Internationalizing the Kashmir Dispute

Friday, January 7, 2011

By Dr Ahmad Rashid Malik

After a long pause, Kashmir has appeared on the international political radar once again. More than a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan, Kashmir is an outstanding dispute between India and the Kashmiris themselves. Usually, international society does not lend its weight to the resolution of this human problem spanning over 63 years.

The recent controversy on Kashmir came about through Iranian supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, who described Kashmir as a“separate nation.” His remarks turned India against Iran. Reacting angrily, India's External Ministry conveyed its “deep disappointment” to the Iranian envoy in New Delhi and abstained from a U.N. vote on November 19, 2010 against Iran concerning human rights violations. In the past, India always voted against the resolution.

The Indians brought the Iranian leader's remarks into conflict with Indian sensitivities and their territorial sovereignty – something that contradicts with the Kashmir dispute – a territorial violation of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and their political sovereignty over the past 63 years. The Indians are also using tactful diplomacy and trying to convince the Iranians to avoid showing sympathy to the Kashmiris – something that contradicts with Iranian policy toward the Muslim Ummah.

Khamenei's remarks appeared on the occasion of the Haj last year, when he appealed to the Muslim elites to back the struggle of the Kashmiris, equating it with Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and Pakistan. Kashmir's struggle is viewed by the Iranians with great sympathy and Islamic brotherhood. Normally, Iranians pray for the Kashmiris' struggle in their Friday prays, like other Muslims countries. Khameini putting Kashmir at the prism of deprived people of such Muslim countries is a great step toward Muslim brotherhood – Pan-Islamism – and solidarity with the Islamic Ummah.

On several occasions, India voted against Iran in the U.N. on the issue of Iran's nuclear enrichment. Tehran protested at New Delhi's 2008 deployment of a warship in the Persian Gulf region that operated in coordination with Western navies under NATO. Since July last year, Iran on three occasions has reacted to the situation in Kashmir. Pakistan's signing of a gas deal with Iran in August last and India's reluctance to join the deal – seemingly as a result of U.S. pressure – fanned the flames further.

Iran was also upset by the Indian authorities' crackdown on Muslim protesters desecration of the Holy Quran on the 9/11 anniversary last year. The Indian action was viewed as supporting acts of sacrilege.

The Indian establishment and pro-Indian Kashmir lobby were highly disappointed by the Iranian leader's remarks. They attempted to “correct” the situation by simply reiterating their rhetoric on Kashmir.

Since the renewed struggle started inside Kashmir in 1989, Indian officials themselves put the death toll at not less than 47,000. Human rights groups put the toll around 60,000 and other sources put it at not less than 90,000. Khamenei's remarks opened up Indian eyes about this cruel and inhuman aspect, which India is hiding under the carpet.

The chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, welcomed the Iranian statement, terming it “encouraging.” The United States, Britain and Japan have offered to mediate to solve the dispute, but India has repeatedly refused. Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu offered his mediation on Kashmir between India and Pakistan in 1990. Kashmir is listed as an “outstanding dispute” in U.N. documents. During his recent visit to India, U.S.
President Barrack Obama termed Kashmir “a dispute pending resolution.”

Like Iran and the United States, the international community and human rights movements should further urge a resolution of the Kashmir dispute to bring peace and prosperity to South Asia. Bilateralism never worked toward the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

In internationalizing the Kashmir dispute on the occasion of the Haj, Ayatollah Khamenei created feelings of solidarity amongst the Muslim community with significant impact.

Dr Ahmad Rashid Malik is Fellow of The Japan Foundation in Tokyo.

PanOrient News

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