Niloofar Qureshi

Better to Plan Kashmir’s Future than Lament the Past

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Like all the others pieces written by Secretary General World Kashmir Awareness Forum, Dr G N Fai, the one titled “The ostensible accession of Kashmir to India is a fiction: Ambassador Yusuf Buch” too makes a sensational claim which if true would change the entire discourse on Kashmir. Unfortunately, just like all his other claims the latest one regarding the “ostensible” accession of Kashmir to India being a “fiction” is based on personal presumptions rather than facts. Dr Fai tells us that this is the view of Ambassador Yusuf Buch who was former senior advisor to the United Nations Secretary General and whom Dr Fai aptly describes as “a living encyclopedia on Kashmir.”

Dr Fai starts his piece with former Ambassador Buch’s confession of how on the issue of Kashmir “We have made errors, we have miscalculated, we have not organised our campaign with the care it should have been” and this is an intelligent style of presentation as it forewarns the reader not to have any great expectations. While reading this piece the first thing that strikes a reader is that if Kashmir’s accession to India is indeed “a fiction,” then where is the need for former Ambassador Buch to lament making errors, miscalculations and not organising the Kashmir campaign well? Fiction can only be exposed by placing facts on the table and while dealing in truth this there is no scope of making any “errors” or “miscalculations.” And so the second question that comes to mind is why is Mr Buch being so apologetic about Kashmir?

Mr Buch considers Kashmir’s accession to India “a fiction entrenched in the Indian position.” According to him, “The fact that the act (signing instrument of accession) was performed by a feudal ruler who had fled his capital in the face of popular revolt is well established in the official record of the (Kashmir) dispute.” In his recent piece (“The U.N. should not remain passive in the face of human wrongs in Kashmir”) Dr Fai too has mentioned that “Faced with the insurgency of his people, the Maharaja fled the capitol, Srinagar, on October 25, 1947 and arranged that India send its army to help him crush the rebellion.” With two experts on Kashmir airing similar views regarding the dubious nature of accession, there are reasons for optimism because if what Mr Buch and Dr Fai are claiming is really true then Kashmir’s accession to India is perhaps the greatest fraud in modern history!

However, Mr Buch has neither given any details of which “official record of the dispute” he’s referring to that (as per him) conclusively proves that the Maharaja of J&K left his capital due to an internal uprising and not an invasion of tribals from Pakistan. Nor has he explained why he didn’t bring this evidence to the notice of the UN Secretary General when Mr Buch was serving as his senior advisor. Dr Fai too has not offered any proof in support of his claim that “Faced with the insurgency of his people, the Maharaja fled the capitol, Srinagar, on October 25, 1947 and arranged that India send its army to help him crush the rebellion.”

Two very renowned experts on Kashmir like Mr Buch and Dr Fai have made similar claims that it was an internal uprising that forced the Maharaja to accede J&K to India. If this is true, then how has the UNSC in its resolution 47 on Kashmir mentioned “The Government of Pakistan should undertake to use its best endeavours: to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purposes of fighting, and to prevent any intrusion into the State of such elements and any furnishing of material aid to those fighting in the State”? Thus, it is evident that either Mr Buch and Dr Fai or the UNSC has got the facts wrong and if it’s the latter then Islamabad needs to get the UNSC to rectify this monumental mistake!

Mr Buch has made another point that is very interesting. He says that “If India were as certain of the legal strength of its claim (over Kashmir) as it professes to be, would it not agree to the whole question being examined by the World Court? A process lasting a few months would vindicate its position and bring it resounding victory. But India knows that an impartial investigation would be fatal to its claim.” Without meaning any offence to Mr Buch, I would like to remind him that it’s only the aggrieved parties that seek legal recourse to remedy what they perceive to be wrong. By passing resolutions on Kashmir without questioning or commenting on the legality of J&K’s accession the UN has accepted India’s stand on the Kashmir issue. Thus, when India has no problems regarding its rights over J&K, then why and on what issue should it approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ)?

There is also a counter-argument to Mr Buch’s view on this matter that cannot be ignored as it concerns the ‘self determination’ movement.  Islamabad’s official stand is that the instrument of accession has no validity and so India is in “illegal occupation” of Kashmir. Thus, when Pakistan is fully convinced that India has no legitimate claim over J&K, then why hasn’t it taken up the accession issue with the ICJ for over seven decades? And it’s still not too late for Pakistan to do so even today. So, if India can approach the IJC to challenge the capital punishment awarded by a Pakistani military court to one of its national (Kulbhushan Jadav), then why is Islamabad reluctant to take up the issue of J&K’s accession (which concerns millions), with the ICJ? This is the question that the Hurriyat and civil society should be rightfully asking Islamabad!

Many political analysts are of the opinion that Pakistan’s hesitation to take the Kashmir issue to the ICJ is because it isn’t confident that the decision would be in its favour. Thus, for Mr Buch and Dr Fai to talk about the past and compare the Kashmir issue with those in Estonia, Lithuania, East Timor, Southern Sudan, Soviet Union and South Africa may raise hopes but it amounts to nothing as these disputes don’t have any similarity with the Kashmir issue. And this precisely what the then UN Secretary General Kofi Anan clarified in 2001 when he said that comparing UN resolutions on Kashmir with those on East Timor and Iraq was like “comparing apples with oranges.” So, is it morally correct for some amongst us to give false hopes to own people by repeatedly raising this issue?

Instead of having a ‘fixation’ for the past and crying over spilled milk, won’t it be better if we step into the present so that we can plan for the future? As per the directions of our leaders, we are frequently holding protests and undertaking prolonged agitations to draw attention of the international community towards the Kashmir issue. We are pelting stones at security agencies to demonstrate our anger against New Delhi and chanting pro Pakistan slogans to publicise our love for Pakistan. And three decades ago we also supplemented these efforts by starting an ‘armed struggle’ to drive out Indian forces from Kashmir which is continuing even today. Though thousands have been killed and injured over the years in the protests and ‘armed struggle’, this strategy doesn’t seem to have worked as the UN and international community hasn’t taken any notice of Kashmir.

Despite all the aggressive rhetoric, in the end everyone from Islamabad to the Hurriyat and even the militants agree that the only option to resolve the Kashmir logjam is through dialogue. So let’s hope that with the change of guard in Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan is able rise above jingoist politics and by refusing to play to the gallery by carrying the baggage of the past, break the Indo-Pak dialogue jinx. Being our well wisher, Islamabad needs to walk the extra mile by using deft diplomacy to make it impossible for New Delhi to avoid dialogue. And with Pakistan’s Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazai announcing that it would present a plan for resolving the Kashmir issue to the cabinet within a week, let’s hope that the Kashmir issue finally comes out of the backburner!

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