The revocation of articles 370 and 35A by the Modi-led BJP government plunged Kashmir into a new political crisis. Since this act on August 5, Indian-occupied Kashmir has been under lockdown for nearly three months now and New Delhi has increased the deployment of its security forces in the valley to deal with a potential outburst of public display of defiance and resistance. Internet connections have been snapped and the movement of people restricted. The dire human rights conditions in Kashmir have elicited global outrage and concern, prompting even US Congressmen and Presidential candidates to voice apprehension about the security and fundamental rights of people in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
To understand the simmering crisis in Kashmir and discuss policy options for Pakistan, the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS) held a round-table conference on Pakistan’s Perspective on Kashmir Crisis on October 24, at its conference room. Executive Director CISS, Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi, presided over the proceedings of the conference. The speaker of the conference was Dr. Zahoor Ahmed, Additional Secretary (Asia Pacific), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan. He was accompanied by Mr. Faisal, Director Kashmir Cell in the Foreign Office. Mr. Taimur Shamil, Anchor PTV World/Research Fellow IPRI, was the discussant in the conference. A number of participants belonging to academia, diplomatic services, and other think-tanks attended the round-table.
In his opening remarks, Executive Director CISS, Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi, divided the Kashmir struggle into three stages. The first stage started immediately after the independence of Pakistan and India in 1947 and lasted till 1970s. This phase was characterized by intense diplomacy on the part of Pakistan to get the Kashmir dispute resolved in light of UN Security Council Resolution. During this phase, the Kashmiri struggle had remained largely peaceful. The late 1980s heralded a new stage in Kashmir’s struggle. The rigging of elections in Kashmir by New Delhi instigated an indigenous armed struggle in Indian-Occupied Kashmir. The militancy has intermittently continued since then. The third phase is the post-revocation of articles 370 and 35A, when Modi-led BJP government, in utter disregard of bilateral and international agreements and contrary to the political aspirations of Kashmiri people and their leadership, changed the special constitutional status of the valley.
Salient Points of the Discussion
The discussion during the conference focused on the necessity of a single voice to effectively present Pakistan’s perspective. There are three dimensions through which Pakistan can approach the simmering crisis in Kashmir. First is the legal and political dimension. Pakistan considers the decision of Indian government to unilaterally change the legal status of the disputed Kashmir territory as contravention of both bilateral (Simla Agreement) and international commitments (UN Resolutions). Second is the humanitarian dimension. Ever since the unilateral decision to change the constitutional status of Kashmir, the valley has been under lockdown; thousands of people have been arrested; internet connections have been snapped; and the movement of people restricted. The humanitarian dimension of the conflict has garnered global attention, with international wires filing reports of human rights violations with harrowing detail. American Congressmen and Presidential candidates are also raising apprehensions regarding the deteriorating security situation for people living in the valley. So far, Pakistan has maintained a policy of restraint, but Pakistan is ready to face any potential diplomatic, political or kinetic challenges if and when they emerge. The speakers and discussants urged the need of maintaining the current momentum and diplomatic proactiveness.
The round-table focused on the apprehensions that the Indian move could possibly be a prelude to effect artificial demographic changes in the valley, making Kashmiri Muslims a minority in their own land. Moreover, the Indian government can’t possibly maintain the lockdown forever and when the curfew is lifted, the prospect of the Kashmiri people, in an act of public defiance, taking to the streets to protest and resist and the security forces using lethal firepower to crush them is imminent. Pakistan has to be prepared to have contingency plans in place to cope with the emerging situation.
The session also discussed that the uprising and public defiance in Kashmir is indigenous. As a party to this conflict and given its historical ties to the Kashmiri cause, Pakistan will always lend moral and diplomatic support to this struggle. India, on the other hand, has always tried to smear the Kashmiri struggle by calling it externally-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan has time and again warned against the possibility of a false-flag operation by the Indian government or even incursion by Indian forces into Pakistani territory to divert the world’s attention on the serious humanitarian crisis in Kashmir. So far, the India narrative has failed to garner support and it is the responsibility of Pakistan to help maintain the momentum and re-double its diplomatic and political efforts in support of the Kashmiri struggle.
The Round-table was marked by able presentations by the speaker, the discussant, and an animated interactive session with the participants.