WHEN the history of modern India is written, it is likely to record that the imperial ambitions of Hindu India died in Kashmir. Afghanistan is justifiably known as the ‘graveyard of empires’. After 19 years, the US is still fighting its longest war there.
India’s war in occupied Jammu & Kashmir is over 70 years long. It has been fought by an occupation force of 700,000, seven times the maximum number of troops deployed at any time by the Soviet Union or US-Nato in Afghanistan. The Kashmir war will end only when New Delhi realises that it cannot break the will of the Kashmiri people and that it is doing grievous damage to the Indian state.
This future is visible now.
First, the illegality of India’s occupation of Kashmir is being widely acknowledged.
The Security Council and the UN secretary general have again reaffirmed the UN resolutions requiring a plebiscite in Kashmir. India’s position violates these resolutions.
The Kashmiri Muslims will vigorously oppose being transformed into a minority in their homeland.
Article 370 of the Indian constitution was supposed to encapsulate the terms under which the Maharaja of Kashmir was supposed to have acceded to India. By removing this article, India has eliminated the only legal argument it had itself advanced to justify its claim to Jammu & Kashmir. By its own legal yardstick, therefore, there now is naked occupation.
Second, the Modi government has closed all doors to a peaceful and negotiated resolution of the dispute. It has rejected a bilateral dialogue with Pakistan as well as third-party mediation. Following its Aug 5 unilateral actions, India says there is nothing to negotiate with Pakistan except the “return” of “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” to India.
Nor does the Indian government contemplate a negotiated relationship with the Kashmiris. They will be now ruled directly by Delhi’s proconsuls. India has clearly opted for a military solution. The Kashmiri Muslims face an existential threat. They will vigorously oppose being transformed into a minority in their homeland by Hindu colonists. They have no choice but to intensify their freedom struggle.
The BJP’s fascist plan to impose a ‘final solution’ by changing Kashmir’s demographic composition will result in serious violations of human rights and humanitarian laws and could lead to a genocide in occupied Kashmir.
Responsibility for mass murder and genocide by ‘Hitler’s Hindus’ will turn India into an international pariah, tear apart its social fabric, and erode its ability to cling on to Kashmir.
Third, India’s arrogance and hostility, the Hindutva racism and the visible suffering being imposed on the Kashmiri people have transformed Pakistan from a fearful friend into a bold ally of the Kashmiri freedom struggle.
Kashmir has been again proclaimed as a core issue for Pakistan. The BJP’s actions have radically diminished the hope within Pakistan that relations with India can be normalised and the Jammu & Kashmir dispute resolved through negotiations.
India’ latest clampdown and anticipated crackdown of the Kashmiri uprising will create considerable domestic pressure on the Pakistani government to actively support the Kashmiri freedom struggle. Such assistance would be entirely legitimate.
The principle of a plebiscite prescribed in Security Council resolution 47 (1948) and subsequent resolutions reflects the legal recognition of the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The UN General Assembly, in Resolution 2649 (1970), and several subsequent resolutions, has repeatedly affirmed the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples under colonial and alien domination, “recognised as being entitled to the right of self-determination”, to “restore to themselves that right by any means at their disposal, including armed struggle”. These resolutions, furthermore, also recognise the right of such peoples “to seek and receive all kinds of moral and material assistance” in the “legitimate exercise of their right to self-determination”.
Whether Pakistan does or does not assist the Kashmiri freedom struggle, India is likely to accuse Pakistan of ‘cross-border terrorism’ and threaten the use of force and even resort to aerial strikes on and/or military incursions.
The world is fully aware that a Pakistan-India conflict could turn into a disastrous war with an inherent nuclear dimension. To avoid this, the members of the Security Council, other states and international institutions, are likely to resort to preventive measures.
The major powers and the UN will make efforts to convince India to reverse its course and engage in a credible peace process with Pakistan and the Kashmiri people.
But Modi is drunk with power. He and his RSS coterie (Amit Shah, Ajit Doval et al), are convinced that oppression of the Kashmiris and aggression towards Pakistan is a winning strategy within India. They will probably spurn the calls for restraint and dialogue.
The temptation for the international community then may be to take the “easier” route of coercing Pakistan to refrain from assisting the Kashmiri freedom struggle and accept India’s imposed “realities” in occupied Jammu & Kashmir.
However, unlike preceding governments, the present Pakistani leadership will not succumb to such coercion.
There is a growing sense in Islamabad that the BJP’s heavy-handed strategy is likely to backfire, sparking a major indigenous Kashmiri insurgency which will be difficult to defeat. If India resorts to the threat or use of force, there is renewed confidence in Pakistan that it can neutralise New Delhi, if necessary, by recourse to credible nuclear deterrence.
India’s prolonged occupation of Kashmir is likely to turn into an Afghan-like quagmire. It will corrode morale in India’s armed forces, divide its polity and erode its economy. Like the colonial powers of the past, India will ultimately lose the debilitating war against a determined popular insurgency.
It may take another 10 or even 20 years. But the heroic people of Kashmir, much like the famed Hindu Kush, will eventually bury the imperial dreams of Hindu India.
The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.
Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2019