Why There Is No Global Focus On Kashmir
Media debates often raise the issue of why the international community appears relatively muted in response to gross human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. Why does it seem least bothered to work for a lasting solution to a seven-decade old dispute of the region that has recently got a third stakeholder during clashes between China and India in the Galwan valley?
As important as these questions are, their answers are highly complex and entangled.
From the way international politics has reshaped its contours after the 9/11 attacks on the US, it has become evident that the world stands divided into two ideologies which reflect its policy on India and Pakistan.
Earlier, it was the Cold war era that had lot to do in framing the foreign policy of the two newly independent countries after the 1947 Partition. The Soviet-led Eastern Bloc provided military and diplomatic support to India at every level and in every difficult hour, compared to the loss suffered by Pakistan by joining Western alliances such as CENTO or SEATO. Washington’s intentions had become open whenever the United Nations deliberated on the Kashmir dispute, when US support to Pakistan in its wars with India was withheld at crucial moments or when Pakistan was used as a launch pad in the jihad against pro-Soviet forces in Afghanistan. The world has changed recently.
Many great powers that once used to create chaos and uprisings in other regions are also suffering from internal political and economic turmoil. If the institutions and administrative systems of these countries were not strong, they would also be suffering from the malaise we are facing in South Asia today. Since President Trump came to power, American society has become a split society: economically, socially and ideologically. According to some analysts, the global image of the US has become reduced to that of a rogue ‘policeman’. An economic downturn has dashed hopes of millions of those voters who were promised jobs, housing and uplift. The Coronavirus pandemic has so far claimed more than ten million jobs there.
Britain decided to leave the European Union in a move largely seen as an own-goal. Brexit has not only weakened the European alliance, it has eroded the image of the Britain. Germany, France and other European countries are currently in a rat race to save their plummeting economies. The Coronavirus pandemic has hit the European markets the most and consumed more lives and livelihood.
At the diplomatic level, new blocs of world politics have started to emerge in which the sphere of influence of China and Russia is seen to be growing at a pace. If China has tightened its grip on international markets, Russia has infiltrated again into the Muslim world to restore its lost face. Resentful of the policies of the United States, many Muslim countries are coming close to Russia, and becoming part of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) economic initiative. On the one hand, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, Malaysia, China and Russia are getting closer, while India, the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia are in the race to form a new bloc to counter China’s economic expansion. In this changing political context, when looking at the global support for the Kashmir issue, it is important to keep in mind the position of Pakistan that has become an “area of interest” for the pro-Indian bloc. The support for Pakistan’s stand is limited to a few Muslim countries, even though the emerging new bloc shares concern about the growing influence of ‘Hindutva’ as being detrimental to security and peace in the region.
What is the reason that China, Russia or other countries do not still support Pakistan’s position on Kashmir?
After 9/11, the political thinking of many countries towards Muslims has changed considerably and Islamophobia has become a palpable reality. With such depictions of Muslims in the media, a number of movements for self-determination have come to be seen largely as terrorist campaigns, be it the Kashmir movement or the Palestinian movement. Even the peaceful leadership associated with these movements are increasingly classified as terrorists. Commentators note that Israeli violence in Palestine is never called “Jewish terrorism” or if a Christian attacks a mosque, their mental health issues are brought up – but if a Muslim engages in terorism, their motivations and worldview are immediately linked intimately to Islam.
What happened to those organizations which preferred political share through a democratic process?
Hamas disappeared from the political scene despite winning a democratic election in 2006.
The election results of the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria were rejected outright in 1992, and the political leadership was permanently removed from the scene, labelled terrorists.
In 1988, the victory of the Muslim United Front in Kashmir was turned into a defeat and the candidates were mercilessly beaten, put behind bars and forced to carry guns against India.
The Taliban were “Mujahideen” as long as the Soviet Union was the target, and then labelled “Islamic terrorists” when they launched a campaign against the current coalition forces to leave Afghanistan. These few examples reflect the ideological thinking of the ‘democratic’ world, especially in the West.
It would seem that major world powers have been assured by the Government of India that it will ‘manage’ Kashmir in its own way with their tacit support. That is why the major powers did not react to the August 5 decision last year when J&K was robbed of its land, identity and constitution, even though the international media did direct some extensive coverage of the ground situation of incarcerated Kashmir for the first time.
Britain, arguably, continues to pursue the same policy today as it had in 1947 when the Maharaja of Kashmir asked the then Viceroy Lord Mountbatten to keep the state independent instead of merging with India or Pakistan. Mountbatten, after consultation with Nehru, persuaded the Maharaja to join India. The Radcliffe Commission had already cleared the way when Gurdaspur was placed within Indian borders, intended to end all land links between Pakistan and Kashmir. Needless to say, Britain’s policy is essentially similar to American policy, be it Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan or Iraq.
From the discourse prevalent in US and European think tanks, it seems that what is bothering the international community most is the threat of the valley becoming a “safe haven” for extremists if Kashmir is granted independence. The world powers believe that if Kashmir is freed from Indian control, another Islamic state can emerge on its borders or if the annexation of Kashmir with Pakistan is supported, it will be damaging to the region’s non-Muslim countries.
They also appear to extend at least tacit approval to India’s revocation of J&K’s special status under article 370 of the Indian constitution, given that the BJP government has created the impression that the existence of a “Muslim majority” state is also contributing to the rise of “Islamic terrorism” in the region. To substantiate its narrative, India has been providing a list of “terrorists” killed in daily encounters in Kashmir.
China’s repeated intervention in Ladakh has opened the second front of the war, so attention has been diverted from Pakistan to China for which international lobbying is intensely done in powerful capitals. China is also not in favour of seeing Jammu and Kashmir as an independent state or part of ‘Islamic’ Pakistan, but it is not in favour of abolishing the internal sovereignty of the state, largely because of its border with Ladakh. China believes that India will try to escalate border tensions, which could lead to a trouble in Tibet, and then the economic initiative through northern Pakistan would become India’s military priority.
As a result of tacit international support, India first separated Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir and it is believed that by making Jammu a separate province, Kashmir will be confined to the valley so that it would become easy to end the independence movement under the guise of “fighting terrorism.” And the main target is to change the Muslim character of the valley for which the recently enacted domicile law has permitted a process of settling non-Muslims from India by issuing residence permits in thousands daily.
The continued attractiveness of India’s narrative, especially in Western power-centres, should be a moment for Kashmiri leaders, as well as countries such as Pakistan that support them, to reevaluate their entire strategy.
Nayeema Ahmad Mahjoor is a former editor of BBC Urdu service, Penguin author and independent Urdu columnist.