A phasmid to the untrained eye resembles a stick or a leaf. Yet to the well trained eye, it is an entire unique species. Kashmir to most people is a relatively unknown contested region primarily between Pakistan and India. For others, it is the symbol of the struggle between Pakistan and India following partition.
In his speech at the UN on the 27th of September, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, jokingly remarked about the so-called “300 terrorists killed by India in Kashmir” claim. He said that India didn’t kill 300 terrorists, in Balakot; it had only killed a few dozen trees, the loss of which was even more painful, given the fight against climate change. This was even shown to foreign media outlets all while Indian news agencies where praising Indian pilots for their actions in killing 300 terrorists.
Two questions arise. First, what is it with Kashmir? Second, why hasn’t the world been able to solve the crisis?
Kashmir is the contested region between Pakistan and India, though China lays claim to a sliver of Indian administered Kashmir (IAK). During the British Raj, Kashmir was a Muslim Majority independent state ruled by a Hindu Monarch. Geographically, Kashmir is a resource rich territory full of lush valleys and gorgeous scenery, including many of the highest mountains including K2 in Pakistan’s Gilgit Balltistan region, which is separate from Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir region.
Kashmir, since 1947 Partition, has been the subject of three wars and a brief skirmish, between Pakistan and India. These were in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999 Kargil Skirmish. This has made Kashmir, the longest running unresolved conflict of the UN. There are now a total of 11 UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir.
The war of independence in 1947-48, triggered the whole issue. This was on the basis that after the British departure, sub-continental princely states had to choose between Pakistan and India. Kashmir, despite having a Muslim majority, sided with India at the request of the Hindu ruler. This request followed the Muslim backlash that occurred from the Hindu ruler’s sponsored terrorist activities against Kashmiri Muslims. From this Indian annexation, fear spread in Pakistan as to the possible takeover of Pakistan by India via Kashmir. This provided the justification along with coming to the aid of Muslim refugees from India and Kashmir. As such, Pakistan moved into Kashmir, setting up Azad Kashmir, after the 1948 ceasefire agreement.
The 1965 war was triggered by Indian forces beefing up regional forces in Kashmir. During the initial days of the war, Pakistan’s army launched a two phase operation to take Kashmir and liberate Indian administered Kashmir. The two phase operation was code named Operation Grand Slam phases one and two. The only reason why Grand Slam was not followed through was to defend the Lahore and Sialkot sectors. In 1972, following the war that led to the independence of East Pakistan (Bangladesh), the Simla Bi-lateral agreement established the Line of Control (LOC) dividing Kashmir in two (Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir and the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir).
The Indian Constitution’s Article 370 gave Kashmir Special Status, drafted in 1947. It stipulated that no Indian was allowed to reside in Kashmir due to Muslim Majority and Kashmiri right to self-governance. However, this ended giving ultimate policing control to the Indian Army. Since then, Indian forces have committed numerous human rights violations, as documented by western media sources such as the BBC. The issue of human rights in Kashmir even made it to Bollywood, in the 2008 film “Shaurya”, where a Muslim officer in the Indian army, is accused of killing his commanding officer, in order to save the life of an innocent Kashmiri child. The film also points out the systemic requirement of force in Kashmir, as means to lead to a “pure” Hindu India.
Despite the LOC having been established in 1971 and declared a de-facto border. Indian forces have since then committed numerous LOC violations by cross line firing and intentionally targeting civilians. With Indian forces significantly outnumbering Pakistani forces, Pakistani forces of the Army’s 12th brigade of Ten Corps, respond to Indian LOC violations, by striking only military targets. Accusations that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have supplied weapons and training to separatist insurgents in the region have further exacerbated tensions between the two countries.
However, regardless of the growing number of LOC violations, there has been a glimmer of hope and possible friendship between Pakistan and India. This is due to the trade that happens in Kashmir at 4 points, from north to south. These crossings are located at Chiliana to Tithwal; Chakothi to Uri; Titrinote to Poonch, and Tatta Pani to Mendher. For the majority of the time, these crossings are open for trade in various goods and spices that crosses the Line of Control.
India’s love affair with Kashmir:
Despite the glimmer of hope, as of recently, the Indian Government headed by Narendra Modi, has deployed thousands of more troops into Kashmir, with supporting equipment. The numerous skirmishes that happen are often viewed by the world as the possible trigger of an all out nuclear war, due to the “Mutually Assured Destruction” pact between Pakistan and India.
Imran Khan noted the political ideology of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government and its links to the hindu racial supremacist organization known as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The doctrine of the RSS calls for an ethnically pure Hindu India, similar to the one from the times of Hindu rulers such as Chandaguptamaurya. The RSS claims that all non Hindu communities should be eliminated from India, for a greater pure India. This is on the basis that, according to the RSS, these non- Hindu communities have tainted the purity of India. Khan even mentioned that the BJP was apparently the political arm of the RSS, given that Narendra Modi is a lifelong member of the RSS. This may provide a possible explanation as to why Modi has been on the war path itching for war with Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan in his UN speech in September commented that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was fixated on making India an all Hindu state. The World community cannot allow India to continue to aggressively expand its boundaries claiming parts of Pakistan and China that were clearly defined by UN agreements and the 1972 Simla Bi-lateral agreement signed by Indira Ghandi. In fact the current state in Kashmir echoes similarities to the Battle of Algiers and the Algerian struggle for Independence from France. One who has seen Gillo Pontecorvo’s “The Battle of Algiers” can see the same happening in Kashmir, evident in the increase in military presence, the lockdown, the increased violence and the lengths to which India is willing to go to maintain its foothold.
This perhaps may also have been why India has actively, as per Imran Khan’s statement, fueled insurgencies in Pakistan’s Balochistan and Sindh Provinces. Imran Khan even mentioned that Indian RAW agents and their Pakistani contacts were providing intelligence information to enemies of Pakistan, such as the Pakistan Taliban and other terrorist militant organizations wishing to cause instability in Pakistan. Indian arms sales were also linked to the Lyari gang war in Karachi that caused mass instability in the heart of Pakistan. By contrast, India, as well as other international observers such as the United States, Britain, NATO, and the United Nations, accuse Pakistan of supporting – or not doing enough to curb – terrorism in the region. Both India and Pakistan reject these accusations.
Prior to the 1965 war, a UN resolution dated November 27th, 1963, stated that a plebiscite should be held in Kashmir, to determine what the Kashmiri people want, and which state they wish to join. However, India has continually refused the right of Kashmiri people to choose their own fate through a referendum, and has met even non-violent protest movements with blatant displays of force. India has done so, under the directives of Indian governments vying for power, as a government openly friendly with Pakistan “the so-called enemy of India as per official lingo”, would be shunned and immediately loose power.
Unchecked Indian Aggression & the Re-drawing of Kashmir’s borders:
The newly re-elected government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, released a new political map of Kashmir, one that includes all of Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Ballistan region which has been separate from Kashmir since 1947. China has expressed growing concern to India’s new proposed claim that Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Balltistan belong to India and not Pakistan. China is similarly infuriated at India’s inclusion of Aksai Chin, which belongs entirely to China as a part of the new Indian political map of Kashmir. The new map was released after sensing a perceived weakness in the governance of Imran Khan, and aiming to exploit any opportunity to defeat Pakistan by sheer number alone.
This militaristic stance of New Delhi is evident in the notion that they desire to “isolate Pakistan and surround Pakistan, in the hopes of creating a greater India, via the instillation of chaos”. This isolation and encirclement of Pakistan is being done by increasing the size of Indian Military forces in the region, namely at Iran’s Chabahar Port, Oman’s Duqm Port and India’s Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan. India should not be allowed to continue to aggressively expand its boundaries claiming parts of Pakistan and China that were clearly defined by UN resolutions and the 1971 Simla Bi-lateral agreement.
Despite the fact that the UNSC has meet numerous times on the subject of Kashmir, no resolution has been achieved since the beginning of the conflict back in 1947. The fact that calls for referendums in Kashmir date back to the onset of the conflict, is eye-opening. Ultimately, India must allow a fair referendum to be held so that the Kashmiri people can choose their own fate. Conversly, Pakistan, though accused of being pro-terrorism, has secured its territory, and eliminated every possible means for insurgents to plan or execute attacks within the state. As things stand, the people of Kashmir face extreme hardships, a seemingly un-ending war, and torn livelihoods.
Kashmir: the road map to peace between Pakistan and India
On September 6th, 2016, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif noted on Kashmir the following:
“I am glad to note that today Pakistan is not only strong and secure from threats, but also a leader in the Muslim world. The only possible way Kashmir can be resolved is not in a rain of bullets and shells, but in hearing and understanding the call by Kashmir for a referendum. It can be solved through the continued effort of implementing and enforcing UN resolutions on Kashmir, in collaboration with local Kashmiris and the Indian Government. Ladies and Gentlemen, Kashmir is our jugular vein and that we will find and utilize every means to ensure the peace, liberty and prosperity of Kashmir. I promise that we will know about every covert and non-covert operation our enemies plan pertaining to us. We know how to make friendship and also how to relieve the burden of hatred on us. Long live the Pakistan army and Pakistan forever”.
The Roles of third party states and International organizations:
Given that UN has seemingly failed despite the 11 resolutions, a similar argument can be made pertaining to the ineffectiveness of NATO in intervening in Kashmir. This being on the basis of the connections the ISI had with terrorist organizations, some of which were unilaterally labeled as such by India, fueled by the fear of losing Kashmir to Pakistan. As such, NATO could encourage the creation of a “nuclear hot-line”, to be set up between Islamabad and New Delhi. The hot line would take inspiration from the famous Washington, DC to Moscow hot line, evident in Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove”. This hot line may serve as a means to ease the tensions between both Pakistan and India, ultimately leading to a resolution similar to the US-Russia relations during the cold war. The set up of an Islamabad to New Delhi hot line, would allow for possible collaboration in the event something went wrong, and nuclear armaments were launched. In essence, the hot line would act as a stronger deterrent, and thankfully neither has a “Doomsday Device”.
Pakistan is a NATO ally since 2004, aiding NATO in the fight against terrorism and has been actively securing its borders eliminating terrorist cells and affiliates. This is despite facts surrounding the integrity of Pakistan’s ISI and its alleged affiliations with the Lashkar –e –Taiba. It was this basis that led to the degradation of US-Pak relations, when Bin Laden was found nestled in proximity to the military base in Abottabad. Lately, efforts have been made by Pakistan and the Pakistan army headed by Generals Raheel Sharif and Qamar Bajwa. These efforts include the massive undertakings of operations Zarb-e-azb, Rah-e-raas, Rah-e-Nijat, Kyhber 1-4 and the thousands of Intelligence Based Operations across Pakistan. Though, Pakistan is viewed as a big supporter of terrorism, current actions have shown its commitment to the fight against terrorism. This is because of Pakistan becoming a victim to terrorist activity including the killing of innocent kids at the Army Public School in Peshawar. Pakistan has clearly demarcated its territory relative to Afghanistan, and has erected fences and walled fortifications along the entire Afghanistan-Pakistan border (the Durand Line of the British Raj). This therefore negates the potential diplomatic issues where NATO countries have to share information with a state that was seemingly involved in funding terrorist projects.
India desires to enter into a stronger relationship with NATO, in order to unlock access to NATO weapon systems, such as F-16s. India’s Tata industries corporation wishes to construct parts of the F-16 Block 70s from Lockheed Martin in its factories, as per an agreement with Lockheed Martin and the US government.
NATO Articles 1 and 2 can be used to define and emphasize the strategic nature of peace between Pakistan and India and a peaceful resolution to Kashmir in the best interests of the Kashmiri people.
The recreation and re-ratification of Article 370 granting special Status for Kashmir, would result in the return of Kashmiri regional governance to the Kashmiri population, rather than placed in hands of New Delhi. Also removing a majority of Indian Armed Forces & Indian Police forces operating in Kashmir, from Kashmir Region is paramount to the ensuring of democratic processes. Indian infantry, paratroopers, artillery and armoured units, assigned to Kashmir, should withdraw to the border of Indian Punjab and Himachal Pardesh (South of Jammu and Kashmir), would ideally follow. Security duties can then be replaced with a local Kashmiri police force that is collectively helped by both Pakistan and India.
Friendship is possible as evident between the simultaneous cross border openings for Indian Sikhs to visit the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, located in Pakistan. It is also evident in the four official crossings in Kashmir mentioned above. This border opening is known as the Kartarpur crossing, which has been at the forefront of helping Pakistan in rectifying their reputation, after being accused of terrorist organizations.
Furthermore, an Indian attack on Pakistan would be treated as a violation of UNSC guidelines, creating a system that could isolate India, on several fronts. Conversely, a Pakistani attack on India would result in a similar stance. The nuclear capabilities of both countries, highlights the necessity of layered systems of defence and deterrence.
By allowing a third party force to take charge in Kashmir, democratic principles can be established and a Referendum or Plebscite can be raised, where those residing in Kashmir (mainly ethnic Kashmiris of both Muslim and Hindu religions and Ladakh’s Buddhists) can vote to either join India, Pakistan or for an independent Kashmir. In addition, Pakistan and India need to close all operations promoting regional de-stability and terrorist actions, in each other’s backyard. This is particularly the case for India, pertaining to Pakistan as per the confession of RAW agent Raghpal Yadev, and the old notions of the ISI’s terrorist involvement. Pakistan has already removed most terrorist organizations from Pakistan, placing them either back in Afghanistan or “sending them to God”. It is actively engaging in containment, removal and security of Pakistan, vis a vis the systematic eradication of UN designated terrorist entities, and their affiliates.
The placement of a third-party, neutral to tensions, would be likely able to encourage Kashmiris to come out and vote in a legally binding referendum. The referendum would take into account the opinions of the Muslim Kashmiri majority on issues relating to Kashmir. This is due to the notion that neither Pakistan nor India would risk attacking a third party force. A third party force stationed in Kashmir may also possibly deter Indians from expanding boundaries to claim territory rightfully belonging to other countries such as Pakistan and China, as evident in the new political maps released by New Delhi.
The removal of all Land mines and anti-personnel devices across Kashmir, primarily between Pakistan and Indian Lines of Control, would be paramount. This would enable the re-establishment of family livelihoods. This de-mining of Kashmir would fall in line with the UN law on the banning of usage of anti-personnel mines and associated devices in civilian areas. This is based on the fact that Indian forces in Kashmir intentionally target soldiers and civilians.
India should not force Kashmir to choose to side with India. In the event, India tries to force, then action will be considered as violation of UN laws and security council resolutions, similar to refusal, prior to 1965 war, on the 27/11/1963 resolution. Kashmir, after having voted in the referendum, would obtain the right to side with which ever country they voted for, without fear or intimidation from India.
Though Pakistan is already a NATO ally, the above conditions would also apply to Pakistan, based on reports linking Pakistan’s ISI to terrorist organizations. However, Pakistan has shown its renewed commitment to the fight against terrorism since 2014. This was also noted by former NATO military chief, General Petr Pavel in 2017. A considerably significant victory for Pakistan’s renewed dedication to the global anti-terrorism fight.
Possible Referendum Questions:
- Are you Kashmiri? (Born, raised or ethnically Kashmiri)
- What is your religion? (Islam, Hinduism, or Buddist)
- Do you reside in Pakistan Azad Kashmir or Indian Administered Kashmir (Ladakh included)?
- Should Kashmir be a part of India, Pakistan or Independent but associated with which country India or Pakistan? Why?
- Is there a need for democracy in Kashmir?
The implementation of this referendum is needed as per the words of Raheel Sharif.
It is up to the governments of India and Pakistan to determine the fate of Kashmir. Ideally, a compromise on Kashmir, similar to the 1972 Simla Agreement would be great. However, given the current tough stances flowing out of New Delhi, a new agreement with a clear message ensuring the protection of civil liberties and human rights in Kashmir, needs to be ratified. Imran Khan, now as a global ambassador for the Kashmiri cause, believes in the flourishing of peace, humanity, love and friendship across all of Kashmir and the wider sub-continent. As such, strong collective action needs to be taken under the guise of freedom, democracy, human rights and the prevention of ethnic genocide, particularly in Kashmir, between Pakistan, India and Multi-national organizations such as NATO and the UN.
One can wonder what the shape of the sub-continent today may have been if the Congress of 1928 would have given more value to Jinnah’s requests, and not discarded them through majority opinion, and if independence may not have been gained earlier then 1947, and without the bloodshed that followed.
Featured Image: A beautiful, green valley near Kangan, Kashmir. (2013), by www.kashmir123.com via https://www.flickr.com/photos/kashmir-pictures/8748609098
Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed in articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the NATO Association of Canada.