Authored by: Nisar Ahmed
Edited by: S. Sadia Kazmi
STRATEGIC VISION INSTITUTE (SVI), ISLAMABAD
As a reflection of the national unity and to express solidarity with the Kashmiri brethren, the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) organized an In-house seminar titled “Kashmir Day: Solidarity with the People of Jammu & Kashmir” on 7th February 2018. Besides President Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Masood Khan, who was the Chief Guest on the occasion, the seminar was attended by participants from diverse backgrounds, including prominent academicians, mid-career professionals and members of strategic community.
Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema (President/ Executive Director SVI) formally inaugurated the session with a warm welcome to the participants and expressed gratitude for their kind participation in the seminar on the issue which is not only close to Pakistan’s heart but in fact is Pakistan’s own cause. Questioning India’s false claims on Kashmir Dr. Cheema highlighted that the deployment of around 700,000 Indian troops in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), the ratio being 1 Indian troop against seven Kashmiris exposes the reality of Indian claims on Jammu and Kashmir. Speaking of India’s duplicity and its disregard of commitments made to the international community, he noted with regret the way India backtracked on Nehru’s promise to the world including the UN Security Council that a plebiscite would be held. However, by continuously denying the right to self-determination as provided in the UN Security Council resolutions, India blatantly violates the fundamental human rights of Kashmiris. As for Pakistan, Kashmir is not just a question of territory. Indeed, various factors including geographic, demographic, cultural, and ideological etc. point to the fact that Kashmir and Pakistan share much in common, Dr. Cheema maintained. Thus, Pakistan’s support to their Kashmiri brethren has been resolute throughout the existence of the issue. He underscored the necessity of continually assessing the efficacy and utility of Pakistan’s existing policies and strategies with regards to Kashmir so that Pakistan’s support compliments the indigenous struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in realizing their right to self-determination. Dr. Cheema winded his brief yet thoughtful remarks with a question to ponder as to what Pakistan should do to improve its own narrative on the issue and how it could better project the indigenous struggle of the people of Kashmir.
Introducing the two speakers i.e. Ms. Shamsa Nawaz, Research Fellow ISSI and Sardar Masood Khan, President AJK, Ms. S. Sadia Kazmi (Director Academics, Policy & Program) gave a declaration that the views and opinions expressed in the seminar are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the SVI.
Ms. Shamsa Nawaz commenced by acknowledging the SVI’s invaluable contribution to the academic discourse and policy making through organizing such academic discussions on immensely important strategic issues that have a direct bearing on Pakistan’s national interest. Outlining the saga of Kashmir dispute and Indian atrocities against Kashmiris in a “Primer on Kashmir issue” she noted that after the partition of sub-continent, the princely states were granted a provision to join either India or Pakistan and according to the foundational ‘Indian Independence Act, Kashmir was to join Pakistan being a Muslim majority state having geographical contiguity with Pakistan. However, the controversial ‘Instrument of Accession’, signed between India and Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir on October 26, 1947, was used as a pretext for forcible occupation by India. Since then the issue continues to elude the solution due to India’s absurd claims and disdain for international law and UN Security Council resolutions. She noted that unlike Pakistan which seeks implementation of the relevant UN resolutions that envision a free and fair plebiscite under the auspices of the UN, Indian realization that it can never win the will of the Kashmiri people in such an eventuality has led it to go back on its own words and commitments. She highlighted Pakistan’s sincerity and flexibility to resolve the issue by citing Ayub Khan’s out of the box approach whereby he sought arbitration of the US and UK. Similarly, Pervez Musharaf’s four point proposal envisioning “demilitarization” and “self-governance” suggests Pakistan’s love for peace. In addition, the Simla Agreement in 1972 was a reflection of Pakistan’s desire to resolve the dispute. Unfortunately, India sought to exploit it and gave the impression that Kashmir has been reduced to a bilateral issue. The fact remains that Kashmir has always been an international issue, imbedded in the UN Security Council resolutions.
She expressed regret that after 9/11 a paradigm shift in international politics has complicated bilateral relations and the resolution of the Kashmir issue. She opined that international community’s apparent lack of appreciation of the distinction between a freedom movement and terrorism serves Indian propaganda on Kashmir. In this regard, the tendentious UN resolution 1373 adopted by Security Council erroneously ignored the critical distinction between a freedom movement and terrorism. US bedeviled the situation by dubbing all resistance movements for self-determination as terrorism. Thus, India continues to exploit the situation to portray itself as a victim of alleged terrorism by Pakistan and seeks excuses to avoid talks on Kashmir issue. However, the fact of the matter is Indian policy towards Kashmir is that of arbitrary arrests, torture, rape, illegal settlements, constitutional alteration and extrajudicial killings. Indian human rights violations are well documented. According to Kashmir Media Service there had been 94,323 killings in Indian Occupied Kashmir from 1989 to February 29, 2016. New Delhi’s response to the reports by various human rights organizations has been evasive. She added that India is also trying to change the demography of IOK by the settlements of non-Kashmiris. The Muslim population in Jammu has come down from 62 percent in 1941 to 30 percent. India also seeks to gradually abrogate article 370 despite the fact that the Srinagar High Court has rejected the political position of Indian government by saying that: “the territory of held Kashmir retains an element of sovereignty and cannot be integrated into India, at all”. She however, said the struggle of Kashmiris for freedom from Indian occupation has gained momentum and strength with every new incident of Indian atrocity. Concluding her remarks, she said it was India to take Kashmir issue to the Security Council and that the Council itself decided on holding a free and independent plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir while rejecting India’s claims, it therefore needs to adhere to the demand of self-determination.
President Azad Kashmir, H.E. Sardar Masood Khan thanked the SVI for holding the seminar and said that the purpose of Kashmir Day was to convey three messages to the Kashmiris, to India, and to the international community. We reiterate our support and express our solidarity with Kashmiris in the dark hour of plight and suffering that they are our Kashmiri brothers are not alone. To India we make it clear that its atrocities and crimes against humanity will not be forgotten and tolerated by Kashmiris and any conscience person in the world. The third purpose is to expose and condemn the international community’s criminal silence and double standards with regards to Indian atrocities against Kashmiris. He expressed dismay that the so called developed and civilized world has been blinded and muted by its economic and strategic interests with India. The so called champions of human rights of the civilized world have failed to act upon what they never get tired of preaching to others. He said the level of Indian state terrorism can be gauged from the fact that the RSS has established 5000 village defence committees in Jammu comprising of 27000 Hindu extremists who are tasked with terrorizing and forcing Kashmiris to relinquish their aspirations for freedom and accept Indian occupation. Kashmiri are being threatened by reminding them of the Muslim genocide in 1947-48 carried out by India which led to the deaths of more than 240,000 in Jammu alone. He said that in order to realize its heinous objectives of subjugating Kashmiri Muslims, India has initiated a scheme of illegal settlements of pundits and the so called ‘West Pakistani refugees’ so as to increase the number of seats allocated for Pundits, while reducing the representation of the PDP and National Conference. He said the Modi-Doval doctrine is aimed at achieving three main objectives: 1) inflicting unbearable punishment on Kashmiris and terrorize them into subjugation, 2) To avoid talks to the Hurriat leaders in political terms, 3) To eliminate Kashmir from conversations with Pakistan. Debunking some myths being propagated by India, he said that no amount of Indian propaganda, atrocities, coercion and political engineering can break or turn the will of Kashmiris in favour of India. Indian propaganda and its evil designs are being challenged in the streets of IOK under the rain of Indian pellets and bullets. Similarly, India will not be able to sell the myth and propaganda that Kashmir is a bilateral issue. As against Indian claims, he highlighted the fact that Kashmir is a quadrilateral issue involving India-Pakistan-Kashmiris and the UN or international community. Questioning and rejecting another Indian propaganda against Kashmiris he said that by labeling Kashmiri freedom fighters as terrorists India actually seeks to cover its own atrocities and discredit the legitimate, indigenous struggle of Kashmiris. Given India’s own claims that the two-layered impenetrable fencing erected by India along LOC, equipped with latest technology to detect and intercept attempts of infiltration, accusations of cross border terrorism by Pakistan stands no ground.
Disenchanted with the talks with India he said bilateral talks have been a hoax because this was a charade devised to reduce the importance of Jammu and Kashmir dispute in the overall bilateral agenda, that India had been successful in diminishing the importance of Kashmir dispute in the bilateral agenda. He urged Pakistan to pursue the Kashmir cause with more conviction and more vigor and to take the issue to the international forums including the UN and powerful parliaments of the world like European parliament , the UK house of commons etc. so as to remind them of their commitments to the people of Kashmir. In this respect, he also urged United Nations Secretary General António Guterres to stop “artificially balancing” between Pakistan and India and act on Kashmir issue. Mr. Khan said that the secretary general should invoke mediation or arbitration under Chapter VI of the UN Charter that pertained to peaceful settlement of disputes that could lead to war or the UN would be seen as complicit in human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir.
With this Dr. Cheema opened the session for Questions and Answers. Sharing his views on the possible alternatives that Pakistan might consider in order to break the existing stalemate or deadlock on Kashmir with India, Dr. Aqab Malik, Assistant Professor at NDU inquired about approaching Russia. Responding to Dr. Malik’s question, Mr. Masood Khan opined that while there are growing overtures between Russia and Pakistan yet it is premature to expect anything substantial out of this.
Mr. Prevez Butt, former Chairman PAEC expressed his dissatisfaction with the media over what he said was insufficient coverage of the plight of the People of Indian occupied Kashmir and urged media to give more coverage to Kashmir and expose Indian human rights violations against Kashmiris.
Commenting on how Pakistan can improve its narrative on Kashmir, Amb. (R) Arif Kamal questioned the extent to which statements like “Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan” affect Pakistan’s case over Kashmir. He also suggested that it might prove more effective and useful to bring Kashmiris to the fore front. Agreeing with this observation, Mr. Khan reiterated that being one of the major parties to the conflict, Pakistan has a duty to continue playing its role for the peaceful resolution of Kashmir.
Moreover, in reply to Ambassador (R) Fozia Nasreen’s (Advisor COMSATS secretariat) question regarding any efforts Pakistan has made to identify and employ legal options under international and human rights laws to address Kashmir issue, Mr. Khan stressed on the need to fully appreciate the significance of multilateral politics. He also emphasized the impact that common citizens, think tanks, and educational institutes can generate by reaching out to global community and human rights mechanisms through their writings and other contributions thereby highlighting the sad facts of Indian evil policies on Kashmir. In this regard he commended the SVI for holding enlightening academic discussions on such important issues.
Considering the fact that in recent years the indigenous freedom struggle of Kashmir has gained momentum and strength despite Indian unprecedented use of force, Lt. General (R) Syed Muhammad Owais, former Secretary Defence Production urged the government and policy makers to seize the opportune moment and work vigorously to achieve desired results on Kashmir. He stressed on the formulation of strategic framework outlining the course of action as well as mechanism for its implementation. In this regard, he suggested that foreign office should have a cell dedicated solely for Kashmir affairs.
In response to a question raised by Dr. Tughral Yamin, Associate Dean Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, NUST about the efficacy and need of Kashmir committee and sending delegates to foreign countries, President AJK Khan quoted that ‘80 percent of the game is showing up’. Moreover, he maintained that only concerted efforts can make a difference and that heavy reliance on any particular committee or platform would not yield desired results.
At the end of the program Dr. Cheema once again thanked the distinguished guests and accomplished scholars and participants for their kind participation.
Proceedings of the seminar were widely covered by the print and electronic media, the details of which are given below:
It was also carried by the main newswire Associated Press of Pakistan (APP).