Kashmir Conflict Hits Boiling Point at United Nations
The General Assembly of the United Nations last week signified a new arena for the discussion of the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned India in terms that marked the possibility of war.
Khan’s speech marks the recent collapse in interstate dialogue after Indian authorities imposed a curfew over Jammu and Kashmir — India’s only Muslim-majority state — and revoked its autonomy.
Jammu and Kashmir was formed in 1947 when its prince decided to join India. Neighboring Pakistan maintains a significantly smaller piece of the region.
India’s actions in Kashmir have been warmly received by supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who see the termination of Kashmiri autonomy as a justified reaction to the belligerent separatism in the region
Local officials have said that at least 2,000 people were detained by Indian soldiers in the days preceding the crackdown in Kashmir. India has since cut off contact for Kashmir’s population of eight million – access to the internet, mobile phones, and landlines were all severed. The United Nations Human Rights Office said it is “gravely concerned” regarding the Prime Minister’s nationalist policies.
Analysts have since labeled the contentious move as the final piece in Modi’s puzzle, saying that the postponed state elections in Kashmir and the erasure of Kashmir’s autonomy in a recent amendment to the Indian Constitution – on which Kashmiri representatives were not consulted – were designed to create ambiguity in local leadership and legal pathways to surrender of power.
“What is going to happen when the curfew is lifted will be a bloodbath,” Khan said. “They will be out in the streets. And what will the soldiers do? They will shoot them… Kashmiris will be further radicalized.”
Modi did not directly mention the territorial conflict in his United Nations speech, which was an hour before Khan’s. He did, however, warn about terrorism.
“We belong to a country that has given the world not war, but Buddha’s message of peace,” Modi asserted. “And that is the reason why our voice against terrorism, to alert the world about this evil, rings with seriousness and outrage.”
The move to disempower Kashmir, a flashpoint in Indo-Pakistani tensions, has been years in the making. The region has been smoldered by economic problems, chaotic protests, and innumerable deaths. In the 1990s, Pakistan allowed border access to jihadists, creating a proxy army to besiege Indian-administered Kashmir and sparking heavy conflict. Pakistan has been internationally suspected of furtively supporting the Kashmiri insurgency, although support for the insurgency has waned and the Indian military outnumbers rebels 1,000 to one.
Despite Modi’s attempted characterizations of India’s military occupation of Kashmir as a necessary recourse against terrorism, Khan used his General Assembly speech to highlight the crisis in Kashmir and implore the United Nations to intervene. The conflict has stirred heavy jingoist sentiments, with US President Donald Trump urging both nuclear-armed countries to collaborate to reach a diplomatic solution on the geopolitically complex region. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in his UN speech that “China hopes to see the dispute effectively managed and stability restored to the relationship between the two sides.”
Khan cautioned against the inevitable retribution of Kashmiris.
“Would I want to live like that?” He said. “I would pick up a gun.”