Slugfest about Kashmir’s ‘Special Status’
It is eerie that our foreign office, media and the politicians have shallow understanding of the Kashmir dispute. Let us not forget the dimensions to this decades-long conflict. Pakistan is committed to the United Nations resolutions. And, these resolutions do not recognise ‘accession’ of disputed Kashmir under a resolution of the puppet Constituent Kashmir assembly or under Maharaja’s ‘instrument of accession’ on which Indian claimed is based.
India never presented the accession ‘resolution’ or the ‘Maharaja’s instrument of accession’ before the United Nations. Yet, it claims that the occupied Kashmir’s constituent assembly had voted for accession to India. As such, it is no longer necessary for her to let the promised plebiscite be held in Kashmir. Now, it has abrogated ‘special status’ granted by its constitution to the Kashmiris. Has disputed Kashmir reverted to 1947 status in India’s own parlance?
In parliament, Indian home minister, Amit Shah, banked on the ‘instrument’ which is void. The Independence Act required intention of accession to be absolute and crystal-clear. But, even a stray glance at the ‘Instrument’ would make it clear that it is equivocal. The ‘Instrument’ expresses ‘intention to set up an interim government and to ask Sheikh Abdullah to carry the responsibilities’ with Maharaja’s prime minister. The last sentence in the alleged ‘Instrument’ is ‘In haste and with kind regards’. Handwritten corrections on the text of the ‘Instrument’ speak volumes about the wavering state of the Maharaja’s mind. Any ‘instrument’ extracted under coercion and duress is invalid under law.
Subsequent accession resolution, passed by the occupied Kashmir’s ‘constituent assembly’ is also void. This resolution violates the UN Security Council’s resolutions forbidding India from going ahead with the accession. Aware of India’s intention to get the ‘Instrument of Accession’ rubber-stamped by the puppet assembly, the UNSC passed two resolutions to forestall the ‘foreseeable accession’. UNSC Resolution 9 of March 30, 1951, and confirmatory Resolution 122 of March 24, 1957, outlaw accession or any other action to change status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
‘Instrument of Accession’ is a myth, unregistered with the United Nations. Alastair Lamb in his book “Kashmir: A disputed legacy (1846-1990)” also considers the Instrument of Accession, which was ‘signed’ by the Maharaja of Kashmir on October 26, 1947, as fraudulent. He argues that on the date of the alleged instrument, the Maharaja was travelling by road to Jammu (a distance of over 350 km). How could he sign the instrument while being on the run for safety of his life? There is no evidence of any contact between him and the Indian emissaries on October 26, 1947.
India has never shown the original ‘Instrument’ to any international body or forum. It took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations in 1948 under Article 35 of Chapter VI which outlines the means for a peaceful settlement of disputes. Lamb, in his book Incomplete Partition (Chapter VI: The Accession Crisis, pp.149-151) points out that India marched its troops into Kashmir without maharaja’s permission – an act of aggression. Lamb further says ‘timing of the alleged Instrument of Accession undoubtedly affected its legitimacy’ (p.172). He adds ‘It, in fact, took place after the Indian intervention, then it could well be argued that it was either done under Indian duress or to regularise an Indian fait accompli‘. The Instrument of Accession, according to Wolpert, was only signed by Maharaja Sir Hari Singh after Indian troops had assumed control of the Jammu and Kashmir State’s summer capital, Srinagar.
So, in the light of above facts, Pakistan cannot accept ‘special status’ as a fait accompli. Rather, it should focus on human rights violations, and Kashmiris’ right of self-determination under UN conventions. While agitating these issues, Pakistan should avoid the legal wizard, a self-styled ‘international-law expert’ and founder of a research society of international law, who selected Reqo Diq-fiasco incompetent legal team.
The dire predictions of Kashmir observers and human rights groups have proved correct. The special status given to India-held Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian constitution has been all but removed through a resolution in the upper house of parliament, in a move to avoid the lawful route of a constitutional amendment. India is poised to forcibly convert occupied Kashmir into a Union Territory in violation of all its commitments, including those made at the UN.
The resolution and a presidential order were used to deprive the Jammu & Kashmir assembly of the right to have a say in any changes desired in its status. Meanwhile, a bill in parliament called for separating Ladakh from J&K, but if this amounted to justifying the division of areas on the basis of faith, it was not something that the BJP leaders were likely to lose sleep over, reassured of their own powers of intimidation after their election win earlier this year. Not just that, they also drew strength from India’s image in the international community as a prospering capitalist model.
The changes reduce IHK to the status of a colony. The special status the region enjoyed since 1954 was basically a measure that guarded against any attempt at changing the demography of an overwhelmingly Muslim Kashmir. Its abolition could mean an invasion of the Valley sponsored by the BJP in its current belligerent mood.
The move will have violent consequences. The Kashmiris have shown in recent months that, although abandoned by many supporters, their ability to take on the might of the occupiers has far from diminished. In fact, it is the subterfuge, the force, the tricks employed by the BJP that have stoked the fires.
Pakistan has vowed to campaign against the new developments, which the world must have known were in the making. Serious concern of the latest Indian action in IHK was being expressed for some time. Pakistanis will be asking their government as to what exactly transpired, and in precisely what context did Kashmir feature, at the recent meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Donald Trump.
Indeed, Islamabad is being advised to link its support for the normalisation of Afghanistan in a post-American pullout scenario with Kashmir. That is easier said than done given the current sense of global indifference towards IHK. The world watched in silence as thousands of troops moved into the disputed occupied valley in recent days. Few took notice — even though there may be no cruder version of how a majority living by the tenets of an ideology built on fear of a minority than the one present today in Kashmir.
The hatred inherent in such a brand of politics has been formally accepted as fair and correct by a parliamentary decree in the biggest democracy of the world.