Kashmir: History and Narrative

Kashmir: History and Narrative
Indian-occupied and illegally annexed Kashmir has entered the second year of its most recent tragedy. During the past year there has been widespread condemnation of New Delhi’s illegal decision even in the normally supine and India-friendly Western media. The crux of the problem, however, is once again being missed entirely — namely, the denial to Kashmiris of their right to self-determination.

This is where the war of narratives comes in, as also history.

Regarding the first, Pakistan has only recently begun to shed its habit of playing on the back foot. As to the second, memories being short and the dispute being 73-years-old, facts have got buried. They need to be revived. Let’s consider.

Kashmir’s struggle for self-determination does not date back to 14th August 1947; it predates that rupture. Without going deep into history, let me remind the reader that Kashmiris on both sides of the LOC observe the Kashmir Martyrs’ Day every year on 13th July to pay homage to the 22 young men martyred in 1931 by the forces of Hari Singh

when they revolted against Dogra atrocities.

And this was not a communal uprising; it was a Kashmiri uprising.  In his work “Inside Kashmir” (1941), Kashmiri politician, scholar and writer, Prem Nath Bazaz wrote:

“The driving force behind the mass agitation till the 13th July was the discontent among the rank and file of the Muslims. The attack on the jail was in no way directed against the Hindus, and those who laid down their lives at the jail gate did so fighting against an unsympathetic government … It was a fight of the tyrannised against their tyrants, of the oppressed against the oppressors.”

Second, three important events occurred before the so-called instrument of accession signed by Hari Singh on Oct 26, 1947: (a) the Poonch uprising, (b) the Jammu massacre, (c) the liberation of large areas by Azad Forces (later Azad Kashmir Regular Forces and post-1971 the Azad Kashmir Regiment of Pakistan Army) from the Dogra rule and the formation of the AJK government. As Christopher Snedden notes, “The people of Jammu and Kashmir therefore began the Kashmir dispute and not outsiders, as India claims, a claim in which Pakistan has surprisingly acquiesced.”

Third, these three developments clearly show that Hari Singh had lost effective control of areas of his state and did not have the authority to make any decision about the future of the state and the peoples living in it. Consequently, Hari Singh had no authority to sign the so-called Instrument of Accession in favour of India.

Four, it should be clear from above points that the Kashmir dispute is not about real estate between India and Pakistan (as argued by India and as woefully ignored by us). It is, to repeat, about India’s denial to Kashmiris of their right to self-determination, an inalienable right recognised by the UN Charter which is to be exercised in light of relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

Five, Pakistan will do the Kashmir cause much good by allowing Kashmiris to form a political movement to front this dispute. Since December 1989, when Kashmir rose up in revolt again, Pakistan has tried to control the direction of the movement as much as India. That policy was short-sighted and it’s time to abandon it. Trust the Kashmiris.

Six, it should be made clear to the world that India’s illegal annexation of IOJK is not, and cannot be, an internal administrative arrangement. A disputed, occupied territory cannot be annexed. The move violates the UNSC/UNCIP resolutions as well as bilateral arrangements between India and Pakistan. This is also China’s position as presented on 6th August 2019 by the spokesperson of China’s ministry of foreign affairs on the boundary question with India and reiterated on August 5 this year.

Seven, India has also cleverly crafted the narrative and termed the Kashmiri freedom struggle as ‘terrorism’. It is a matter of grave concern to me that Pakistan has, on a number of occasions, failed to properly challenge this categorisation. Language is crucial. Terrorism is a term with negative connotations, and its usage is intended to a negative response. As I have written elsewhere: “It is about setting a context and wielding power.”

The United Nations General Assembly’s resolution, A/RES/37/43 of Dec. 3, 1982:

“1. Calls upon all States to implement fully and faithfully the resolutions of the United Nations regarding the exercise of the right to self-determination and independence by peoples under colonial and foreign domination;

“2. Reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle…”. 

As Pakistan moves from playing on the back foot to going on the front foot, this point can hardly be over-emphasised. Armed struggle and support for it can never be off the table. It is not a matter of whether but when, how and to what extent.

Let me also say something about the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since some writers in Pakistan continue to point to its deliberations and caution against taking such a position with reference to use of force. While acknowledging their concerns and also noting that such an option must be thought about and exercised with great deliberation and coolly, let me state — in terms of a narrative — that Pakistan must remind the world that it is perfectly legitimate and completely in line with existing provisions of International Law. Also, that it cannot be equated with terrorism.

FATF’s dealings with Pakistan have been politically partisan more than technical. In other words, Pakistan is in the grey area less because of its technical compliance with the regime — in fact, in some ways its internal compliance is far more stringent than the founding members of FATF — and more because FATF is being used to pressure Pakistan to fall in line with the objectives and interests of other states. India, unsurprisingly, is using its position within FATF to try and keep Pakistan in the doghouse.

Now, a reminder. Almost every writer, regardless of his leanings, has arrived at one conclusion: all proposals with reference to the twin issues of demilitarisation and the means towards holding a plebiscite were ultimately frustrated and outrightly rejected by India.

This is not to say that Pakistan did not have its objections; it sure did. It made them known too. The difference, however, was — and remains — in the approach. Pakistan has always wanted the plebiscite; India was always insincere in implementing it and dragged its feet until, in 1953, Jawaharlal Nehru reneged on his earlier commitment to a plebiscite.

It is crucial for Pakistan to put together the facts and present them to the world again. I say ‘put together’ because they are scattered in different writings and putting out a paper that cites those facts with sources would be great help in refreshing memories. I don’t need to state that restoring the narrative to its original shape requires both a mastery of history as well modern, digital communication skills.

The writer is a former News Editor of The Friday Times. This article is partly based on a presentation at an official webinar. He reluctantly tweets @ejazhaider

The writer has an abiding interest in foreign and security policies and life’s ironies.