“The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs or impede their efforts to obtain it.” – John Stuart Mill
Huge protests continue in Indian Occupied Kashmir where even school going children are now clamouring for their right of self-determination. Nearly 150 people, who were armed with stones – that replicated the struggle of the Palestinian youth against the Israeli atrocities – have been brutally killed or injured by the Indian occupation forces.
So, in a dramatic move on December 6, senior Congress leader for Jammu and Kashmir and State’s Minister for Health Shyam Lal Sharma addressed a rally in Kathua district, calling on the Indian (federal) government to divide the occupied territory into three parts. According to him, Kashmir should be given independence; Jammu be made a separate state; and the region of Ladakh be declared a union territory of India. Thus, India will find it very difficult to continue their hold on the disputed territory by sheer force. Recently, the number Indian troops in the valley have been raised to 900,000; it will not only create problems for the Kashmiris, but also for the occupation forces.
In the recent past, the Government of Pakistan has not followed an aggressive and firm policy vis-à-vis the issue of Kashmir, which has allowed the Indian leadership to continue to suppress Kashmiris, who were betrayed by the British, the then Hindu administration and Maharaja Hari Singh. In this context, India has always tried to downplay the struggle of the Kashmiri people and, at the same time, has carried out a vigorous propaganda campaign against Pakistan trying to equate a just cause with terrorism. In case the Government of Pakistan does not carry out a rigorous approach to highlight the miseries and human right violations in IHK, it may perhaps result in further delay to achieve the objective of the freedom struggle.
Before Sharma presented his formula for Kashnir, Arundhati Roy, an Indian civil rights worker, and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a veteran Kashmiri leader, were charged with sedition, and a case was registered against them for highlighting the Kashmir cause in a seminar in New Delhi. One can now say with certainty that whatever the Indian leadership or its forces do, time is fast approaching when a just solution, which is acceptable to the people of the occupied valley, need to be found. In case it continues to resist reason, there will be a danger that the other oppressed regions like Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam, and the Sikhs in Punjab, may also join the Kashmiris to demand their right of self-determination from the Indian government.
But the question is what should be Pakistan’s role so that a peaceful, positive and productive decision can be achieved in Kashmir? For this, the Pakistanis need to highlight the miseries of their Kashmiri brethren in the United Nations in an effort to remind the international community about the pending implementation of the resolutions passed by it long ago.
Pakistan should make it clear to the international community, especially the US and EU, that the struggle for self-determination cannot and should not be bracketed with terrorism. Moreover, Islamabad should inform Beijing that, while they have no objection to China’s trade relations with India, its leadership must advocate the cause of the Kashmiri people with the Indians when they visit New Delhi this month.
Besides the efforts made by Pakistan, it is the responsibility of the Muslim countries to exert diplomatic and moral pressure on the Indians to reach an amicable solution for the disputed state.
Pakistan was provided with an opportunity initially when the puppet Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah demanded the federal government to repeal the Special Armed Forces Act, which it had enforced in the occupied territory. And now when one of his Cabinet ministers (Sharma) demanded Azadi for Kashmir, because he believes that this is the only solution which would allow the people of Kashmir to progress. Hence, such pressures are expected to increase on New Delhi in the coming days, which may force it to have a tripartite meeting, including the Pakistani and the genuine Kashmiri leadership, for a negotiable settlement of the issue.
Pakistanis should make it clear that no progress is possible with the Indians, unless and until real progress is made on the disputed territory. We should also make it clear to the Obama administration that it is time the US comes out and supports the just cause of the Kashmiris – if they are serious to win the war on terror in this strategic part of the world. Also, the Americans must understand that without the resolution of this issue, it may not be possible for Pakistan and the West to eliminate the menace of terrorism from South Asia.
Having said that, it will be desirable to see a visible shift in the foreign policy of Pakistan, especially on Kashmir. That it will respond properly to the Kashmiris’ call not showing any hesitation whatsoever, and simultaneously support them to achieve their right of self-determination.
More so, the Government of Pakistan should learn from the WikiLeaks’ disclosures, which prove that backdoor diplomacy will not always be productive. Therefore, whenever this government talks about principles there should be no contradiction whatsoever in its backdoor contacts or open discussion, especially on the issues that are critical for Pakistan.
Finally, the PPP-led government should also exercise its right to respond against India’s blatant interference in Balochistan, and if it does not retreat or sever its ties with insurgents, who are creating havoc in our country by indulging in acts of terrorism, then the least it can do is to raise the issues of other oppressed people in India whose rights have been suppressed or who are living as second or third class citizens. So, I believe that there is no harm if the Indians are made to test the same medicine, which they prescribe for others. Perhaps, then they will be able to understand the real reason why we are at war, and eventually behave like a good neighbour.