Kashmiri leader calls on EU to react to the situation in Kashmir

Kashmiri leader calls on EU to react to the situation in Kashmir
Demonstration in Birmingham, United Kingdom

India’s lockdown of Kashmir has caused a humanitarian and human crisis in the region. Ahead of a debate on Tuesday in the European Parliament on the situation in Kashmir, Masood Khan, president of Azad Kashmir, warns about the situation and calls on EU to condemn India’s actions.

Kashmir consists of five regions controlled by Pakistan and India respectively. Azad Kashmir is a self-governing territory in the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan. The Indian-controlled regions Jammu, the Valley of Kashmir and Ladakh have an autonomous status that was unilaterally revoked by India on 5 August.

India imposed a curfew in the regions, carried out arrests and shut down its connections with the outside world, resulting in shortages of food and medicine. In an interview in Politico (2 September), the Indian foreign minister described the actions as temporary to attract investments to Kashmir and develop its economy and claimed that India is progressively easing up its measures.

Asked by The Brussels Times if the situation in Kashmir has improved since India revoked its autonomous status, president Khan replied that, “Nothing has changed although India might want to give the impression that this is the case”.

“On the contrary, the situation has deteriorated even more. Thousands of people, including young teenagers, have been arrested, women are sexually harassed, houses are raided, streets deserted and shops and pharmacies have run out of stocks. The humanitarian crisis in Indian-controlled Kashmir is one of the worst in the world in recent years”.

“There are hundreds of thousands of Indian soldiers and police in Kashmir that have been given impunity to act against an unarmed civil population,” he said.

When visiting earlier Press Club Brussels, his prime-minister Farooq Haider Khan compared the Indian measures with those by Nazi-Germany in the 30-ies. Would it not be more credible to protest against India without comparing it with Nazi-Germany that was motivated by a racist ideology that would lead to genocide?

”There are gross violations by India of human rights in Kashmir with people tortured and killed so the crisis there is a both a human rights and humanitarian crises”, Masood Khan replied.

“That doesn’t qualify as Nazism but the Indian government, motivated by a Hindu fundamentalist nationalism based on a perception of religious supremacy, has launched a campaign against Muslims and other minorities.”

“Such a mindset and toxic brew is not only a threat to Kashmir but to the whole region.” He warns against a situation that could escalate out of control with two nuclear-armed countries on the brink of war. He is also worried about the displacement of Kashmiris and changing the demography of the country by India settling Hindus in Kashmir against international conventions.

“With all the victims and suffering in WWII, the situation today is even more dangerous than could be foreseen in the 30-ies.”

EU keeps calling on India and Pakistan to solve the Kashmir issue through bilateral political dialogue and in agreement with the Kashmiri people. Are India and Pakistan willing or capable to negotiate or do they need mediation via UN or EU?

” While we have noticed a positive change in EU’s approach, speaking for the first time openly about the situation in Kashmir, its statements are still too cautious,” he replied.

After a recent debate in the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, he has high expectations of the debate on the situation in Kashmir in the Parliament’s plenary tomorrow (17 September). “It would be disappointing if the debate wouldn’t result in any resolution on Kashmir.”

He lists a number of steps that EU can take. “We would expect High Representative Mogherini to condemn the Indian atrocities in Kashmir and demand that India reverses its unilateral decision on the status of Kashmir. EU should also apply human rights clauses in its trade relations with India and impose trade and travel sanctions on India.”

Can EU do this while still pretending to act as an impartial peace broker or mediator in the conflict?

“EU should demonstrate leadership in the Kashmir issue and take the side of the victims,” he replied. ”India hasn’t shown any readiness for decades to engage in a peace process. Why should it be allowed to block international diplomacy to solve the conflict?”

“EU emerged from the ashes of WWII not only to unite Europe but also to serve as a model for the rest of the world. We do believe that EU can encourage a negotiation process and nudge the two sides to carry out competence-building measures,” he added.

Can the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir return to normal in the near future without external meditation, so that it can regain its autonomous status or receive the same status as other Indian states?

“No, there is too much anger in Kashmir against India. Continued oppression will only fuel resistance.”

What about adopting Mahatma Gandhi´s philosophy of peaceful protests against violence and oppression? It could not work against the Nazi-German regime but might work against a democracy like India that is sensitive to public opinion.

“The Kashmiri people has been protesting peacefully against India for decades and will continue to do so. Demonstrations are a permanent feature in Kashmir. But with killings going on, the youth becomes radicalised and this might lead to a cycle of violence,” he replied.

India has been protesting against infiltration by militants from the other side of the line of control and might have taken it as a reason or pretext for its actions. Is enough being done to prevent such infiltration?

Masood Khan denies firmly that there is any infiltration and rejects all talk about infiltration as baseless accusations. “India has erected a 540 km long border fence to prevent infiltration. We on our side of the line of control are doing our utmost to prevent any infiltration.”

In the past, United Nations Security Council adopted resolutions about a plebiscite in Kashmir to determined its future status. Would a referendum on the future of Kashmir have to be carried out in all parts of Kashmir or could one imagine separate referendums?

“There are five regions in Kashmir and a referendum cannot be done selectively but has to encompass all Kashmir and carried out simultaneously,” he replied.

What should be the question put to a referendum? “In the UN decision, two options were given, either joining Pakistan or joining India. An independent Kashmir wasn’t mentioned. In all circumstances, the UN decision should be the starting point for negotiations. Our first challenge is to convince India about the necessity of dialogue and diplomacy.”

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times

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