India is playing with fire on Kashmir

By Lan Jianxue Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/18 20:53:39

Photo: IC

Pakistan's army is ready to defend the nation "if India resorts to any misadventure to divert the world's attention from Kashmir lockdown," Dubai-based Gulf News quoted Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi as saying on Saturday. The remark came after New Delhi revoked the special status for India-controlled Kashmir on August 5, transferring the region by force into alleged Indian territory. 

New Delhi's intention may be to completely change the status quo of the disputed region by revising its domestic law. But its careless move could put the already fragile geopolitical balance at risk, with many fearing the situation could deteriorate in the future.

The Kashmir issue has long been the bone of contention in India-Pakistan relations. Since the two self-governing countries of India and Pakistan legally came into existence in August 1947, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought at least three wars over the Kashmir region.

From Pakistan's perspective, India's unilateral decision changed the status quo through a constitutional provision, harming Pakistan's sovereignty and security interests.

India's move also hurts China's sovereign rights. China's Foreign Ministry stated that "China is always opposed to India's inclusion of the Chinese territory in the western sector of the China-India boundary into its administrative jurisdiction." India's move poses enormous risks to India-Pakistan relations and the strategic situation in Asia.

Since Burhan Muzaffar Wani, commander of the pro-Pakistani Kashmiri militant organization Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed by Indian security forces in southern Kashmir three years ago, chaos has overwhelmed the region. Unilaterally changing the status quo will worsen Kashmir's security situation. 

India-Pakistan ties will be substantially impacted. On August 7, Islamabad said it would "downgrade" diplomatic relations with New Delhi and "will call back our ambassador from Delhi and send back their envoy." India's decision will strike a crushing blow to the already fraught relations and push both sides to the brink of war. The two hostile neighbors have already started a new round of fire exchange across the border. The international community has largely expressed deep concern over the situation in Kashmir.

There could be a sharp rise in violence and terrorist attacks in Kashmir. India-controlled Kashmir has always been fragile in terms of security. Relations between the locals and military and police have been strained. New Delhi's unilateral decision could provoke anti-government armed forces and escalate turmoil. The incident could serve as a catalyst, reacting to existing religious conflicts and military confrontation, and could deteriorate the security situation in South Asia and jeopardize regional security.

After the decision was announced, media outlets in India heaped praise upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration. It mirrored extreme Hindu nationalism. Modi won his reelection partly thanks to his tough stance toward Pakistan and support to Hindu nationalism. However, once nationalist sentiment spirals out of control, it could severely affect India-Pakistan ties. 

Some Hindus have long been hostile to Pakistan and Muslims. Kashmir's situation could intensify external religious and ethnic conflicts. India has succeeded in arousing nationalist sentiment. But it has created underlying problems for itself as well. When the Modi administration fails to meet absurd nationalist demands, it will be trapped between two fires.

Unlike the public opinion inside India, the international community has opposed New Delhi's unilateral decision. India's move is not in line with international law. It also violated an earlier consensus relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral accords which India had reached with Pakistan.

India insists the Kashmir issue is a bilateral issue and has refused third-party mediation. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted on August 4, "President Trump offered to mediate on Kashmir." It triggered an anti-US wave in India. If the Kashmir dispute continues to escalate and create more tensions between India and Pakistan, the UN Security Council may have to take necessary actions. 

As a responsible member of the international community and a stakeholder in the Kashmir region, China has to express serious concern and oppose India's attempt to incorporate Chinese territory into its national jurisdiction. China could also promote dialogue, urging India and Pakistan to handle the Kashmir issue through restraint, as a peaceful resolution would be in the fundamental interests of both sides.

In essence, the Kashmir conflict is a dispute left over by the British colonialists and should be peacefully resolved according to the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral accords. And both India and Pakistan should heed the international community's call to prevent an armed conflict.

The author is the Deputy Director of the Department for Asia-Pacific Studies at China Institute of International Studies.


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