The future of Kashmir cannot be determined by India unilaterally, observed lawmakers from EU and UK, who affirmed the right of the Kashmiri people as principal stakeholders of the conflict.
With the UNGA’s 75th session scheduled in days, lawmakers, diplomats and journalists from the EU, UK, India, Pakistan and Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and Azad Kashmir agreed that the international community must know how Kashmir had become extremely restive since Aug 5 last year, and this comes with implications for conflict escalation in the region.
This was stated at Jinnah Institute’s webinar titled, ‘The Future of Kashmir: A Test for Global Multilateralism and Regional Peace’.
The session was chaired by Senator Sherry Rehman, president of the Jinnah Institute, and participants included UK Member of Parliament (MP) Andrew Gwynne, Senior journalist from IIOJK Iftikhar Gilani, Member of European Parliament (MEP) Michael Gahler, former Pakistan ambassador to the US and EU Tariq Fatemi, Indian columnist and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Sudheendra Kulkarni, former MEP Julie Ward and IIOJK-based professor Dr Siddiq Wahid.
Issue likened to tinderbox ready to go off any time
Senator Rehman said that Kashmir was the oldest issue on the agenda of the United Nations, and it must not be forgotten or treated as an inconvenient regional issue that could be pushed aside by the international community. Both as a strategic issue and an international dispute that lies at the fault line between two nuclear countries that have gone to war over Kashmir, the matter can not be treated as an internal issue of India, especially after the brutal unilateralism that New Delhi has shown. The fact that India refuses to talk about it with Pakistan, and to allow the Kashmiri people to decide their own future is in itself a grave repudiation of fundamental rights, and puts at risk not just the Kashmiri people who have been subject to a cascade of draconian laws in IIOJK that strip them of any justice or rights, but also puts the future of South Asia in jeopardy.
Sardar Masood Khan, President of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, in his statement during the webinar, observed that the future of Kashmiri people was bleak if the international community does not intervene, urging the UK and EU parliaments to focus on the IIOJK situation before it was too late.
President Masood Khan said that the situation on the ground was nothing better than a foreign occupation whose driving force was a fascist Hindutva agenda. “The BJP is steering demographic change in a bid to manipulate voter turnout in its favour, and any claims about Pakistan supporting the current freedom struggle are categorically false; they should be seen as attempts to obfuscate the indigenous nature of the uprising.”
He proposed a move to resolve the Kashmir issue by starting an international rights movement that reached out to Indian civil society, politicians and international partners who recognised and opposed the BJP’s rights violations in Kashmir.
British MP Andrew Gwynne from the Labour Party agreed that the Kashmir needed an international focus and identified the need to re-educate UK citizens on the issue. He said that Britain was responsible as it left the Kashmir issue unresolved at the time of the partition, and added that his country had a positive role to play as a member of the UN Security Council.
“The world cannot afford two nuclear states to enter into a conflict,” MP Gwynne stated during the webinar.
MP James Daly from the Conservative Party highlighted the significance of recognising oppressed Kashmiris’ inalienable right of self-determination. He recounted his visit to AJK in February 2020 along with other lawmakers, where his delegation was given free access to interact with citizens at all levels in order to ascertain the situation on the ground.
“We were treated with complete openness…unfortunately, our group was not let into India, and we were not able to speak with the Indian government in a free and open manner,” he stated.
Veteran Kashmiri journalist Iftikhar Gilani said that Kashmiri history, culture and language was being erased by the BJP’s Hindutva onslaught against the Muslim majority state. He stated that the economy and local industry had suffered immensely because of the prolonged lockdown and connectivity breakdowns, leading to socio-economic hardship on top of grave human rights violations.