Kashmir dispute and role of neighbours
Text of speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry delivered in a seminar arranged by Kashmir National Party in Watford on 29 July 2012.
Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues Aslamo alaikam
I congratulate the KNP leadership for arranging this seminar in holy month of Ramadan, when traditionally most Kashmiris take a break from political activities because of fasting. This shows the commitment of the KNP leaders and workers to the cause of united and independent Jammu and Kashmir.
Topic of the seminar is interesting, and surely it needs more than ten minutes to properly explain roles of our neighbours. There is an old saying that one can choose friends, but cannot choose neighbours. We are lucky to have a beautiful country which is situated in strategically very important region; but we are unfortunate to have bad neighbours.
Beauty of our country, its resources and its strategic location could have been our great strength if we were independent; but these three factors have proved to be our worst enemies, because our neighbours have imperial designs and they want to occupy us and exploit our resources.
Jammu and Kashmir is a landlocked State. Our neighbours are India, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan. We are surrounded by three nuclear states and we live in very unstable and volatile region. The unresolved Kashmir dispute is very serious threat to peace, security and stability of the entire region.
Out of these four neighbours Afghanistan government has not provided us any trouble since their rule was ended by the Sikhs in 19th century; however, some people from there joined the attack on Jammu and Kashmir arranged and supported by Pakistan in October 1947.
The other giant neighbour, China has, by and large, remained neutral for many years; however, they captured Aksai Chin in a war with India in 1962. From then onwards they showed more interest in the territory of Jammu and Kashmir; and in 1963 they signed a treaty with Pakistan and in name of border adjustment managed to obtain about 2200 square miles of our territory from Gilgit Baltistan. This gift of Pakistan to China helped Pakistan to win a friendship of China; and it provided China with access to outside world and it also helped China to link this territory with Aksai Chin.
On the international level China supported the Pakistani stand on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, wrong as it was; and they had little regard for the emancipation or wishes of the people who were forcibly divided by India and Pakistan. This support of China for the Pakistani stand on Kashmir had its ups and downs, but China remained a good friend of Pakistan; and helped them with various projects including construction of the Karakorum Highway which links both countries by road.
However, over the past decade China has taken very profound interest in affairs of Gilgit Baltistan, and in name of development projects and exploration have their strong civilian and military presence in this important region. It appears that government of Pakistan and some Kashmiri leaders are trying to cut out some role for China in the Kashmir dispute, which is unfortunate and could prove to be disastrous for Jammu and Kashmir and the region.
The third neighbour of Jammu and Kashmir is Pakistan, which had a Standstill Agreement with the Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir. The government of Pakistan violated the Standstill agreement and managed a tribal invasion of the State of Jammu and Kashmir which resulted in death of thousands of innocent people; and forced the Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir to seek help from India, the fourth neighbour of Kashmir.
India provided help after gaining a ‘provisional accession’ from the Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir; and the Indian forces landed in Kashmir on 27th October 1947. Both India and Pakistan wanted to make Jammu and Kashmir part of their country; and fought their first war over control of this state. No country could win the war and the war resulted in division of Jammu and Kashmir.
While the war was going on, India approached the UN Security Council for help under Article 35 of the UN Charter. The Security Council passed many Resolutions on Kashmir, some were passed before the UN Commission for India and Pakistan reached the region to investigate the matter, and some were passed afterwards; however, two Resolutions known as UNCIP Resolutions are fundamental to understanding of the Kashmir dispute, as they explain which country had to do what to resolve the Kashmir dispute. The UNCIP Resolution of 13 August 1948 stated and I quote:
(l) As the presence of troops of Pakistan in the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a material change in the situation since it was represented by the Government of Pakistan before the Security Council, the Government of Pakistan agrees to withdraw its troops from that State.
(2) The Government of Pakistan will use its best endeavour to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistan nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting. Unquote
To date Pakistan has not vacated those areas as demanded by the Security Council Resolution; and of course no progress on the proposed UN plebiscite. Later on in mid 1950s, when Pakistan joined SEATO and CENTO military alliances against the Communist bloc, unfortunately Kashmir dispute became part of the ‘Cold war’; and after obtaining the Soviet backing India declared Kashmir to be its ‘integral part’.
India pursued to get Kashmir in name of democracy and on the bases of this provisional accession. Pakistan, on the other hand, tried to get Kashmir in name of religious affinity and brotherhood. India called Kashmir its ‘integral part’ and Pakistan called it ‘Sha Rag’ – meaning jugular vein. Both countries wanted more territory to advance their national and strategic interests; welfare of people of Jammu and Kashmir was not their priority.
There is a long list of blunders that have been committed in name of Kashmir with disastrous results for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, but time does not allow me to give details. During the early years of the dispute India talked about rights of people, but after mid 1950s India put its cards on table and declared Kashmir its ‘integral part’. Pakistan on the other hand continued to fool people of Jammu and Kashmir and people of Pakistan in name of Islam and brotherhood; and pursued their imperial agenda on Kashmir with disastrous consequences for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and which endangered peace and stability of the region.
In other words Pakistani governments disguised their agenda on Kashmir in name of Islam, and continue to do so; and it is unfortunate that many Kashmiris still do not understand their hidden agenda and imperial aims. In view of one Kashmiri nationalist, “India is our open enemy, and Pakistan is our hidden enemy. It is for people of Jammu and Kashmir to decide whether they want to use their time and resources to expose deeds of hidden enemy or the enemy that is already exposed”.
Furthermore, Pakistani governments went out of their way to ensure that Kashmir dispute is seen as a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan; and not as an issue of a nation seeking independence. They curtailed people of Jammu and Kashmir’s right to independence by limiting the choice to become either part of India or Pakistan.
Apart from that, Pakistan government agreed in article 6 of the Simla Agreement of 1972 that India and Pakistan will take the final decision on Kashmir dispute by bilateral talks, hence no role for the people of Jammu and Kashmir in this matter. Sad thing is that the Pakistani officials still fool us and people of Pakistan by giving this impression that the UN and its Resolutions have a role in determining the future of Jammu and Kashmir.
I conclude by urging the people of Jammu and Kashmir to understand policies of all three countries that occupy our territory; and not be fooled in name of religion. Imperialists have no religion. Their policy is to occupy, exploit and make profits; and that is what they are doing. We are occupied, forcibly divided, exploited; but sad thing is that instead of understanding the real situation and formulating appropriate policies to fight this occupation we are fighting each other, hence strengthening the hold of those who occupy us.
Mr Chairman thank you for your patience.