favour to support militarization of any form and in any country and incidents like Uri and Pulwama are a reaction to Indian atrocities against Kashmiris. Khan’s courage to accept the mistakes of the past and the resolve about not following the same route can be the country’s chance to overcome the stigma of alleged terror sponsoring in the region. A neutral and humanitarian stance by Pakistan on the issue can also stir some serious concern and attract actionable attention to the cause of Kashmir.
Kashmiris of the previous generation were bewildered with Pakistan for the role it played in pitching the very people against each other and dividing thevalley back in the days when their resistance movement was at its peak and could have bore some fruit. The literature coming out of the valley is a testimony to that, literature is a version of history that does not talk about the triumphs of the kings and falls of regimens but the plight of people. The very literature blame Pakistan for the sorry state of affairs as much as it expresses the people’s disdain for India. It is characterized by words and thoughts like following;
“Murder tours the region in different guises, garbed sometimes in the uniform of the Indian army or in the form of bearded men, armed and infiltrated by Pakistan, speaking the language of jihad-Allah and Fate rolled into one. The background presence of nuclear missiles offers a ghoulish comfort to both sides. Kashmir, trapped in this neither-nor predicament, suffocates”.
India’s highhandedness has created a soft spot for Pakistan in the current generation and at present Pakistan has a chance to use it to develop a bond of trust with the people it considers its own. It is to the favor of all that Pakistan limit its support for Kashmir to humanitarian bases and not make it an aspiration to seize control.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.