By Haris Bilal Malik
The contemporary regional security dynamics of South Asia have become more complex during the last two years. This is primarily because of the core issue of Kashmir between India and Pakistan that remains unresolved for decades. In August 2019, India revoked the special constitutional status of the Kashmir region through the controversial “Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act”. It involved the termination of Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution that have previously granted special constitutional status to the disputed Kashmir region. This was a unilateral move and a political annexation of the already disputed region. Under this annexation, India has forcefully made the Kashmir region part of its union by dividing it into two new union territories i.e. ‘Jammu’ and ‘Ladakh’. Despite the criticism from all around the world, India had also imposed a brutal lockdown in the region which reportedly remains partially imposed to date. Since then, the tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals in South Asia have only intensified. The situation in the region has become even worse than ever before. Moreover, prominent countries have criticized Indian unilateral actions and emphasized its peaceful resolution. This appears as an endorsement of Pakistan’s diplomatic stance on Kashmir.
Very recently, on February 23, 2021, Turkey brought the Kashmir issue to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. While addressing the 47-member council, Turkish Foreign Minister Mr. Mevlut Cavusoglu urged for the resolution of this long-held issue under the UN resolutions and the will of Kashmiri people that include their legitimate right of ‘self-determination’. He further reiterated that the Indian government must ease the restrictions in Kashmir while emphasizing the peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue under the UN resolutions. Given the worsening situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), this position maintained by Turkey holds significant weightage for Pakistan’s diplomatic stance on this long-held issue. This significantly adds to the value of endorsements that are pouring into Pakistan’s principled stance on Kashmir. Furthermore, Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts of highlighting the Kashmir issue ever since the Indian imposed brutal lockdown are acknowledged by the international community. During the year 2020 and even now in 2021, this has become a manifestation of Pakistan’s appropriate foreign policy approach vis-à-vis the settlement of the Kashmir issue.
Many significant developments have further internationalized the Kashmir issue and the recent Turkish urge appears to be in-line with it. For instance, the significance of the Kashmir issue is evident from the very fact that it was one of the crucial agenda items during the last two sessions of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) i.e. 74th Session and 75th Session that were held in 2019 and 2020 respectively. During these sessions, some prominent leaders of the world had openly criticized the Indian atrocities in the occupied Kashmir and deliberated on the peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue. In this regard, Turkish president Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speech at the UNGA 74th session was quite impactful. He maintained that Kashmir is the main issue in South Asia and the peace and stability are linked with its peaceful settlement. He also criticized the international community for not paying attention to this long-held issue. Moreover, this stance was reiterated during his official visit to Pakistan in February 2020. While addressing the joint session of Parliament, he maintained that the situation in Kashmir is alarming and once again criticized India’s annexation. Further, the dispute can only be settled through peaceful means and dialogue. The recent Turkish position on Kashmir in the UN Human Rights Council is a continuation of its principled stance on Kashmir that considerably endorses Pakistan’s diplomatic stance.
The great powers like China, Russia, and the US have also shown their concerns over the Kashmir region and the worsening situation there. Specifically, China remains the country that has brought the Kashmir issue to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and UNGA time and again. Similarly, there has been a considerable shift in the Russian stance on the Kashmir issue since it has offered to mediate between the two countries against the backdrop of the recent crisis. The US, being the sole superpower seems to be deeply concerned with the Kashmir issue. In this regard, it has also offered to mediate between India and Pakistan. In the same vein, the UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres also showed his apprehensions while he was on an official visit to Pakistan in February last year. He urged both the countries to hold maximum restraint. Such realization within the international community and the mediation offers of the great powers like the US and Russia further endorse Pakistan’s diplomatic stance on Kashmir. However, as opposed to this, India propagates Kashmir as its internal matter and has been negating any third-party mediation for decades now. This is even further evident from the recent letter of the Indian Prime Minister Modi to Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he desired cordial relations with Pakistan based on an environment of trust among others. However, unfortunately, there wasn’t a single mention of the real bone of contention between the two countries i.e. the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Hence in all, it is quite apparent that Pakistan’s principled diplomatic stance on Kashmir has been acknowledged by the international community. Even though the OIC as a whole and the Gulf States are quite reluctant to openly support Pakistan and criticize India, the former succeeded to get firm support for its principled stance on Kashmir. Unfortunately, it is the other way around since the Gulf States are enhancing their relations with India. Whereas, the Turkish leadership while acknowledging Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts is openly criticizing the Indian brutalities in Kashmir on humanitarian, political, and diplomatic grounds. This in turn would further strengthen the bilateral relationship of both countries and further vindicate Pakistan’s principled stance on Kashmir.
Haris Bilal Malik works as a Research Associate at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) in Islamabad, Pakistan.