Kashmir and Indo-Pak Détente
Spat on Kashmir issue between Pakistani and Indian diplomats in UN General Assembly is reflective of the centrality of this issue in Indo-Pak relations. The remarks by President Asif Ali Zardari that Kashmir symbolizes failure of UN system and that Pakistan will continue to support Kashmir’s to choose their own destiny carries a tint of frustration and hopelessness. Nevertheless, Pakistan can not overlook the issue due to its economic, socio-religious and historic compulsions.
In response Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna while refuting the stance taken by President Zardari described it as an integral part of India. That brings the situation to square one and seriously challenges the sustainability of on going peace process between the two countries. There is a strong feeling among certain quarters that present détente between Pakistan and India is essentially structured by Americans and is skewed in favor of India. One can argue that taking the advantage of Pakistan’s instability, economic dependency, terrorism and presence of American forces in Afghanistan India wants Pakistan to give in on Kashmir issue. That probably will not be possible on number of accounts.
Kashmir is a part of unfinished agenda of partition of India. The treachery and deceit with which it was annexed into India is part of history and can not be denied. The UN resolution that called for the plebiscite in Kashmir and was agreed by both India and Pakistan is on record. That suffices to establish Kashmir as a disputed territory. Over the last sixty three years or so what we have witnessed is that India is trying to hold on to this Muslim majority area using force while Pakistan remained committed in supporting Kashmir’s politically and morally. The excesses committed by Indian troops have no parallel in history. Over 94,000 killings since 1989, forced abductions, fake encounters and mass graves spread all over occupied Kashmir tell the tail of vile conduct by Indian forces. The fact that over 500,000 Indian troops armed with draconian laws like Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act 1990 (TADA) and Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) are stationed in Indian occupied Kashmir to maintain law and order exposes Indian spite. Interestingly Kashmir has a population of about 11 million, considering about fifty percent population as that of females, the Indian troops account for one Indian soldier against one mail civilian and yet Indians boost Kashmir to be its integral part.
Kashmir also has serious economic repercussions for Pakistan. Five major rivers that irrigate the plains of Punjab emanate from Kashmir. It was the illegitimate occupation of Kashmir that provided India with the opportunity to control upper riparian of Indus Basin and thus have the capability to control water flow into Pakistan. To have equitable sharing of water Indus Water Treaty was signed in September 1960. Unfortunately since then the treaty has been awfully breached by Indians. So far they have constructed seventeen major dams on river Chenab, five on river Jhelum and ten on river Indus. By doing so she has attained the virtual ability to control water flow into Pakistan in just forty years. That posses a very serious threat to the survival of Pakistan.
History since partition of the subcontinent stand testament to the fact that Indian’s have been working feverishly to harm Pakistan. The Indo-Pak wars of 1948 and 1965 were fought due to Kashmir. In 1971 they supported separatist elements in then East Pakistan and engineered creation of Bangladesh. Their support to terrorist elements operating in side Pakistan and for dissident elements of Baluchistan is an open secret. In spite of all this historic and on going malevolence, Pakistan for the sake of regional development is trying to bridge differences with India. It should not be construed as a sign of weakness. Pakistan has successfully endured the spat of terrorism and has skillfully managed itself in the face of Russian and now American presence in Afghanistan. These events alone reflect on the intrinsic strength of the country and its people. So it will be naïve to think that under American pressure or any other fears Pakistan will accede to Indian’s and give in on Kashmir. That approach needs to be replaced with the genuine desire to resolve regional disputes on the principles of justice and mutual respect.