After the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, Kashmir emerged as the first territorial dispute between the two newly independent neighbours, Pakistan and India. After the partition, a rebellion in the western districts of the State coupled with advance of tribal militia towards Srinagar forced the Maharaja to seek Indian military Assistance. For obtaining the urgent military support, the document of accession was signed between India and ruler of Kashmir and following was stated by Nehru regarding the accession. “We have decided to accept this accession and to send troops by air, but we made a condition that the accession would have to be considered by the people of Kashmir later, when peace and order were established. We were anxious not to finalise anything in a moment of crisis, and without the fullest opportunity to the people of Kashmir to have their say. It was for them (ultimately) to decide”. Mr Nehru reiterated his stance regarding Kasmiri’s right to self determination in a telegram to PM of Pakistan dated 27 Oct, 1947 by saying,” our view which we have repeatedly made public is that the question of accession in any disputed territory or State must be decided in accordance with wishes of people and we adhere to this view”.
Sending of troops by India led to first Indo-Pak war which ended with UN-mediated ceasefire on the request of India. India approached the UN Security Council for the resolution of the issue on 1 January, 1948. The UN Security Council passed resolution 47 on 21 April, 1948 to hold a plebiscite after restoration of law and order. On 24 January 1957 the UN Security Council reaffirmed the 1948 resolution. The Security Council (while reaffirming its previous resolution to the effect) said, “the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of United Nations”.
To meet the commitments made with Hari Sing while preparing the accession document, Article 370 was inserted in the Indian constitution. Article 70 of India’s constitution guaranteed special rights to the Muslim-majority state, including the right to its own constitution and autonomy to make laws on all matters except defence, communications and foreign affairs. While implementation of UNSC resolution was awaited, Kashmir enjoyed the special status under article 370.
In the past the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir had ruled that the Article 370 cannot be “abrogated, repealed or even amended.” It explained that the clause (3) of the Article conferred power to the State’s Constituent Assembly to recommend to the President on the matter of the repeal of the Article. Since the Constituent Assembly did not make such a recommendation before its dissolution in 1957, the Article 370 has taken on the features of a “permanent provision” despite being titled a temporary provision in the Constitution.
As was evident from the Simla Agreement and Indian efforts to resolve the issue through back door diplomacy, officially Indian leadership has always acknowledged that Kashmir was a disputed territory. During all these years, India instead of solving the dispute tried to appease Kashmiri political leadership by giving lollypop but ignored the profound desire of independence of the masses. Consequently, after a series of political blunders, broken promises and a crackdown on dissent escalated the conflict into a full-blown armed rebellion in 1989. To control the situation, the region was made one of the most heavily militarised zones of the world, patrolled by soldiers and paramilitary police. Since then, about 70,000 people have been killed and Indian forces have committed serious human rights abuses and acts of terror against the civilians including extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, and forced disappearances. But till date the freedom movement has continued with varying intensity.
Six months ago, Indian government revoked the special status accorded to Indian-administered Kashmir in its constitution. Indeed, the most far-reaching political move on the disputed region in nearly 70 years. It is no more a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan but is a question of the right of self-determination of 14 million people of the State.
Unfortunately, BJP’s overwhelming majority coupled with aggressive approach of Mr Modi overran all the opposition and none showed the courage to oppose his tyrannical policy. Ordinarily, Supreme Court of a country acts as a saviour of the oppressed and under privileged groups, but Indian Supreme Court proved to be subservient to BJP government and to the surprise of the students of law, gave all the decisions against the minorities and oppressed masses. Decision regarding building of Ram Janmabhoomi temple at the site of Babri Mosque, postponing of hearing of petitions against abrogation of article 370 and not entertaining the petition against CAA are some of the examples. Similarly, Congress Party did not put up any resistance to avoid the anger of Hindu voters. Even Indian Muslims decided to align with the government instead of supporting their Kashmiri brethrens in these difficult times. Hence one cannot expect that any domestic pressure will force the government to reverse its decision regarding article 370. However, Mr Modi under estimated the reaction of the people of the valley as he announced at a rally in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, that it would take four months for Jammu and Kashmir situation to return to normal. Kashmir has been converted into an open jail. Thousands of people arrested in the Kashmir lockdown have been held without trial by the Indian authorities and moved to jails far from home. Businesses have been destroyed, kids are unable to attend schools, and population is deprived of internet, telephone and print media. Reports of rapes and killings through fake encounters are also pouring in. But resolve of the Kashmiri nation has not dwindled.
World reaction including US Congressional hearing, Labour party resolution demanding international intervention and UN-led referendum, moving of strong worded resolutions in the EU Parliament, closed door meeting of UNSC twice within the last six months, highlighting of the plight of Kashmiris by international electronic and print media, adverse reaction of some of the countries and peaceful processions in most of the world capitals against revoking the article 370 and atrocities committed by Indian Security Forces have not affected the Modi led government. Therefore moral pressure is not going to solve the issue and something else has to be done to rescue the oppressed public of IOK.
There are two more ways to force India to resolve the dispute through dialogue and provide immediate respite to Kashmiri people. One is the use of force authorization by the UNSC. But chances of getting such resolution passed are almost zero. Second and the most practical and pragmatic approach is to use the economic pressure to achieve the desired result. Keeping in view the poor state of Indian economy, chances of success of this approach seem very bright.
Although concept of Muslim Umah is a theoretical one and to expect something worthwhile from this body may be a wishful thinking, Muslim countries have the capacity to exert significant economic pressure on India to seek relief for the oppressed Muslims of Kashmir
Following are the worst hit areas of the Indian economy. India is facing a major slow down of the economy, not witnessed in the past 72 years and therefore badly needing dollars. About 8 million Indians are working in the Middle East. Last year Indian expats, mainly from the Gulf States, have sent home 80 billion dollars. Similarly, unemployment rate of India has reached the highest in the last forty five years. Any restrictions imposed on Indian workforce by the Gulf States will not only increase the unemployment rate in India but will also cause a major blow to its cash starved economy. Additionally, foreign investment in India has also reached the lowest level of the last twelve years. SA and UAE are two of the major investors in India and the quantum of their investment can be gauged from the fact that only Saudi company, ARAMCO is investing 75 billion $ in India. Likewise, Muslim countries are major trade partners of India. Last year trade volume of UAE-India alone reached 60 billion $. If we add Indian trade with other Muslims countries like Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia, the volume will be enormous and India cannot afford to adversely affect this area. All these factors combined, can have a huge impact on Indian economy. This economic clout of the Muslim countries can prove to be a significant leverage in compelling Mr Modi to change his policies towards the Kashmiri Muslims. Moreover, countries like UAE and SA, having cordial relations with USA, can use their good offices to convince America to exercise her influence on India for providing relief to the subjugated Muslims of Kashmir. Seeing the strong reaction of EU Parliament to human right violations by India, Muslim countries can seek EU support as well. But the biggest question is, will the Muslim countries rise to the occasion and forego their national interests for the sake of their Indian brethrens. Unfortunately, answer may be a big No. However, Pakistan being the champion of Kashmir cause needs to continue her best efforts in this regard and hope for the best.
The writer, Air Marshal (Retd) Yousaf Chaudhary is former Director General of Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority and a defence analyst