By: Haris Bilal Malik 16 August 2020
The prevalent security dynamics of the South Asian region are very much linked with the long-standing issue of Kashmir. August 2020 marks the completion of the first year of India’s August 2019 annexation of Kashmir through the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act of 2019. The act refers to the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution. These articles had previously granted a special constitutional and autonomous status to the disputed Kashmir region. This move is a unilateral political annexation of the Kashmir under which the region has been further divided into two union territories Jammu and Ladakh. The annexation has since then further worsened the situation as it also violates the UN Charter and the bilateral Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan. By doing so, India wants to project its unilateral move as its internal matter. This is further inclined towards changing the demography of the Kashmir as currently, the majority of the population is Muslim. In this regard, India is bringing Hindu migrants in massive numbers from all over the country to relocate and settle them in this predominant Muslim majority region. India’s unilateral moves have brought grave repercussions for the already volatile South Asian region and making it more prone to war and conflict.
During this period, many significant developments have taken place which has considerably intensified the Kashmir issue at the global level. Since then India’s brutal lockdown in the region, the presence of 900,000 troops, and the resultant criticism worldwide have further internationalized the issue. At the diplomatic level, its significance is evident from the fact that it remained one of the crucial agenda items during the UN General Assembly’s 74th session last year. During the session, many prominent international leaders criticized Indian brutalities and emphasized on its peaceful solution. Likewise, it is also expected to be on agenda during the upcoming UN General Assembly 75th session to be held in September this year. Pakistan’s diplomatic resort to highlight the Kashmir issue at the international level seems to be impactful in the way it has opted for an appropriate foreign policy approach.
It would be pertinent to highlight how the international leaders have supported Pakistan’s stance. For instance, Turkish President Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while addressing the UN General Assembly’s last year’s session criticized the Indian atrocities in Kashmir and also provoked the international community to pay attention to the conflict. Later on, in February this year, while addressing the joint session of Pakistan’s parliament, he openly criticized India’s unilateral moves. He termed the situation of Kashmir as ‘alarming’ and reasserted the Turkish stance of the settlement of the dispute through peaceful means and dialogue. Similarly, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia Dr. Mahatir Muhammad had criticized India by asserting that despite the UN resolution on the Kashmir, it has been invaded and occupied. He emphasized the settlement of the issue through peaceful means under the UN mandate, thus supporting Pakistan’s stance. Most recently, on August 9, 2020, in response to Indian media’s deliberate attempt to spread false claims regarding him of now being apologetic, he reasserted his previous stance. He said that despite knowing the economic backlash, he will not offer an apology for what he had at the UN forum, and keeping quiet against Indian injustices is not an option. Prime Minister Imran Khan in his recent tweet thanked Dr. Mahatir Muhammad for supporting Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir.
Similarly, China is also known for raising the issue at both the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly. Contrary to its previous role, a gradual shift in the Russian stance over Kashmir is also worth considering as Russia offered to mediate between both India and Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute. Likewise, the US, being one of the most powerful countries in the world has also offered for mediation twice especially during President Trump’s tenure. In fact, during his maiden official visit to India in February this year, he reiterated his earlier offer to mediate between both countries and described it as a big problem in the region. This indicates the realization of the sensitivity of the Kashmir issue by influential countries like the US, Russia, and China. Hence more, it would likely add to the prospects of the international mediation aimed at a peaceful settlement. Such a realization also serves as an acknowledgment of Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir as an international dispute which could only be solved through dialogue.
As another significant evidence of Pakistan’s successful diplomatic discourse came during the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s maiden official visit in February this year. He was deeply concerned over the situation in Kashmir and stressed on exercising maximum restraint by both the countries. He referred to the use of Article 99 of the UN charter that empowers the Secretary-General of taking any such issue to the UNSC whose existence can have potential consequences for international peace. This indicates that the worsening situation in Kashmir might provoke the UN Secretary-General to take the matter once again to the UNSC for a road map regarding its peaceful settlement. This is exactly Pakistan’s stance over the years that the UN being the prominent international organization to ensure peace and stability in the world, must play its role of settling down the Kashmir dispute.
Hence, summarizing it all it is quite evident that Pakistan has been acknowledged several times by the international community as being the most important stakeholder vis-à-vis the Kashmir dispute. Despite not getting any support from the Gulf States and the OIC, Pakistan still succeeded in its dynamic diplomatic discourse over the Kashmir issue since its unilateral annexation by India. Unlike the Indian illegal occupation of Kashmir, Pakistan believes in the peaceful international settlement of the dispute led by the UN and the international community. Furthermore, Pakistan has always fortified any international offer of mediation over the Kashmir dispute. However, it is quite unfortunate that Kashmir remains one of the oldest unsolved disputes at the UN Security Council. Pakistan needs to further enhance its diplomatic efforts to get vindicated its principled stance on Kashmir dispute based on strong political and humanitarian rights grounds. This would likely add to its significance for Pakistan’s diplomatic discourse and to further pressurize India. Under these circumstances, this would further pave the way for its peaceful settlement and ultimately restore peace and stability in South Asia.
The writer currently works as a Research Associate, at the Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad, Pakistan.