By Syed Ali Mujtaba
Kashmir is a flashpoint between three nuclear armed countries India, Pakistan and China. All are contesting for territorial supremacy over the region. All three have some territorial space in their possession and dispute to lay claim over the territory that is occupied by the other country.
This ding dong battle is going on since last seventy years or so and the ebb and flow of this sanguine history has seen many ups and downs. In the chequred past of Kashmir, the abrogation of article 370 by the Indian government on August 5, 2019 is another milestone that has shaken the beleaguered state.
India by abrogating the article 370 has laid claim to assimilating the region of Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian dominion. Meaning that Kashmiri people are not a party to the conflict and India would not talk to anyone regarding the disputed nature of its territory. As such the Kashmiri people have forfeited their rights for future and they either have to live as Indian citizen or as a separatist. This is the bottom line of the abrogating the article 370.
This new narrative of India is not accepted by the contesting parties Pakistan and China and the international community too seems incensed about India’s claims of territorial integration. While Pakistan lays claims for the Indian territory of Kashmir that has historical past, China has a land boundary dispute with India over the territory of Ladak that is now being made a Union territory of India. The international community has woken up to the ground realties and is concerned about the human rights abuse of the ordinary Kashmiri people and also about potential war hysteria being built over the contentious Kashmir issue. So the abrogation of article 370 no more is an internal matter of India it has been internationalized with world attention once again being nudged to look at this vexed problem with its entire complexities.
After the abrogation of Article 370 the new narrative of India any talks on Kashmir will be only on Pakistan occupied Kashmir and also China occupied Kashmir. The essence of any such future talk would be to vacate the territory of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan and China. This self-proclaimed narrative is leading to war hysteria as both Pakistan and China are in a bellicose mood India to shut up.
The fact is after the abrogating article 370, tension among the contesting parties has increased, there is almost a war like situation on the line of control with Pakistan and on the Ladak border its watch and ward situation with China. Therefore the abrogation of article 370 is no more an internal matter of India but it has snowballed into transnational conflict. The overarching regional dimensions of the Kashmir conflict have definitely hogged the attention of international community because the simmering embers in the region have the potential outburst into nuclear flames. As such an act of internal nature of Indian parliamentary act has acquired international concern due to the potential danger it poses to mankind.
The fact is it is for the first time since 1972, the UNSC has taken note of the Kashmir situation due to the abrogation of article 370, gives credence to the fact that the change in status quo is not being recognized as an internal matter of India by the five permanent member of the UNSC. None of the P5 had not vetoed in favor of India and has agreed to meet for the first time in fifty years to look at the Kashmir problem after the abrogation of article 370 by India retreats the fact that Kashmir is not an internal matter of India but an international dispute.
Pakistan is in a boisterous mood and screaming from the roof top that India cares two hoots about the international community and has arbitrarily annexed the territory in its possession with the abrogation of article 370 in defiance of the will of the people and shaming the international community of its inaction. This India has done so after giving a commitment to the international community that it would do everything to maintain peace in the region and never escalate border tension and resolve all issues through mutual dialogue. However, by revoking the Article 370, India has disturbed internal peace and is responsible for human rights violation and also has increased the border tension. As such India by abrogating article 370 has charted out the war path and as such India’s commitment to peace is questionable, goes the Pakistani narrative on Kashmir.
The Pakistani further got a gist to their war mongering when Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh made a statement that India reserves the right to first use of nuclear weapons. After that a war like situation is being built in the subcontinent with Pakistan openly flaunting the nuclear suitcase in public scaring that a battle of Kashmir is on anvil.
The tension has further escalated when Chinese Ambassador at the UNSC showed its bellicosity against India at the abrogation of article 370, calling it invalid. In a veiled threat, the Chinese Ambassador has said that Indian Parliament by abrogation of Article 370 has closed the windows of negation and has opened the slush gate of an armed conflict. Such belligerency has never been seen by Chinese official before and a chill runs down the spine of every Indian, as to how Indian Army may hold PLA’s march that too under the shadow of Chinese nuclear cover positioned at Tibet. So the war hysteria taken over the triumph at the abrogation of Article 370 in Hindi heartland may Indian fear their worst nightmare is round the corner.
Given the tinder box that Kashmir is, India by abrogation of article 370 has escalated the internal tension by clamping curfew and locking up people in their houses. It has created a gross human rights violation and the international community is keenly watching the developments in Kashmir. They are incensed at the way India has abrogated the special power given to the Kashmiri people locking them up at the gun point and justifying the action as an internal matter of the country. This justification has worried the international community that wants human rights violation in Kashmir to be checked at once and normalcy restored at the earliest there.
However, the internal matter of India that is the abrogation of Article 370 has put the country into a catch 22 situation. Indian army is not in a position to handle the backlash of the people and the curfew is now running into its third week. The Army has no choice but to extend the curfew for an indefinite period because retaliatory action would create another Tiananmen Square situation and that would be a story of carnage at rebellion for long time to remember.
So the bottom line is India cannot pacify the Kashmiri’s about its wisdom of abrogating article 370. In such case human rights violation would continue for many more days and weeks to come and in such case the border tension would continue to escalate. In such case the international community has to step in to in to restore peace in the region to serve the humanity against those holding state power and authorized guns with a license to kill.
There is a wishful thinking that the international community may nudge the contesting parties for bilateral talks and stand as guarantor to resolve the dispute once and for all. If this happens only then there can be normalcy restored in Kashmir. The international community may like India and Pakistan to resume peace talks and bring in China at some stage to resolve its land boundary dispute over Kashmir. In the end of any such negotiated settlement the Kashmiri people would be brought in the parleys and their views has to be ascertained to finally seal the deal. Will all this happen is a million dollar question?
To an incorrigible optimist it is likely that US may get into the role of peace facilitator and mediate in resolving the Kashmir dispute. In such case neither India nor Pakistan can say NO to the only superpower in the world. US have the capability to bulldoze its way through into Kashmir quagmire as it has done in Iraq and Afghanistan. In such case, India and Pakistan has no other option than to the resumption of the talks. Well if all these may really happen, then hope can be nursed that the abrogation of article 370 may pave the way for the ultimate happiness of the ordinary Kashmiri people.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org