Much has been made of India’s abrogation of Article 370, so much so that the Greens tabled a motion in the New South Wales Parliament criticising India, also finding favours from some Australian based strategic experts and Pakistan experts.
But a closer scrutiny of the historical facts and UN technicality reveals how the motion, and Pakistan’s own case and views of strategic experts lacks teeth.
Pakistan’s official Kashmir policy hinging on twin pillars, cross-border terrorism and United Nations resolutions, has no takers.
Since 1990, over 40,000 people have been killed in J&K in terrorist violence perpetuated by Pakistan-based Jihadi groups, in violation of UNGA Resolution 2625 that directs states to “refrain from organising or encouraging the organisation of irregular forces or armed bands, including mercenaries, for incursion into the territory of another state”. The 1267 UN Sanctions Committee also lists many terrorists linked to over 22 jihadist organisations in Pakistan.
Following the Pulwama attack in J&K in 2019, killing 43 Indian security personnel, the United Nations and over 50 countries inter alia the US, Japan, Russia, Gulf nations, Saudi Arabia, South Asian neighbours including Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), and Australia strongly condemned the attack.
In 2005, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, leader of the All-Party Hurriyat Committee (main Kashmiri separatist representative body) led a delegation to Muzaffarabad, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), and lambasted Pakistan for only causing bloodshed and hardship in Kashmir with little constructive contribution to better Kashmiri lives. Every major Indian peace offer has been accompanied by a terrorist attack and even a war in Kargil in 1999, attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, in Mumbai in 2008 and on the Army base in Pathankot in 2016 to name a few. So even the Kashmiris lost patience with Pakistan intransigence in reigning these groups.
With regard to UN resolutions, Pakistan case had much bigger holes. First, the UN resolutions on J&K passed on August 13, 1948 had three parts. Part I called for a “ceasefire”; part II called for withdrawal by Pakistani forces, both “regular” and “irregular” from the occupied territories, and urged India to reduce its troops strength in the area (India has just now announced reduction of 10,000 troops); and Part III talked about determining the future of J&K in accordance with the “will of the people”. The UN Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) also assured India that the plebiscite remained non-binding if Part I and II were unimplemented. Troops withdrawal by Pakistan remains pending till date!
Second, a distinction exists between Chapter VI and Chapter VII resolutions of the UN Charter. Resolutions on Kashmir passed under Chapter VI are non-binding resolutions, more of a recommendation, unlike Chapter VII resolutions which are binding resolutions. Justifiably, UN Secretary Generals, Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon, had previously dismissed equating UN resolutions on Kashmir with other Chapter VII resolution (Iraq, Israel and East Timor, etc.), as “comparing apples and oranges”.
Third, the territorial erosion of UN resolutions further rubbishes fanciful UN-based solutions. In the 1963 agreement, Pakistan unlawfully ceded 5,180 sq. kms of J&K territory (Shaksgam Valley) to China which Beijing considers irreversible. What happens to this piece of territory, if hypothetically, the status quo was to be restored for a UN-backed resolution?
Fourth, the demographic erosion also further deflates Pakistan’s case. Since the late 1980s, Pakistan has altered the demography of PoK by pushing in Punjabis and Pushtuns (non-Kashmiris) and butchering scores of Shi’ites in Gilgit, widely reported in the Pakistani magazine Herald and the daily Dawn in April/May 1990, and also testified by Abdul Hamid Khan, Chairman of the Balwaristan National Front (BNF) in Gilgit. On the Indian side since 1990, terrorist groups have killed and raped hundreds and forced around 200,000 ethnic Kashmiri pundits to flee the Kashmir valley. Their return remains uncertain. The NSW motion makes no mention of their plight and rehabilitation.
Last, following the release of a new map by Imran Khan’s government showing Kashmir as a part of Pakistan, Kashmiris are convinced of Pakistan’s years of political and diplomatic perfidy and bogus ‘moral support’ to their cause.
Since the abrogation of Article 370, violence and killings have been significantly reduced and the Kashmiris anticipate development and greater economic opportunities. Gender and caste-based discrimination are history with the scrapping of Article 35A. J&K children can now avail education schemes like other Indian children. J&K has turned a new leaf. Can we afford a relapse and see another 40,000 lose lives in senseless violence? No.