Indian Unilateralism In Kashmir: Regional (In)stability And Options For Pakistan
The state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has remained, for the last 70 years, bone of contention between India and Pakistan. Indeed, the two countries fought their first war (1947-48) and had their latest standoff (February 2019) in and around Kashmir. In the wake of the first India-Pakistan war over J&K, the international community, especially the United Nations, stepped in and urged the two sides to agree on a ceasefire in April 1948.
Moreover, the UN appointed a commission to monitor the ground situation in order to prevent escalation along what then was called ‘line of ceasefire’. It is pertinent here to state the historical fact that it was India led by Nehru which took the matter of the state of Jammu & Kashmir to the UN Security Council. The former accepted the principle of self-determination for the people of J&K.
In reality, however, the Nehru government, in 1949, violated not only its international legal obligations but also adopted legislative measures in terms of the adoption of article 370, which provided the so-called ‘special status’ to Kashmir.
Later in 1954, article 35A was introduced to ensure territorial exclusivity for the state whereby a non-resident lacked legal right to purchase and own property/assets within the legal jurisdiction of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Importantly, within next couple of years, the Constituent Assembly of the state was arbitrarily dissolved by the central government in an attempt to deprive the Kashmiris, whom it had manipulated since 1947, of the right to make/amend their own constitution.
The above-mentioned measures provoked strong sentiments among the local Kashmiri population as well as in Pakistan, which is a party to the dispute owing to the terms of the 3rd June Plan for the partition of the British India.
Pakistan, on its part, raised the Kashmir dispute internationally through diplomatic means. Ultimately, however, the Ayub regime attempted to settle it militarily. This led to what is now known as the 1965 India-Pakistan war that ended in a stalemate as neither side could claim absolute victory.
However, in 1971, India gained an opportunity to dismember Pakistan. Though the 1971 war was not as such about Kashmir, it did, in the coming years and decades, mark the centrality of India as Pakistan’s arch enemy. Thus, from the initiation of the nuclear program to jihadization, first in Afghanistan and subsequently in Kashmir, Pakistan left no stone unturned to pressure India into acting in accordance with the UNSC resolutions to resolve the dispute.
India, on its part, continued to cite the Simla Agreement (1972), that it claimed provided for bilateralism, to neutralize Pakistan’s internationalism on the Kashmir question. Politically, Delhi implemented through sheer force the electoral politics in the state in order to, on the one hand, turn rebels into stakeholders and, on the other, give the impression that Jammu and Kashmir had been routinized domestically and, thus, no issue or conflict whatsoever existed there.
Such measures, however, backfired as not only the Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) but also successive Pakistani governments and the people continued to register legal and moral disagreement before the UN monitoring commission at various occasions in the past decades.
Pakistan even attempted a military solution under Musharraf in 1999, now known as the Kargil War. In the post-Kargil period, though the Musharraf regime tried to resolve Kashmir through negotiations with the-then Manmohan-led Congress government, the historical mistrust and military-bureaucratic mindset proved too hard to crack.
Currently, India is being governed, for the second consecutive time, by a hardline, right-wing Hindu extremist party, the BJP, which technically is the political wing of the ultra-nationalist RSS that assassinated Gandhi right after the partition for demanding that Pakistan be given its due share from the material resources of the British Indian state.
The irony is that the RSS and the BJP are presently involved, both directly and indirectly, in the mass killings of Indian minorities, especially Muslims. Muslims are publically lynched for even the transportation, let alone consumption, of beef. The fate of other non-Muslims communities, such as Christians, is not much different.
In continuation of its anti-Muslims measures, the Modi government, on August 5, revoked the ‘special status’ accorded to the state of Jammu & Kashmir under articles 370 and 35A through a presidential order. The following day, the Indian parliament took legislative measures to amend the Indian constitution to ensure administrative and legal/constitutional change in the status of the state which now has controversially been rendered into two union territories: J&K and Ladakh.
The Indian opposition led by the Congress along with J&K based political parties have termed such actions as ‘constitutional coup’ and have warned of grave implications for the Indian union. Importantly, the Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control are protesting despite the heavy deployment of army and police contingents by Modi government.
Moreover, the Kashmiri diaspora, wherever it is, is up in resistance against the Indian aggression and dehumanization of the unarmed Kashmiri people whose right to self-determination has been arbitrarily denied for last seven decades.
Pakistani government and people are also manifesting their sense of solidarity for the people of Kashmir. Mass rallies are being held in different parts of AJK and Pakistan. Moreover, the Pakistani parliament debated the Indian action at length. The Pakistani military led by General Bajwa also held its corps commanders’ conference to ponder over the rapidly deteriorating situation across the LoC where India is beefing up militarily in order to quell the Kashmiri resistance in the wake of the revocation of the ‘special status’.
Pakistan contextually has the following options at hand
First, it can take the matter back to the United Nations Security Council for mediation; for, India itself has rendered the Simla Accord null and void by resorting to unilateralism, as mentioned above. The UNSC should host an emergency session in order to offer a meaningful solution to this lingering dispute. The former should also urge India to immediately stop human rights violations in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
In addition, the UN ought to alert its military observes in South Asia to keep a tab on the growing Indian military activity inside the disputed territory.
Second, Pakistan must contact the Trump administration for third-party mediation as Trump himself had offered during the recent visit of Pakistan’s civil and military leaderships last week. In this respect, the Pakistani mission in Washington would have to play smartly by hiring the services of credible interest groups to highlight the gravity of the situation on the ground before the American government, media and people.
Third, the Khan government should contact the European Union and England to communicate the impending implications of the Indian action.
Fourth, Islamabad needs to urgently call a session of the OIC where Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, the UAE and Turkey are to be taken on board to counter Indian diplomacy, regionally.
Last but not the least, China has to be apprised of the situation as well. China and Pakistan, under the current circumstances, would find common ground as the Modi government, on August 6, publically claimed Aksai Chin as an integral part of India.
Besides, Pakistan ought to avoid any act of militarism in terms of using jihadi proxies owing to its reported commitments to the US. Moreover, Beijing too seems to have adopted an anti-militancy mindset. Involvement of Pakistan-based proxies will be counterproductive, both regionally and internationally.
Nevertheless, Pakistan must stay vigilant in the short to the medium term as India is likely to generate, in the coming days, a warring environment at and beyond the LoC and the Working Boundary. The Modi government, on August 6, claimed AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan as parts of India. Thus, it may cross into the AJK and GB in order to create an armed conflict that may persist for some weeks.
Hypothetically then, the international community, especially the US, would get involved to ensure a ceasefire. Such a ceasefire would ultimately be on the LoC. It would then be contingent on Pakistani government, whether it would accept LoC as such or would agree to see it as the international border between India and Pakistan. By default, then, India would have shifted the focus on what it did in J&K historically and presently.
Lastly, if, by chance or calculation, India attempts to wage war against Pakistan proper, that will be countered, as stated by the Pakistani civil and military leadership on August 6. If an all-out India-Pakistan war isn’t stopped within initial hours, it has the potential to turn into a nuclear one. Use of nukes will be catastrophic for not just South Asia but also for the broader region. Thus, such a scenario must be avoided at any cost. Hence, it is high time the US, China and other powers stepped in in order to get Kashmir resolved according to the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.