Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai
The sensitive and delicate comments by distinguished Indian Ambassador to Turkey, Ambassador Sanjay Panda, “Period after revocation of autonomy game-changer for Kashmir” (AA, August 6, 2021) need to be supplemented by some observations from the viewpoint of the people of Kashmir itself. These deserve to be borne in mind by all those who wish the conflict to be justly resolved once for all.
When asked about the delay in conducting plebiscite in Kashmir, Ambassador Panda said:
“We never had any problem with the UN resolutions. The first part of the UN resolution which talks about the plebiscite, says that the plebiscite will take place only after the withdrawal from areas of forcible occupation by the aggressor…So, first of all, the people who have the raiders, backed by the Pakistani army, had to first vacate the entire Jammu and Kashmir areas. The entire Jammu and Kashmir has to be returned to its pre-1947 status or before pre-accession status, and then the plebiscite will be held.”
Professor Joseph Korbel who was the first Chairman of “United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan” has responded to this question in his article, “Nehru, The UN and Kashmir” published in ‘The New Leader’ on March 4, 1957. He writes, “According to the Indian delegate, Pakistan prevented implementation of the section of the UN Commission resolution dealing with a plebiscite by refusing to carry out other part recommending demilitarization of Kashmir. This is not true: Pakistan was not expected to withdraw her forces from Kashmir as long as there was no agreed-upon plan for simultaneous Indian withdrawal.”
Ambassador Panda added: “The UN resolutions have now been overtaken by the events, reminding that the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan has affirmed to resolve the issues bilaterally without any third-party intervention or mediation.”
Let us respond to it dispassionately. Much is being made By Ambassador Panda of the fact that seventy-three years have passed since the resolutions on Kashmir were adopted at the United Nations. So he is trying to persuade the Republic of Turkey, now is the time to forget about these resolutions. Distinguished Ambassador Panda knows it well that mere passage of time cannot change the fact that these resolutions of the Security Council on Kashmir remain unimplemented until today. Secondly, the United Nations resolutions can never become obsolete, or overtaken by changed circumstances or events as Ambassador suggests. The passage of time cannot invalidate a principle – the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir. If passage of time were allowed to extinguish solemn international agreements, then the United Nations Charter should suffers the same fate as the resolutions on Kashmir. If non-implementation were to render an agreement defunct, then the Geneva Convention in twenty-first century in many countries is in no better condition than these resolutions.
Ambassador Panda has a point when he says that Simla Agreement has affirmed to resolve the Kashmir dispute bilaterally. Let us assume Ambassador Panda is right. Then how can we explain the assertion of Ambassador T. S. Tirumurtu, Indian Ambassador to the United Nations who said on August 2, 2021 that Kashmir was ‘integral and inalienable part of India? If Kashmir is an integral part of India, then what does India want to discuss with Pakistan under Simla Agreement.
Secondly, the Simla Agreement itself makes mention of “a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir” as one of the objectives of the two parties. Nothing would be more contrary to the Charter — and, therefore, to the Simla Agreement itself — than to bar recourse to the United Nations.
Distinguished Ambassador know that Simla Agreement provides that, ‘pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation.’ Therefore, abrogation of Article 370, 35A, Domicile Law are all in violation not only of Simla Agreement but also of the United Nations Security Council resolution # 122 “reaffirms the affirmation of its resolution 91 (1951) and declares that the convening of a constituent assembly as recommended by the General Council of the ‘All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference’ and any action that assembly may have taken or might attempt to take to determine the future shape and affiliation of the entire State or any part thereof, or any action by the parties concerned in support of any such action by the assembly, would not constitute a disposition of the State in accordance with the above principle.”
Ambassador Panda also said: “One of the major achievements has been the strengthening of the grassroots democracy that included elections to district development council and block and village levels. “What is more important for the first time, they were extended to women and the 98.3% turn out in the elections was recorded, which is kind of unprecedented,” Ambassador added.
If India boldly crosses the Rubicon by conducting free, fair and transparent elections reflective of the genuine sentiments of the Kashmiri people, as Ambassador Panda suggests, then a final peaceful settlement of the 73-year-old Kashmir conflict will be in sight.
But, unfortunately India always persisted in its colonial and antidemocratic ways in Kashmir. British historian, Bertrand Russell said in 1964, “The high idealism of the Indian government in international matters breaks down completely when confronted with the question of Kashmir.”
Jay Prakash Narayan who was known as ‘The Second Gandhi of India” confided to Indira Gandhi, in 1960: “We profess democracy but rule by force in Kashmir…The Kashmir problem exists not because Pakistan wants to grab Kashmir, but because there is deep and widespread political discontent among the people.”
P. K. Dave, former Chief Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Government, confessed in 1991 that, “Elections in Kashmir have been rigged from the beginning.”
Arundhati Roy, Booker Prizewinner said on September 27, 2009, “Elections in Kashmir have had a long and fascinating past. The blatantly rigged state election of 1987 was the immediate provocation for the armed uprising that began in 1990. Since then elections have become a finely honed instrument of the military occupation, a sinister playground for India’s deep state. After every election, the Indian establishment declares that India has won a popular mandate from the people of Kashmir.”
Dr. Shri Prakash in his book, ‘Twenty Tumultuous Years Insights into Indian Polity’ on page 568 writes, “The Kashmiri anger actually began with the mass rigging of elections in 1987. There is no use putting life in a corpse. Kashmiri leaders from Farooq Abdullah downwards have lost their credibility, they are totally irrelevant.”
Amy Waldman wrote in the New York Times on August 24, 2002 that “Rigged elections in Kashmir in 1989 helped trigger the armed uprising that India estimates has taken more than 35,000 lives.”
So, I believe that the cure for counterfeit elections in Kashmir, however, is not more of the same, but providing the genuine democratic article. Thus, the people of Kashmir are eager to participate in the any elections if they are conducted with the trapping of free and fair choice, monitored, conducted and supervised by a neutral agency like the United Nations.
Lastly, I would like to refresh the memory of Ambassador Panda that there was much in the deliberations of the Security Council that was controversial between India and Pakistan, but the proposal of a plebiscite was not one of them. This was clear from the statement made by India’s Ambassador to the UN, Sir Gopalaswamy Ayyangar at the Security Council on January 15, 1948: “The question … whether she [Kashmir] should withdraw from her accession to India, and either accede to Pakistan or remain independent with a right to claim admission as a member of the United Nations – all this we have recognized to be a matter for unfettered decision by the people of Kashmir.”