A DAY before the country observed Yaum-i-Istehsal to mark one year since the special status of India-held Kashmir was revoked by New Delhi, a new map of Pakistan was unveiled by the government which, the prime minister said, “supports our principled stance on Kashmir dispute”. There are various modifications in the new official map; for example the claim for Junagadh and Manavadar — now in India — has been highlighted, as has Pakistan’s position on Sir Creek. But perhaps the greatest change has been the inclusion of the entire Jammu and Kashmir region as part of Pakistan. This has expectedly raised India’s hackles, though the Foreign Office has shot down New Delhi’s remonstrations.
It appears that the cartographic changes are a psychological move designed to pay India back in the same coin. Last year, New Delhi had also released a political map which showed Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan as part of its territory. That questionable move was swiftly rejected by China and Nepal along with Pakistan, reflecting the serious border disputes India has with nearly all its neighbours. As for Pakistan’s new map, the prime minister termed it “the first step” towards resolution of the festering Kashmir imbroglio, while adding that the move was designed to reject India’s annexation of occupied Kashmir last year, and the bifurcation of the held region into union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
While it seems the changes on the map are designed to counter Indian propaganda, there are some questions the government should consider. Firstly, why was the map issued at this juncture? Secondly, how far will this move go in forwarding the Kashmir cause? Rhetoric apart, it needs to be examined what moves are being made on the ground to end India’s brutal siege of IHK, and resolve the Kashmir question as per the aspirations of the region’s people. Pakistan has always argued that only Kashmiris can decide their destiny, and no changes can be imposed on them. Therefore, while the new map may be designed to express solidarity with Kashmiris, it needs to be reiterated that a final solution to the dispute can only be achieved after Kashmiris express their will in a democratic manner. Perhaps a detailed debate in parliament can help answer some of these questions, and clarify the situation for Pakistanis, Kashmiris and the world. However, regardless of these changes, the situation in IHK remains grim, with Kashmiris putting up with a year-long lockdown. Yet despite India’s cruel tactics, the Kashmiris’ spirit remains unbroken. The Indian military machine can apply all the pressure it wants, but the fact is that the held region’s people have had enough of New Delhi’s colonial rule, and want freedom and dignity. After living in limbo for over seven decades, the time is ripe for a just, peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue as per the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2020