HISTORY OF THE CONFLICT
The region of Jammu and Kashmir has been the subject of dispute for over seven decades since the end of British rule in India and the establishment of Pakistan and India as two separate nation-states. Following Partition, the Maharajah of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir signed an Instrument of Accession. However, the legality of this Instrument of Accession has been strongly contested. None of the subsequent agreements (Tashkent Agreement (1966), the Simla Agreement (1972), and the Lahore Declaration (1999) have been successful essentially because the people of Kashmir have not been involved. Both India and Pakistan now have access to arsenals of nuclear weapons, making the prospect of a nuclear confrontation a realistic possibility. The issue of Kashmir was debated in the UN Security Council in 1948. The resolution that emerged called for a plebiscite which would allow the Kashmiri people themselves to determine their political future. This plebiscite has never taken place and the inability of India and Pakistan to agree on the implementation of this Resolution is the reason for the extraordinary length of time that this dispute has continued.
The Kashmir conflict has prompted no less than three wars over the past seven decades. The prospect of a further war, this time involving nuclear weapons, makes the resolution of this dispute an urgent necessity. Although the Kashmir dispute is usually considered a conflict between India and Pakistan, China also controls a part of the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir, known as Aksai Chin. This region is under China’s administration, but is claimed by India as an integral part of the disputed Ladakh region. While China has not actively participated in the Kashmir dispute and maintains a position that the dispute should be settled bilaterally between India and Pakistan, China does essentially lay claim to part of the Kashmir region. It is needless to point out that these three countries all possess nuclear weapons. China has gradually been taking a more predominant role in global politics and in addition, maintains a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
In its strategy to contain China, the international community does not hesitate to criticize China’s human rights record, but the world has continued to look away and close its eyes to the human rights violations that are taking place in Indian-held Kashmir. The stories of abuses, rape and torture practices by Indian security forces will keep awake each and every individual at night.
THE SITUATION AS IT STANDS TODAY
There is still no resolution to this conflict, but we are confident that by increasing awareness of the situation amongst the International Community, and the community getting involved in the pursuit of a solution, the quicker we will be able to see an end to this conflict. If human rights, equality and democracy genuinely matter to the West, it is now time to address effectively the issue of Kashmir. The only way to move towards a resolution on Kashmir is to touch the root cause of the conflict and to prioritize above all the overall dire living conditions of the Kashmiri people who have been deprived of their right of self-determination. Moving towards a resolution of the dispute is essential to bringing back peace to the Kashmiris and the wider South Asian region.
THE KASHMIR CONFLICT AND THE STRUGGLE FOR ITS RESOLUTION
For more than 12 years, the Kashmir Council-EU has been working at the heart of the European Union (EU) in order to raise awareness of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and to revitalise the conversation in how to achieve lasting peace and stability in this volatile region. The Council has also set up a documentation and research center (KDRC) where visitors have access to the latest published material and research on the situation in Kashmir.
If it is only ever the same voices that are heard, people might stop listening, therefore we must ensure that more people are made aware of the situation and decide to speak up about it, and demand an end to the human rights violations. We believe that the European Union is uniquely placed to play a leading role in formulating a response to the Kashmir question.
The EU presents itself as a champion of human rights, it has a traditional and historical link with the region, and it has a real interest in maintaining regional stability. It is essential that the EU is encouraged to play a positive role as a mediator and facilitator of negotiations toward a peace settlement. Unless some pressure is put on the region to settle the dispute and to end the human rights violations, it is more likely that the region will never see a resolution come to pass. It is for that reason that it is imperative for the EU to get involved, as their support and demand for a solution will make a resolution far more likely. Europe must stand up for the rights of the Kashmiris which will ultimately deliver effective results for both regional peace and security and that of the entire world.
The 1972 Shimla Agreement defined the Kashmir conflict as an internal matter to be settled by negotiation between India and Pakistan. By defining it this manner, it has deprived Kashmiris of a voice in the debate about their future. With the help and support of the European Parliament (EP) and other relevant EU bodies, the Council seeks to encourage the international community to proactively engage with the Indian government at the highest levels to address all the pressing issues, to press for a reversal of repressive policies and practices, and to ensure the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The voice of the Kashmiris in the debate about their destiny needs to be restored. To accomplish these objectives, the Kashmir Council-EU has designed a common agenda with various fresh initiatives that are best suited to the time and the circumstances while respecting the principles of accountability and transparency. The Council’s 2014-19 activities have resulted in the achievement of a number of our goals including:
- the establishment of an inter-parliamentary group of MEPs – the Friends of Kashmir Group
- creation and fostering of good connections with international and national organisations in the form of NGOs, MEPs, media services and universities
- effective raising awareness campaigns of the general breakdown of the rule of law and all cases of continued violations of human rights and curtailment of public liberties to the attention of high-level EU officials and relevant international organisations
- coordinated and organised forums, meetings, seminars and exhibitions in the national parliaments and the European Parliament which have increased the awareness of the seriousness of the situation in Kashmir
- an exchange of views in the European Parliament on the human rights situation (Jan 19, 2019)
- plenary debate on the human rights in Kashmir in the European Parliament (Sep 2, 2019)