Niloofar Qureshi

Kashmir Issue and the Solidarity ‘Overdose’

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‘Solidarity’ is a marvelous word and a very convenient one too. Once expressed, it assures those badly battered by adversity that they aren’t alone in their hour of crisis and at the same time it costs nothing to those who express it. However, there is a problem- though an excellent tranquiliser, ‘solidarity’ unfortunately doesn’t solve any problem; it only generates a short lived sense of euphoria. And it also has a ‘side effect’- if used too often, it increases the recipient’s mental ‘resistance’ and makes him averse to anyone expressing solidarity.

Probably that’s why even though the separatist leadership seem ecstatic about Pakistan observing ‘Kashmir Solidarity day’ (KSD) for the second time in three months, this ‘overdose’ of expressing solidarity hasn’t aroused much excitement amongst most Kashmiris. And this is not at all surprising because after being regularly administered with the solidarity ‘drug’ for seven decades, Kashmiris seem to have started showing visible symptoms of ‘resistance’ to it!

The same was the case with Pakistan’s Representative to the United Nations (UN) Ms Maleeha Lodhi’s address during the meeting held at Pakistan House in New York to observe KSD. Though she announced that “We (Pakistan’s mission to UN) are the voice of the people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir here,” people didn’t come out and start dancing with joy on the streets of Srinagar. It’s not that she didn’t put across her points properly; it’s just that there was nothing new or inspiring in what Ms Lodhi had to say.

For example, she mentioned that the same age-old stuff of having had reminded UN Secretary General Gustavo Adolfo Velasquez of the UN’s responsibility of addressing the grave situation in Kashmir and about the unimplemented UN resolutions. At a time when UN Secretary General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric is on a weekly basis reiterating that Velasquez is closely monitoring the situation in Kashmir and is concerned about the prevailing situation, for Ms Lodhi to inform the audience that the UN Secretary General had “also shown concern over the issue” is superfluous.

One can think of no logical reason for Ms Lodhi to brief the UN Secretary General on the current situation in Kashmir unless she has apprised him of certain facts that the UN Secretary General may be unaware of or misinformed about. However, UN observers in Kashmir are continuously providing real time inputs from ‘ground zero’ to the UN headquarters and Islamabad has vividly described the grave situation in Kashmir and highlighted the issue of Indian atrocities there during the recent session of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. Thus it is quite improbable that the UN Secretary General’s assessment of the situation in Kashmir is based on incomplete or inaccurate information!

Ms Lodhi shared Islamabad’s view with the audience that “this concern (shown by the UN Secretary General) should be converted into decisive action (and) the right of the Kashmiri people to self determination should be granted to them.” However, she didn’t specify whether she had actually conveyed this sentiment to Velasquez in so many words. Kashmiris keep hearing the frequent melodramatic statements issued by Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) that reveal little and so what they are really interested in is something with substantial content. However, by not mentioning whether the UN Secretary General’s “concern” was likely to translate into action in the form of UN intervention on the Kashmir issue Ms Lodhi, just like the FO, has left all to our imagination. So, the people of Kashmir cannot be blamed for their indifference.

Though Ms Lodhi told the audience that Indian “atrocity has crossed all limits” in Kashmir, she hasn’t revealed whether she told this to the UN Secretary General and in case she did, then she hasn’t disclosed what he had to say on this issue. Just a day before Ms Lodhi briefed the UN Secretary General, his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric had told reporters, “I think we spoke about the situation (in Kashmir) earlier in the week reminding all parties of the need to protect civilians.” And with such a statement coming even after Islamabad had exposed Indian atrocities at the UNHRC session the soothing effect of the solidarity ‘dose’ administered by Islamabad abruptly ends!

By “reminding all parties of the need to protect civilians” the UN has made it amply clear that it doesn’t consider India to be the sole perpetuator of violence and atrocities in Kashmir and that Pakistan as well as militant groups are equally responsible for the killings and mayhem here. When such an uncomplimentary allegation is leveled against our ‘freedom fighters’ then how can Islamabad hope that the agitated minds of Kashmiris can be soothed by mere expression of solidarity? Pakistan needs to understand that due to Islamabad’s continuing diplomatic failure to internationalise the ‘K’ issue, the patience of Kashmiris is wearing thin and resentment is fast growing.

Lastly, Ms Lodhi spent more time giving assurances rather than speaking on issues of immediate concern. For example she said, “The Kashmir issue is very much alive at the UN and will remain alive until it is resolved according to the wishes of the people of Kashmir and UN Resolutions.” Though reassuring, this statement doesn’t mean anything for the common Kashmiri because though the Kashmir issue may be “very much alive” in the theoretical sense, but for all practical purposes it has been comatose for seven decades and continues to remain so even today!

Similarly, her assurance that “Until Kashmir is liberated from Indian occupation, our moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people will continue,” is undoubtedly very comforting. However, in practical terms this open-ended and extremely gracious promise means ‘though we can’t say when the Kashmir issue will be resolved, but until then we will be continuing supporting you, so don’t worry and keep protesting’! Thus, though well intended, Ms Lodhi’s reassuring promise of unqualified solidarity unfortunately conveys an eerie impression of absolute uncertainty regarding the future of Kashmir and this leaves one with a very uneasy and depressing feeling!

Whether such apprehensions are normal or are these symptoms of ‘solidarity ‘overdose’ is something I’m not too sure about!

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