That the people of Jammu and Kashmir have the moral and legal right to determine their own future is not in doubt. There are at least 12 United Nations Security Council resolutions in support of their just demand. It was India that had taken the matter to the Security Council in 1948 when its illegal occupation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir was on the verge of being defeated.
The people had risen up in revolt. The Hindu ruler had fled the state in the face of this popular uprising. All the metrics—demography, geography, culture, religion and connectivity—supported the people’s desire to join Pakistan.
This much is well known and generally recognized globally. Then why is it that the Kashmiris’ pleas for help have fallen on deaf ears? The only country that fully supports their just demand is Pakistan. The country’s very survival depends on Kashmir becoming part of Pakistan. Almost all of Pakistan’s rivers originate in Indian occupied Kashmir.
Long before the rise of Hindu fascism in India, rulers in Delhi had started backtracking on their promise to hold a referendum in Kashmir. With Hindu fascists rampaging throughout India, life for the Kashmiris and indeed all Muslims in India has become intolerably difficult. Cow vigilantes attack Muslims, and Hindu fascists target mosques and Muslim businesses in an unmistakable campaign to wipe out Muslim presence in India. The latest assault is the ban on Muslim girls wearing hijab to school or college. The Hindu fascists are able to continue such attacks without fear because they control the state now.
In their demonic anti-Muslim campaign, it is not inconceivable that these terrorists may even block the flow of water from Kashmir to Pakistan.
What has been Pakistan’s strategy to force India to abide by UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir? It has lobbied western and Muslim capitals to support the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination. The result, it must be admitted, has not been very promising.
This was most vividly demonstrated after India’s unilateral abrogation of articles 35A and 370 of India’s constitution on August 5, 2019 that had granted a measure of autonomy to Kashmir. While there were massive demonstrations worldwide against India, the UN Security Council refused to hold a formal meeting despite Pakistan’s urgent request. All it did was hold informal consultations without issuing even a presidential statement. It must be borne in mind that the state of Jammu and Kashmir is recognized as disputed territory on the UN statute books.
India’s egregious crimes are ongoing yet much of the world turns a blind eye to such well-documented crimes against the Kashmiri people. What accounts for such indifference and what can Pakistan do to secure a better and fair outcome?
War is not an option. It has been tried before and has not yielded the desired result. It may have been possible in the September 1965 war but lack of strategic thinking and failure of nerve on the part of Pakistani decision-makers at the critical moment lost the opportunity. Today, both India and Pakistan are nuclear-armed states. Any major war runs the risk of escalating into a nuclear exchange with catastrophic consequences not just for them but the region and indeed the entire world.
It must also be stated that the Kashmiris’ case does not suffer from proper articulation. Both the Kashmiri diaspora and Pakistani diplomats make an eloquent presentation of their case marshaling all the legal and moral arguments. Unfortunately, these do not receive a proper response. The tragedy is that the world does not function on the basis of the rule of law. Every state puts its own interests above principles.
Given this unfortunate reality, what should Pakistan and the Kashmiris do? A serious rethink in Kashmir strategy is needed. This must start with abandoning the approach that has not yielded any result in several decades. As Einstein pointed out, if an experiment does not produce the desired result, simply repeating it would not yield a different outcome.
Every occupation carries a cost to the occupier. It is clear that at present India can bear the cost of its illegal occupation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir despite maintaining 900,000 troops there. This cost must be escalated to the point where it would outweigh the benefits to India. The anti-apartheid struggle of South Africa offers some important lessons.
The anti-apartheid practitioners—white Afrikaans—were of European stock. Nelson Mandela, the icon of the anti-apartheid struggle, was declared a terrorist by the US. The motion in the Senate was presented by Dick Cheney, mastermind of the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, and a war criminal. When there were calls to impose sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa, then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, retorted: “sanctions do not work!” She did not want her fellow white racists to suffer.
Yet apartheid was dismantled. India’s apartheid in Kashmir will also be dismantled. Despite suffering 74 years of brutal occupation, the people of Kashmir have not given up. This is to their credit. What we must consider is, how can the cost of India’s occupation be increased?
There are not only millions of Kashmiris and people of Pakistani origin residing in Europe and North America, there are also other well-meaning people in these countries that care for human rights and dignity. Close links must be established with such human rights activists to add weight to the just demands of the Kashmiri people. Together, greater pressure can be exerted on elected representatives to live up to the principles they espouse.
Boycott of Indian products must also be launched in a systematic manner. India does enormous trade with the US to which it exported $51.62 billion worth of goods and imported a mere $28.88 billion in the 2020-21 year cycle. India’s exports to Europe stand at around $45 billion. Delhi would like to export more but the Europeans have imposed strict hygienic requirements for food imports resulting in Indian exports to the EU accounting for a mere 0.9%.
This is India’s great weakness. Its food standards are not only low, many of its edibles are laced with cow urine. For Hindus, cow urine sanctifies food. Such filthy practices need to be widely exposed so that people’s health is not adversely affected. Boycotting Indian products should be a priority. Hit them where it hurts.
This is one area of work. The other is internal to Pakistan. Despite Kashmir’s great importance to Pakistan, this issue is not a high priority for the vast majority of people. This applies to both the Pakistani elite as well as youth.
The elite are hooked on Bollywood filth and have much in common with their Indian counterparts than with the vast majority of people in Pakistan. This situation is not conducive to crafting a sustainable policy vis-à-vis India. There is need to develop a coherent policy in which the people are also vital stakeholders.
Second, Pakistani youth need to be motivated and mobilized in support of Kashmir policy. Instead of wasting time on trivial pursuits on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media platforms, Pakistani youth should be flooding email boxes of UN officials as well as the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights demanding respect for Kashmiris’ rights. This cyber army should be mobilized as a matter of priority.
Pakistan’s economy with a GDP of $286 billion is no match for that of India’s $3.05 trillion. Economic development needs serious attention. Why are Pakistani IT businesses so far behind India’s? If India can earn $48 billion from IT exports, surely Pakistan too can increase its exports from the meagre $2 billion annually.
The Kashmir issue requires creative ways to increase its profile. There is also an urgent need to establish an International Institute of Kashmir Studies, preferably in North America or Europe. This Institute should engage academics and students to raise the profile of the Kashmir dispute. Foreign students should be encouraged to do PhD in Kashmir studies by providing them scholarships to complete their studies.
The battle for Kashmir must be waged at multiple levels. The academic and information fields are just as important and deserve serious attention.