FORMER ambassador Shahid Amin speaks at PMA House on Saturday.—White Star
FORMER ambassador Shahid Amin speaks at PMA House on Saturday.—White Star

KARACHI: The current crisis in Kashmir has opened a door: India is getting negative publicity in the international media. This was pointed out by Shahid Amin, former ambassador and diplomat, during his talk on the topic ‘Kashmir is burning’ at the PMA House on Saturday evening.

Mr Amin said by scrapping articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution, the Modi-led Indian government had taken away the limited autonomy that the Kashmir people had. After shedding light on the genesis of the Kashmir issue from the time Pakistan and India gained independence, the ambassador gave the reasons for scrapping the above-mentioned articles. He argued that the Hindu nationalist forces in India were always unhappy with the autonomy Kashmir had. They never accepted that Urdu is the official language of the region or the fact that people other than Kashmiris could not own land there. So the idea was to demographically alter the situation in Kashmir.

Mr Amin said with the passage of time Hindu nationalists gained strength in India, which can now be seen in the form of the BJP. They believe in the philosophy of Hindutva, according to which, “Hindustan belongs to Hindus”. They consider Muslims as invaders who destroyed India. It is mind-boggling why they hate Muslims, because Muslims in India pose no threat. In the Indian parliament of 650, there are hardly 25 Muslims. By and large, Muslims don’t get representation as per their population in any sector. Muslims don’t even easily get residences to live. Then there have been incidents of mob lynching of Muslims.

Mr Amin said the BJP had won the recent elections with a majority by virtue of its anti-Muslim agenda. It also has an anti-Pakistan agenda. The BJP followers can’t tolerate Pakistan, and feel Pakistan belongs to what they call ‘Akhand Bharat’. Therefore, it’s an extremist Hindu mentality that’s behind the scrapping of the articles.

‘Trump’s offer to mediate perhaps made Modi hasten the step that he was supposed to take a little later’

Mr Amin said US President Donald Trump doesn’t want confrontation between India and Pakistan –– two nuclear powers. The international community too is worried about it. Trump’s offer to mediate perhaps made Modi hasten the step that he was supposed to take a little later. People often ask why Modi did not do so in 2014. The answer is that in 2019, unlike 2014, the BJP won with a majority. “Modi has an aggressive personality. He thinks he is a man of action. [But] the reality is that this is a desperate act, almost like an act of a gambler about which we cannot say with certainty as to what’s going to happen. He may have opened Pandora’s box.”

Mr Amin said at least a couple of positive things had come out of the whole thing. The first is that there were some people in Kashmir who were pro-India such as Sheikh Abdullah; they too have become anti-India. “All Kashmiris are [now] unified in their anti-India feelings. There’s been curfew for the last 25 days.” Secondly, internationally the Kashmir issue is moving towards centre-stage. It’s getting coverage more than before. As a result Pakistan could take the matter to the UN Security Council.

Mr Amin said the Islamic countries had mostly not supported Pakistan on the issue. The UAE [even] gave its highest award to Modi. It is disappointing. But it’s not the OIC that has failed, because it’s an institution; its members of the OIC that have failed. The OIC members don’t have unity. “The entire world has an idea about what’s happening in Kashmir. They deliberately turn a blind eye to it. National interests dictate policy. Ideology and sentiments have subsidiary or peripheral role to play.”

Mr Amin said Pakistan is a nuclear power but economically we are weak. The present Pakistani government is doing good [to improve the economy] but this country over the years has been plundered and had wrong priorities. “Where’s national cohesion?” he remarked.

Mr Amin said we don’t have to be despondent. A door has opened: India is getting negative publicity in the media. Once the curfew in Kashmir is relaxed, Kashmiris will come out in huge numbers and chances are that there will be confrontation [with Indian forces]. The spirit of freedom of the Kashmiri people is gaining strength. There will be rethinking in India. “We [India and Pakistan] are two nuclear powers. Don’t talk loosely about war. Nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought.”

The lecture was organised by the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences in collaboration with the Pakistan Medical Association.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2019