Niloofar Qureshi

Reflections on the Pulwama Attack

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Any mass movement, no matter how well organised and ably led, faces an ever-existing danger of going off-course when the leaders accept certain decisions or actions, which go against the very fundamental principles that are guiding the struggle. The ongoing movement for the ‘right to self determination’ in Kashmir is inspired by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 47 that calls for a peaceful solution to the Kashmir logjam by holding a plebiscite in J&K and explicitly defines the procedure required to be followed.

This UNSC resolution also stipulates that in order to ensure a free and fair plebiscite, Pakistan would have to withdraw all its nationals from the area of Kashmir under its control before the process of ‘self determination’ can commence.  However, since Islamabad hasn’t withdrawn its nationals from the areas of Kashmir under its control for more than seven decades, New Delhi maintains that the UNSC resolution on plebiscite is no longer applicable. Nonetheless, for more than four decades, our elders have been seeking ‘self determination’ through peaceful means, thereby ensuring that the ideological forte of this movement isn’t compromised.

However, just a decade before the turn of the century, an ‘armed struggle’ broke out in Kashmir and even though it went against the letter and spirit of the UNSC resolutions, our leaders still accepted it as an integral part of the movement for achieving ‘self determination’. Since the Hurriyat continued to remain obsessed with their ‘hartal politics’  and failed to think beyond protests and shutdowns, the ‘armed struggle’ which escalated dramatically overshadowed the political and diplomatic space and because of this the world has now started associating the ‘self determination’ movement in Kashmir with violence, which is not a good sign!

The separatist camp is very happy since Pakistan also fully endorses the “freedom struggle” in Kashmir and has tried to convince the world that it cannot be equated with terrorism. However, with the UNSC passing a resolution condemning the Pulwama suicide attack and calling an act of terrorism, it is evident that the efforts of Hurriyat and Islamabad to give ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir an aura of legitimacy has failed. And since the joint resistance leadership (JRL) openly accepts that the ‘armed struggle’ is playing “an important role” in the ‘self determination’ process, worldwide condemnation of this attack has naturally had an adverse effect on the image of the both the separatist conglomerate and the ‘self determination’ movement.

Unlike most other UNSC resolutions, which generally have some element of ambiguity, its post- Pulwama attack resolution is quite strongly worded as well as very specific in nature. This resolution not only refers to the Pulwama attack as an act of terrorism but has also named Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) as the perpetuator and called upon the global community to “cooperate actively” with the Government of India to bring the guilty to book. The paradox here is that, while Islamabad hasn’t been able to get the UNSC to even ask New Delhi to implement its own resolution 47 on Kashmir that was passed more than seven decades ago, New Delhi has been able to get an endorsement from UNSC for its Kashmir policy, thanks to the Pulwama attack!

It may sound odd but the fact is that rather than helping the ‘self determination’ movement, the Pulwama attack has instead given New Delhi’s Kashmir policy another shot in the arm by getting the  world to see the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir as terrorism! However, things don’t end here. Since JeM chief Masood Azhar is living in Pakistan, the Pulwama attack has also caused Islamabad immense diplomatic embarrassment and made complete mockery of what Pakistan very proudly refers to as its “principled position” on the Kashmir issue, about which it’s President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, had talked so much on Kashmir Solidarity Day, just nine days before the Pulwama attack!

The combined effort of Islamabad and the Hurriyat to draw attention of the international community towards the situation in Kashmir hasn’t elicited any positive response. Instead, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which supports Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, has Invited India to attend its inaugural plenary of the foreign ministers’ conclave at Abu Dhabi next month as the ‘guest of honour’. Though the reason for this unprecedented step is unknown, but coming just after the Pulwama attack, it certainly gives New Delhi a diplomatic victory.

And this development becomes all the more important for New Delhi because just two months ago the OIC General Secretariat not only issued a statement expressing “strong condemnation of the killing of innocent Kashmiris by Indian forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir where direct shooting at demonstrators in Pulwama region claimed the lives of a number of innocent citizens” but even went on to term this incident as a “terrorist act”!

The tragedy is that even after three decades of the ‘armed struggle’ during which thousands have died, those who still endorse it haven’t been able to cite even a single contribution of the gun in taking the ‘self determination’ movement forward. Conversely, it is violence that has alienated the international community and even Pakistan’s “all weather friend” China has been forced to yield to collective international pressure and join other UNSC member states in condemning JeM for the Pulwama attack.

With the OIC wooing New Delhi and media reports of France planning to move a resolution at UNSC for listing JeM chief Azhar as “global terrorist,” India has yet once again got international support on Kashmir without even making any efforts. On the other hand, despite Islamabad’s frantic pleas and the innumerable shutdowns observed by Hurriyat for drawing attention of the international community on Kashmir have drawn a blank and this is the ironical truth!

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