India’s decision to abrogate Article 370 shook Pakistan’s leadership. Most Pakistani leaders, uneducated on the manner Article 370 was introduced into the Indian Constitution, and its international legal ramifications, began accusing India of diluting UNSC resolutions on Kashmir. Article 370 was included in the Constitution of 1950 as a temporary provision, while UNSC resolution No 47, concerning the Kashmir conflict is of 21 April 1948. The two are neither linked nor was the UNSC resolution considered when India included Article 370 in its constitution.
Hence, the Indian decision to revoke it neither impinges on its bilateral relations nor does it threaten international peace and security. Rightly were Pakistan’s claims on Indian actions ignored internationally. Pakistan on the other hand has violated the UNSC resolution by changing the status of POK on multiple occasions. It enacted the Interim Constitution Act, 1974; the Gilgit Baltistan (Empowerment & Self-governance) Order, 2009 (amended in 2018); separated it from POK and abolished the ‘state-subject’ stipulation in 1974. It illegally ceded 5,180 square km of POK to China in 1963. Legally therefore, it is India which can take Pakistan to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Pakistani legal expert to the ICJ, Khawar Qureshi, mentioned in his advice to the Pakistan government, “anybody looking at India and Pakistan and what is going on in Kashmir, sitting elsewhere, may have a different view and consider J and K as an inalienable part of India.” He advised Pakistan against approaching the ICJ. This led to Pakistan adopting different strategies. Pakistan remains aware that it has no military option. Pakistan commenced its anti- India campaign, claiming India is changing the demography of the valley and acting against UNSC resolutions. It howled that abrogating Article 370 could impact the Muslim majority status of Kashmir and hence any plebiscite under the UNSC resolution.
It sought international mediation on Kashmir based on the UN resolution, ignoring the fact that the resolution was overridden by the Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration, making the issue bilateral. None of these agreements could be abrogated by Pakistan alone. Pakistan was ignored. Pakistan then changed tack and began projecting possible Indian genocide in the state. It claimed Indian closure of Kashmir and induction of security forces was an indicator of India attempting a genocide. This was also ignored as unlike Baluchistan where mass graves and tortured bullet- ridden bodies are discovered daily, there are none in Kashmir.
Realisation dawned on Pakistan that unless there is violence and bloodshed in the valley, it would never gain international support. It recommenced infiltrating terrorists with the aim of targeting security forces or even civilians, hoping for casualties. Presently, terrorists are targeting civilians as recent incidents indicate. In case of a major strike, India would retaliate, as it did post Uri and Pulwama. This was projected as an Indian false-flag operation, which could lead to a nuclear war. Imran began writing, tweeting and speaking on this scenario. His ministers and army spokespersons raised bogeys of a nuclear conflict. The world ignored this call. India and the world called the Pakistani bluff, though Pakistan continues hyping it as a face saver, in case India acts on a terrorist strike.
When it received no support, Pakistan accused OIC nations of being anti-Muslim. It recently played on vote bank politics in Britain, which is on the verge of elections. The two gatherings of Pakistani nationals and Khalistan supporters leading to attacks on the Indian High Commission bear witness to this. It aims to convey its control over Muslim and Sikh votes. Simultaneously, it began accusing India of Human Rights violations by closing mobile services and imposing restrictions. It ignores its own actions in POK, Baluchistan and Waziristan. For its selfish need of spreading fake information and fomenting violence, Pakistan needs mobile connectivity in the valley.
This is Pakistan’s accusation and on this it has received some support. The Saudi Times of 31 August states, “General Secretariat (OIC) reiterated its solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It calls for the immediate lifting of the curfew, restoration of communication and respect for fundamental rights of Kashmiris.” It added, “resumption of dialogue process between Pakistan and India is essential.” The US stated it was “concerned about the continuing communication restrictions and detentions in the Valley.” French President Emmanuel Macron called for the rights of people to be maintained. The British foreign secretary stated, “allegations of HR violations, if any, must be investigated.”
He added, that “the dispute is a bilateral issue.” Thus, for the international community the issue is human rights due to the security and communication lockdown. India had faced similar comments in the past, including OHCHR reports, which it rejected. The world has stood by the Indian decision that abolition of Article 370 is an internal matter. It has also supported the Indian view that Kashmir is a bilateral issue. Harping on human rights is an international phenomenon. Nations handle comments on human rights in their own ways. China has been criticised for violating human rights of Uyghurs, Israel for ignoring the rights of Palestinians, Sri Lanka for violating rights of Tamils, Myanmar for human rights violations of Rohingyas, Europe for ignoring rights of refugees, US for violating human rights of illegal migrant children detainees and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia for human rights of minorities. Nations either ignore the criticism or state these are internal matters.
After the passing of five resolutions against Israel and criticism on its own handling of migrant children, the US withdrew from the UNHRC in June 2018. UNHRC resolutions are not legally binding but carry moral authority. India may have to consider its approach, when the UNHRC meets this week and under pressure from Pakistan decides to discuss Kashmir. Pakistan’s attempts to push for reinstatement of Article 370 and international mediation has been ignored globally. Their claims of receiving international support are only for domestic consumption. Human rights criticism will fizzle away with time. It is time Pakistan accepted reality and created conditions for talks by stopping the export of terrorists, rather than threaten war.
(The writer is a retired Major General of the Indian Army)