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Kashmir: International Norms And The Inevitability Of War

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Sheraz Zaka writes about how the United Nations through history has been unable to prevent crises, why international powers may not intervene in Kashmir, and how it can push India and Pakistan towards war.

The cobweb of international politics is so complex and inextricably linked with realpolitik that one gets astounded by the fact that the entire international community is solely interested in economic interests detrimental to international law based on generally accepted moral norms. This world as it seems is moving towards a dangerous path where respect for human rights is hardly considered and the superpowers or the rising economic giants have become cold-hearted which is allowing the aggressors to act ruthlessly and with impunity.

We have an instance of massacre that took place in Rwanda, which occurred as a result of a clash between the two local tribes known as Hutus and Tutsis. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians lost their lives until the United Nations sent its peace keeping troops and thereafter sanity prevailed. Similarly, we have an example of Bosnia-Herzegovina where the Serb nationalists committed massive atrocities against innocent Muslims until NATO had to intervene and subsequently the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established by the UN Security Council Resolution 827 in 1993.

The court prosecuted persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law, breaches of the Geneva Conventions, violating the laws or customs of war, committing genocide, and crimes against humanity committed in the territory of the former  Yugoslavia since January 1, 1991. The indictees by ICTY ranged from common soldiers to prime ministers and presidents. Some high-level indictees included Slobodan Milošević (President of Serbia) and Radovan Karadzic, a leader of Serb Democratic Party in Bosnia and president (1992–95) of the autonomous, self-proclaimed Serb republic within Bosnia.

The question arises that why international community reacted after innocent civilians had to lose their lives in large numbers? Why is it so that superpowers or permanent members of United Nations Security Council react after the genocide had taken place?

The options for Pakistan to get the issue of Kashmir resolved through amicable means of arbitration and mediation seem to be minimal as India is not prepared at all to conduct a meaningful dialogue. The Indian government is only paying lip-service to the demand of the international community to resolve the settlement of Kashmir dispute through bilateral dialogue. In the past, we have quite often heard of exploring the option to seek the settlement of Kashmir dispute through the intervention of International Court of Justice. It is a noteworthy fact that a dispute between two countries can be resolved only if both the states accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. On the other hand, International Court of Justice also has the advisory jurisdiction regarding a dispute between the states.

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India, in its declaration, has thus excluded the competence of the ICJ to hear disputes involving it with another member of the Commonwealth. To preclude any action by Pakistan to confer jurisdiction on the ICJ in the Kashmir dispute by leaving the Commonwealth, India added in its conditions of acceptance of the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction that such acceptance excludes disputes with another member which is or has been a member of the Commonwealth. This completely ousts the ICJ’s jurisdiction under India’s declaration.

We must learn from history that if modifications of the world map have to take place, then it is only through war. For instance, unification of Italy and unification of Germany in the nineteenth century took place as a result of wars with the Austro-Hungarian empire. Then we have another example of Israel which launched its expansionist policy in 1948 after annexing West Jerusalem followed by the annexation of East Jerusalem, Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights, West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War against the Arab world. Israel did not pay heed to the UNSC resolutions and its transgression remains unchallenged till now.

We have another instance of Vietnam, where the Vietnamese, under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, fought against the French armed forces and then later against the US forces in the 1960s until Vietnam got liberation. Even Hitler was defeated as a result of the Second World War (WWII). Had it not been for WWII, Hitler was annexing one state after another. In the 1930s, Hitler annexed Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland which ultimately triggered the war.

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The ideology of RSS (Rashtreyak Sawam Sevak) has also been inspired by the fascist ideology of the Nazi party. Political parties which have an agenda based on fascism, self-acclaimed superiority underpinned by religion, class or creed, are meant to be doomed eventually but not before wreaking havoc or destruction in the entire region. Therefore, at present, it seems that Pakistan cannot overlook the fact of an impending war, which if occurs would herald adverse consequences in the entire South Asian region.

Till now, the strategy of the Indian government is to launch a vilification campaign against Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism. The Pakistani government has not only to counter the nefarious design of Indian propaganda but also has to fight against it at the diplomatic level. On the other hand, it seems the permanent members of United Nations Security Council, except China, are not ready to take a clear stance in favour of Pakistan. Russia and France both have defence and trade deals agreements with India which both the countries cannot risk losing. Secondly, India is a huge market for the goods of industrialised nations as the cost of production is low compared to the option of investing in a developed country. Hence, the economic potential of India is not allowing any permanent member of UNSC to take a principled stance in favour of upholding the rights of Kashmiris.

In the contemporary multi-polar world, such are the times where self-interests are of paramount significance and the application of Geneva conventions and moral norms remains at the back burner. Therefore, in such a scenario, war becomes inevitable.

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