Kashmir “Youm-e-Istehsal” By Shah MehmoodQureshi, Foreign Minister of Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD- Prime Minister Imran Khan, shortly after his election in 2018, declared that Pakistan “will take two steps towards peace, if India takes one.” He hoped that Pakistan and India would fight poverty instead of each other.

Unfortunately, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India has no interest in peace. India’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is steeped in the racist, hate-filled Hindutva creed of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary organization whose founding fathers wrote admiringly of Hitler and Mussolini.

New Delhi continued to spurn Pakistan’s offer for dialogue on the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir as well as other issues that bedevil our relationship. Prime Minister Modi, it appears, confused Pakistan’s desire for peace with weakness.

On Aug. 5, 2019, India imposed an armed siege and communications blackout on Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK). Since then, thousands of Kashmiris, including minors, have been arrested and tortured. Popular Kashmiri leaders, like the 91-year-old Ali Shah Geelani, have always been at the receiving end of Indian state repression. This time India did not even spare those political leaders, including three former chief ministers, who are seen by ordinary Kashmiris as enablers of the Indian occupation.

More than 8 million Kashmiris remain inmates in the largest open-air prison camp in the world today, with 900,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces standing watch over them. No credible observer or human rights organization can visit them lest their voices be heard. India has forbidden U.S. Senators from visiting Kashmir. It has detained and deported a sitting British Member of Parliament because she had criticized Indian human rights violations in Kashmir.

Since August 5 last year, the first anniversary of India’s military siege and lockdown in IIOJK, its security forces have killed 390 Kashmiris. In 2021 alone, some 85 Kashmiris have been murdered in extra-judicial killings. Indian security forces routinely stage fake encounters to kill young Kashmiri protestors, and use pellet guns against women and children, blinding and maiming hundreds.

As Pakistan had warned, the Indian government is proceeding with the enactment of illegal measures to effect demographic change in Kashmir. The displacement of the local population by non-residents in an internationally disputed territory is a violation of international law and, in particular, the Fourth Geneva Convention. The entire spectrum of Kashmiri political leadership has rejected these moves by the Indian government to create “settler colonies.”

India harbors ambitions to be a great power. Indeed, it has powerful champions who want to help India become a great power, but look the other way when India makes a mockery of the democratic values and human rights that they espouse.

It is incumbent on the international community to call India out on its atrocities against the Kashmiri people and push it towards a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute. While a tenuous ceasefire has held across the Line of Control since February, the situation remains tense. And with the situation in Afghanistan rapidly deteriorating, renewed regional tensions over Kashmir are in no one’s interest.

There is only one solution. India needs to reverse its actions of August 5, 2019, and create conditions for a result-oriented dialogue with Pakistan and the legitimate representatives of the Kashmiri people towards the resolution of this longstanding dispute.

The people of South Asia – one of the poorest regions in the world – yearn for peace, prosperity, and a better future for their children. They should not be held hostage to India’s stubborn refusal to face reality: that there can be no peace in South Asia without the peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

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