IRSHAD SALIM — Kashmir valley is the ‘water tower’ north of its two neighbors who are separated by a common border: Pakistan and India. Since the 1947 partition the two independent nations have been warring for the Himalayan Valley. Both sides agreed then that each Kingly-state shall accede to one of them on the principle of ‘will of the people’– bedrock of democracy the vast British Empire espoused at home. That did not happen though in Kashmir, despite it being a Muslim-dominated region and ruled by a non-Muslim king.
The king sided with India and disputes followed. The UN stepped in on the request of disputing parties, calling each side to create conducive environment for plebiscite. And both sides agreed.
Conventional wisdom says if plebiscite is held, Kashmiris would either join Pakistan or chose to remain independent. In either case, ‘conducive environment’ must precede the ‘will of the people’ exercise. That has been a hot potato though, ever since.
Pakistan has been building undeniable facts on the ground. India has been building narratives and counternarratives against them. Geopolitics lately became the lighter: the ‘global thinking’ of either recognizing another ‘Muslim country’ or enabling the plebiscite and let Pakistan’s footprint enlarge, could unleash ‘will of the people’ in the region– several Muslim-dominated hot spots exist.
Even in India, Modi’s sulfurous Hindutva drink has reddened the humongous secularist community and ruffled the feathers of its 300m plus Muslim populace– a huge community larger than Pakistan or Bangladesh. Other minorities also introspect the interfaith harmonic history of the subcontinent ever since Anna Domini (AD) was drawn on the sand.
Bottom line is the two neighbors have nuclearized themselves and rationalize their strengths and positions so that Kashmir dispute can be resolved and or parked. Hitherto fence-sitters have stood up as Afghanistan talks continue amid gush of tailwinds and headwinds making the exercise a bumpy ride.
Whether political solution should precede economic model (akin to Jared Kushner’s Grand Middle East Plan) acceptable to all or vice versa is also said to be on the burner.
Geopolitics is therefore turning the ‘roof of the world’ (west of Tibet) into a loaded dice on the region’s roulette table.
Pakistan wants the Trump Administration to be the croupier. But India says bilateral talks is the way to go. President Trump says both countries should ‘talk it out’– his mediation offer notwithstanding.
As expected though, even the road to dialogue has aggressive drivers and detractors, making the unfinished agenda of the bloody division pregnant with unintended consequences.
While Kashmir has been a subject of geopolitical studies by ‘think tanks’ for decades, the region during this time got elevated as a ‘nuclear flashpoint’– all on global watch. The latest uptick going nuclear has global consequences though. Trump has reiterated his offer to mediate, and Pakistan has upped the ante on diplomatic front– come September at the UN General Assembly session in New York, things may move or crystallize for the worse.
QUICK FACTS: The British left in 1948, just as the US and its allies left Afghanistan in 1988. In both the case, victors were the Allies: Hitler’s Germany and his partners were defeated in WWII, while the Soviets were defeated in Afghan war and the communist bloc was dismantled thereafter. Pakistan’s equity in the ‘great game’ remained stranded. Left alone to zip its Kashmir issue with India, Pakistan continued to support Kashmiris morally and politically and at the same time wrestle with post-Soviet Afghan war syndromes which permeated its western boundaries and into the cities.
Decades of see saw in the region, and lastly Modi’s pike in India’s secular fabric of has created a turnstile of events which could have kaleidoscopic effects globally– several thought-provoking analysis and reports also say.
Tacitly or unwittingly these reports (including UN Human Rights Reports) allude to the “masses have spoken” moment and the new normal in the heavily militarized occupied valley: Young men and women lead the freedom movement and protest against India almost as a daily ritual despite heavy casualties and collateral socio-economic damages they are taking on their sides– akin to Intifada against Israeli highhandedness in Palestine’s gobbled real estates.
India has more than 600,000 boots on the ground; human rights abuses, rape, murder, judicial killings, etc. have become a part of SOP, and all these have internationalized the festering issue.
Denial related buzzwords while hunkering down into fox holes of narratives on media and social media pervade the global village’s atmosphere but the reality like a deer has come to look straight at the full-beamed headlights. Whatever it is, something is happening.
A senior Pakistani defense official in the Middle East says, “India is trying to copy the Israeli Model”.
In his opinion “this Indian act can (further) trigger Kashmiri struggle for freedom”.
Pakistan morally and politically supports Kashmiris in the occupied valley for exercising their right to self-determination. It continues to support the Kashmiris wholeheartedly. “India’s calculated risk may turn into a strategic blunder,” the official added.
Modi’s August 5th move in occupied Kashmir was a risky step fraught with unintended consequences– unless it’s only a personalized signature-style madness in the method already built in the UNSC resolutions. Either way the issue rests now among ‘those with unlimited vitality who need a larger stage to perform’.
Nevertheless, “what is happening there is truly deplorable,” said Khaled Almaeena, former Editor-in-Chief of Arab News and Saudi Gazette says.
“What is needed is world action to stop this genocide. Kashmiris should not be abandoned and I hope saner elements in India will stand up and put a stop to these massacres.”
The UN is logically one platform to seek out again, given its stance on the matter with Simla considered the ‘conducive environment’.
Both Pakistanis agreed then Kashmiris can’t be enslaved.
The ‘I have a dream’ speech of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his million march call reflect on these ground realities. A Bosnia model won’t work this time.