by Editor (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 46, No. 10, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1439)
In late October, the Indian regime suddenly announced that it was ready to hold a dialogue with “all stakeholders” in Kashmir. At a hurriedly convened press conference in Delhi on October 23, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced that the Modi regime was appointing a new interlocutor authorized to hold talks with all Kashmiri stakeholders including those leading the struggle for freedom (the Indians refer to them as “separatists”). Delhi’s point man will be ex-intelligence bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma who retired from service only a year ago.
The Kashmiri leadership, especially leaders of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC), an umbrella group of several Kashmiri groups struggling for their rights, refused to take the bait. They rightly asked: what would be different about this round of discussions than previous rounds? After all, there are dozens of reports related to the decades-long Kashmir dispute. At least 150 rounds of talks have also been held between India and Pakistan without producing any results.
When Indian journalists asked Rajnath Singh as to why the recommendations of numerous earlier reports had not been implemented, he refused to answer the question. Instead, he sought refuge in the excuse that the interlocutor had the authority to speak to all stakeholders.
Salahuddin, chief of the United Jihad Council in Kashmir, said before the Kashmiris sit down to talk with India, Delhi needed to take a number of steps. First, it should recognize that there are three parties to the dispute: the Kashmiris, Pakistan, and India. Second, India should recognize the State of Jammu and Kashmir as disputed territory. At least 18 UN Security Council resolutions affirm this and call for a referendum to determine the wishes of the people.
So what forced the Modi regime to change its tune after maintaining a policy of no talks until the freedom movement in Kashmir surrenders? Unfortunately successive Indian rulers have followed a policy of duplicity. Their latest offer is more of the same old same old.
In recent months, there has been a growing campaign worldwide exposing Indian crimes in Kashmir. India’s friends, especially the US, have also urged Delhi to resolve the dispute. This is not predicated on the external powers’ concern for the rights of the Kashmiri people. Instead, geopolitical and economic considerations are at work. The ongoing Kashmir dispute is seen as an impediment to the realization of these ambitions.
It is interesting to note that the Modi regime announced the appointment of the interlocutor on Kashmir on the eve of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Delhi. Obviously, it was meant to show the US visitor that India was taking “significant” steps — although it would be unrealistic to read too much into American “pressure” on India. The two have created a common front against a rising China.
India is guilty of egregious crimes in Kashmir. In addition to killing nearly 100,000 Kashmiris since 1989, thousands of people have simply disappeared. Mass graves have been discovered in different parts of Kashmir. And since July 2016, India has resorted to the use of pellet guns that have injured or blinded more than 20,000 people, mostly youth. Indian occupation troops also use rape as a weapon of war.
India maintains a colonial army of some one million heavily armed men. This is half of India’s total armed forces strength. Kashmir remains the most militarized region in the world. But despite 70 years of brutal occupation, the people of Kashmir have not given up.
The only solution to the Kashmir dispute remains tripartite talks between the people of Kashmir, Pakistan, and India on a single point agenda: preparation for holding a referendum under UN supervision so that the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir can be ascertained. Nothing else would do.