Thursday, September 29, 2016

India and Pakistan on warpath once Again!

September 23, 2016

By Saeed Qureshi

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech at the 71st Session of UN General Assembly on 21 September instant was resounding and historic by all standards. It exemplified a robust and unconditional advocacy of the right of self-determination of the Kashmiris.

He called upon the UN to hold the plebiscite in Kashmir in compliance with the UN Security Council Resolution 47 passed on 21 April 1948. He vociferously highlighted the grave atrocities being committed by the Indian army in the Indian held Kashmir.

At the same time, he offered full cooperation to the international community in resolving the outstanding Kashmir issue as well as to uproot the terrorism in all forms. He even pleaded with India for a constructive bilateral interaction to resolve all the outstanding issues including Kashmir between the two neighboring countries in an amicable and peaceful manner. Prime minister Sharif has certainly made a mark and pushed the burden of positive response on India now heavily banking upon brute use of force to silence Kashmiris.

India and Pakistan are perennial adversaries and there are several reasons for that animosity. Pakistan is an Islamic state. It came into existence for the Muslims of the sub-continent. India is known as a Hindu majority state although it professes secularism. Democracy has always been there in India barring state of emergency declared by prime minister Indira Gandhi from 1966-1977.

Out of Pakistan’s existences of 69 years thus far, it remained under the army and semi-army rule for 31 years. India and Pakistan fought four wars. These were in 1947(first Kashmir war), in 1965(all-out war on Kashmir), 1971(Bangladesh) and 1999(Kargil war). Unfortunately, in all these military confrontations, Pakistan suffered more harm than India.

The 1971 conflict was most devastating for Pakistani that resulted in the separation of East Pakistan and surrender of 90,000 Pakistani military cadres and civilians before the Indian army.  Following the recent anti-Indian upsurge in Indian occupied part of Kashmir there is a possibility of another military flare-up as well as unleashing of diplomatic tussle between the two inveterate neighbors.

The Line of Control(LOC) between India and Pakistan is a temporary arrangement. It means the control of the respective governments in their under control areas of Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan.  Both countries are obliged under the above-mentioned Security Council Resolution to hold the plebiscite for eliciting the will of the people of Kashmir either to join India or Pakistan.

At the time of the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the Kashmir valley was under the Sikh ruler Maharaj Hari Singh. On his own accord he acceded to India and thus depriving the Kashmiri people to exercise their right of self-determination to join either India or Pakistan.

This is the bane of contention between India and Pakistan, each having claim on Kashmir. But India has been avoiding such a plebiscite because the majority of the population in Jammu and Kashmir and Northern areas is Muslim by faith. India’s fear is that by consenting to the plebiscite, Jammu and Kashmir as well as the Northern areas would opt for Pakistan. That is why three out of four wars have been fought over the issue of Kashmir and not through the ballot as was the case in other states and regions.

In the aftermath of the 18 Indian soldiers killed in Uri on September 19, in the Indian Administered part of Kashmir(IAK) there have been inflammatory and coercive statements from the India leadership of revenge and retaliation. Pakistan COAS (Chief of Army Staff) General Raheel’s statement that Pakistan would go to any limit for defense of the country against the foreign aggression, should serve as a clarion call for India to heed. It is clear that the incumbent government of PMNL and the armed forces of Pakistan are on the same page as far as the issue of Kashmir and defense of Pakistan are concerned.

Prime minister Narendra Modi is known as a fanatic Hindu. He has the infamous backlog of killing thousands of Muslims in the state of Gujrat when he was the chief minster then. He has been having whirl-wind tours of the globe for winning international support and goodwill for India and boosting trade relations. He has succeeded in inking several important economic and bilateral trade agreements in favor of India. He has yet to come up with his stance on the continuing protests of the Kashmiris against the brutalities of the Indian army killing and maiming scores of local population.

It is hoped that sensing the changing scenario in the backdrop of the Indian brutal measures in Indian held Kashmir, he may desist from a military adventure. If he goes for a military option, it might be a rerun of the 1971 episode but may cause irreparable setbacks to both Pakistan and India militarily and economically.

In this extremely volatile and complex situation the reaction and role of the United States is quite crucial. Of late America has been tilting towards India and abandoning its age old ally Pakistan by connecting her with terrorism. The fact is that Pakistan is not sponsoring terrorism but a strong bulwark in stopping it. There is clear-cut leaning of USA towards India as evidence by crucial multifarious agreements one of which is known as U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement. America is the second largest trade partner of India.

In case of Kashmir it is not Pakistan alone but the world community that supports the legitimate cause of Kashmiris and the inhuman treatment by India. How long half a million Indian army would keep the Kashmiris at bay and silence them by bullets and barrel of gun.

It is to be hoped that America would prefer to play the role of a neutral mediator and use her influence in prevailing upon India to desist from use of army to subdue the Kashmiris but agree to a plebiscite for permanent solution of this thorny issue hanging fire for the last 69 years.

It is time for both the neighbors to desist from wasting their resources and manpower on mutual destruction and annihilation. With the resolution of Kashmir dispute both the countries can enter into a phase exemplary peace, friendship and leading partners in trade and tourism. Let them convert the sub-continent into an abode of peace and fraternity.

Both India and Pakistan are beset with serious problems such as grinding poverty, corruption degradation of life, poor governance etc. The money saved from wars can be diverted to improve the lives of the citizens on both sides of the divide. India in comparison to Pakistan has another grave problem of huge population estimated to be 1.20 billion. It is one billion or six time more than that of 200 million of Pakistan. Its area of 3.3 million sq. km is three fold more than that of Pakistan’s 881000 sq. km.

Despite “impressive economic growth during recent decades, India continues to face socio-economic challenges. India contains the largest concentration of people living below the World Bank's international poverty line of US$1.25 per day. 30.7% of India's children under the age of five are underweight. 15% of Indian population is undernourished. [ In comparison 21.04% of the population of Pakistan lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.

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