Editor’s note: This article contains graphic content.
At the 69th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on September 21, 2016, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared that Pakistan, in order to match India’s military “stockpile” (most likely referring to recent deals with Israel, Russia and the United States, totaling to upwards of $10 billion in sales), would “take whatever measures are necessary to maintain credible deterrence.” Of course, such a dialogue between two states that share infamous rivalries is expected. That both of these states are part of the world’s eight nuclear powers should spring no surprise either; coincidentally, the most bitter disputes in global geopolitics (from a historical perspective, anyway) seem to unanimously share the narrative of parties involved in acquiring — or at least attempting to acquire nuclear arms/weapons — at some point in time. The real crisis is that these similarities are blatantly ignored by the international community at large and this cycle of dull-minded competition continues, despite warnings from foreign policy analysts and scientists alike that such events could mean utter catastrophe.
Why, in this particular case, is such a prophecy important to recall and acknowledge? Notice that the only states involved in negotiating arms sales to India and Pakistan are among the world’s most powerful nuclear nations. Whether or not this is entirely by chance is a ridiculous and irrelevant question; a wonderful proof being that even though the United States wishes to remain “neutral” on the crux of the conflict, it still allows US arms manufacturers to aggressively advertise and advocate for new deals of even newer weapons to either side. Furthermore, when coming to Russia and Israel, Pakistan famously earned the cold shoulders of the former when it decided to violently oppose the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan, and the latter when it refused to recognize its legal status as the “Jewish Homeland” until Palestinians are allowed to fully exercise their rights in the occupied territories. Although, China has decided to come to the rescue of Pakistan, in more ways than one as it so happens, most likely because of India’s hateful brooding over China’s Kashmiri property, the Aksai Chin region, and also China’s foreign policy strategy for a long time, with good reason, has been to oppose any position that the United States or its closest allies take concerning international affairs. Despite all of this, though, to the credit of these countries, they all ultimately want a peaceful solution.
In fact, these nuclear nations will not even have to worry about providing a compelling basis for diplomatic maneuvers; India has made one for them and in quite a painfully obvious way. After a state election in 1987, that was widely considered, and correctly so, as an unmitigated sham by Kashmiri voters, an insurgent war against the Indian state consisting of terror, chaos and overwhelming numbers of human rights violations has engulfed the region. Indeed, a good number of these violations can be attributed to armed insurgent groups, but there is a stark difference between who is more accountable in the grand view: India, as “the world’s largest democracy,” is to hold itself responsible in the service of several significant ideals. Perhaps the most morally compelling of these, and most universally recognized, is the protection of its own citizens, a maxim that the Indian Army and other militias sponsored by the Indian government seem hell-bent on contradicting.
For example, the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Coalition Society, a leading independent human rights collective in the state, recently released a landmark report entitled “Structures of Violence“; it narrates, with unflinching scrutiny, how India’s military presence of more than 700,000 troops in Jammu and Kashmir has given birth to a monstrous police regime replete with cases of horrors ranging from illegal killings to sadistic sexual violence. As India is an official signatory to the United Nations Convention against Torture (the state has yet to ratify it for predictable reasons), it might be instructive to exclusively look at the 49 incidents wherein the Indian government brazenly flouts this treaty. Most telling are the cases in which the Special Operations Group (an elite division of the state’s police force) tortured subjects, including pregnant women, for extended amounts of time by having their genitals repeatedly electrocuted or set on fire (to the extent of complete loss of function), anuses sodomized by rods, bodies crushed by heavy iron rollers, and the list can be read on and on if one has the stomach for it.
Yet, a 2015 Amnesty International report states that, “To date, not a single member of the security forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir over the past 25 years has been tried for alleged human rights violations in a civilian court.” Moreover, these iniquities show no sign of ending. Since the start of July 2016, India has been overtly committing countless similar crimes in Indian-Occupied Kashmir. Not surprisingly, it started with an extrajudicial execution of a militant known as Burhan Wani, seen as a significant revolutionary for a majority of Kashmir’s population, along with two of his colleagues. The resulting protests sparked the Indian government and alleged war criminal leader Prime Minister Narendra Modi into action, and now, there have been countless reports of mass blindings and severe injuries, with the civilian casualty figure surpassing the 85 deaths mark. As a result of these crimes, India has lost 19 soldiers after what was presumably a retaliatory attack, and is intent on losing more after pushing news that the state conducted a successful surgical strike on supposed Pakistani “terrorist cells,” even though the veracity of the claim has been questioned. Real or not, the ambition of India with this extremely provocative act is clear: goad Pakistan into engagement, cry foul or “terrorism” and seek a war that would undoubtedly have the support of other nations famously known around the world for “fighting terrorism” — like the US.
This is not a certainty or ultimatum. The most prominent players in this conflict — Israel, Russia, China, the United States and the United Nations — all want peace, and, if equipped with common sense, they can achieve it quite easily by asking India to:
- Repeal several absolutely bogus statutes like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act that allows the Indian Army to commit human rights violations with immunity;
- Ask them to completely cease their operations (in essence, withdraw all military personnel) in Kashmir;
- Ask India to live up to its self-proclaimed title of the “world’s largest democracy” and grant the Kashmiris’ rights as Indian citizens by allowing a basic referendum on the question of self-determination, whatever the outcome might be.
Finally, these five players should ask India to keep something in mind if it is inclined towards refusal: At a certain point, the whole of Kashmir will have to decide if violent force is the only recourse citizens can pursue for their rights, and if such is the case, then opponents will sacrifice the right to call it “militant terrorism.”