Many would feel that New Delhi has acted rather irresponsibly by asking the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to vacate the office premises allotted to it by the Government of India since the UNMOGIP has not come uninvited or forced itself on New Delhi, but has established its office in India’s national capital as per UN Resolution 91. However, instead of coming down heavily on New Delhi for its arbitrary decision, the international community is maintaining a stoic silence while the UN seems to have meekly accepted the ‘vacation notice’ and is reportedly looking for some alternate accommodation to house the UNMOGIP.
This development throws up two questions. Firstly, what has given India, which has a history of being over-conscious of its international image, the unmitigated temerity to take such an unprecedented step and display its utter disregard for the UN resolutions on Kashmir? Secondly, why is the UN as well as international community not objecting to New Delhi’s blatant refusal to comply with UN resolutions on Kashmir? Some other related and disturbing facts are:
• With the UN Security Council passing resolutions to resolve the Kashmir issue, it is undeniably an international dispute. However, why is it that today, except for Pakistan, all countries in the world consider the Kashmir problem a ‘bilateral issue’ to be resolved between India and Pakistan without any ‘third party’ intervention?
• Why has the Kashmir issue never been discussed or debated upon in the UN after 1962?
• How was J&K ‘inadvertently’ excluded from the UN list of ‘unresolved disputes’ in 2010?
• Why have world leaders stopped meeting the Hurriyat leadership to discuss the Kashmir issue?
• Why has the UN or any other country not objected to India’s arbitrary decision to ask the UNMOGIP to vacate its premises in New Delhi?
Unfortunately, our leaders don’t seem to consider these issues worthy of discussion and this is where they may be erring. While they may put up a brave face and tell us that all that is required to resolve the Kashmir issue is a simple plebiscite, they are not caring to inform us as to what is preventing the same. Nor are they educating us on what gives New Delhi the power to defy something as sacrosanct as UN resolutions. A few issues pertaining to plebiscite in J&K, on which our leaders are either silent or remain ambivalent upon, are:
• When the UN considers J&K as a single entity and its resolutions are applicable to both Indian occupied Kashmir (IaK) and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PaK), why are our leaders not making the withdrawal of both India and Pakistan from J&K as their first and foremost demand so that the fundamental pre-requisite for conducting plebiscite is fulfilled?
• Section 7(2) of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (PaK) Interim Constitution Act 1974 states, “No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan.” Why is the Hurriyat leadership, which is fighting for the ‘right to self determination’ of Kashmiris, not telling us as to how does it propose to get the people of PaK to freely exercise this ‘right’ when expression of any disagreement to the “ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan” is prohibited by their constitution?
• UN resolution 47 decrees that Pakistan must vacate the areas of Kashmir under its occupation before the plebiscite is held. Pakistan has never expressed its willingness to fulfill this pre-condition for plebiscite, so how does the Hurriyat intend overcoming this hurdle?
The Hurriyat leadership also needs to explain why is silent on the enforceability clause of the UN resolutions on Kashmir. Is it not a fact that the UN resolution 47 on Kashmir calling for a plebiscite having been passed under Chapter VI of the UN charter is ‘not binding’ and has ‘no mandatory enforceability’? If this is the legal position, then why are they repeatedly asking for the UN to intervene and ensure implementation of this resolution? Moreover, when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has himself gone on record saying that “As far as this role of good offices (on the Kashmir issue) is concerned, the United Nations normally takes that initiative when requested by both parties concerned,” why are we unnecessarily wasting our time in approaching the UN? Isn’t it amply clear that the UN too considers the Kashmir problem to be a ‘bilateral issue’ between India and Pakistan?
As far as the issue of plebiscite is concerned, there is a curious paradox. Though New Delhi outrightly rules out any plebiscite in J&K, it has cleverly honoured the UN resolution on the preconditions for plebiscite by not permitting any demographic changes in IaK. Islamabad on the other hand, while vociferously talking about “aspirations of the people of Kashmir” and their ‘right to self determination’ has permitted non-Kashmiris to permanently settle in PaK on such a large scale that in areas like Gilgit – Baltistan, ethnic Kashmiris have been reduced to a minority. Moreover, while India considers Chinese control over portions of J&K as illegal occupation, Pakistan has surprisingly seceded portions of J&K, which it claims is ‘disputed’ territory, to China. To top it all, Pakistan has failed to bring up the Kashmir issue for discussion at the UN after 1962!
New Delhi has benefited immensely from these ill-considered decisions taken by Islamabad. Permitting non-Kashmiris to permanently settle in PaK and seceding parts of this disputed territory to China have made holding of the plebiscite extremely difficult and New Delhi has exploited this by terming the conducting of plebiscite as “impractical.” Islamabad’s failure to take up the Kashmir issue for debate in the UN after 1962 has prompted New Delhi to question the ‘relevance’ of the UN resolutions on Kashmir! And all this has given New Delhi the courage to tell the UNMOGIP to vacate the accommodation given to them by the government of India with a terse message from its Foreign Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin that, “as far as we are concerned, the UNMOGIP has outlived its relevance.”
New Delhi knows very well that the UN is powerless to implement Resolution 47 on Kashmir as it is ‘non binding’ on India and it cannot be ‘enforced’ by the UN either. It also knows that Pakistan, which is the only country that is likely to oppose New Delhi on the Kashmir issue, has itself created conditions which preclude the holding of a plebiscite and thus is in no position to garner the support of the international community for the ‘K’ cause. Lastly, Pakistan based militant groups like the Lashkar –e-Toiba, which have been designated as ‘terrorist organisations’ by the international community are still active in Kashmir and are being fully endorsed by the Hurriyat. This has earned New Delhi the sympathy of the international community and so it knows that it can safely afford to sideline the UNMOGIP without fear of any criticism!
It is not to suggest that we should give up and resign ourselves to fate. We must continue to struggle, but in doing so we must not divorce ourselves from reality. Therefore, the entire strategy for the ongoing struggle in Kashmir begs a rethink and may require taking some really hard decisions, including our over-dependency and blind faith on Pakistan. Though Pakistan has always been our trusted ally, history bears testimony to the fact that it has not fully lived up to its promises. Is it not a fact that:
• The Maharaja of Kashmir had signed a ‘stand still’ agreement with Pakistan and not India, giving a clear indication that he was more inclined to accede to Pakistan?
• Was it not the tribal invasion that prompted the Maharaja to turn to New Delhi for help and in the bargain, sign the ‘instrument of accession’?
• When the India started using its army and air force against the tribals, why did Pakistan refuse to do likewise and thus abandoned the Kashmiris?
• Why did it fail to raise the Kashmir issue in the UN after 1962 and instead twice (in 1965 and 1999) use its army to try and seize Kashmir through force, thereby reducing what was an ideological issue into a petty territorial dispute making the international community wary of getting involved?
It was in the nineteenth century when Lord Palmerston said, “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they have only permanent interests” and this observation has stood the test of time. Therefore, while disassociating ourselves completely from Pakistan may not be in our overall interests, the equation with Islamabad should be as that of two equals and there should be no compromise on the larger interests of the Kashmiris. The Hurriyat must make it clear that now the time has come for Islamabad to ‘walk the talk’ and meaningless gestures like public rhetoric of its commitment to the Kashmir cause and invitations being extended by the Pakistan High Commission don’t count anymore. It is heartening to note that the Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farook has already taken this step by politely declining the Pakistan High Commission iftaar party invitation and if others too follow suit, then surely the intended message will reach Islamabad!