IT IS TIME FOR RUSSIA TO TAKE A STAND FOR KASHMIR

If one goes by the intensity of disputes and the magnitudes of their probable consequences, the Kashmir dispute is the most dangerous issue with potential for devastating violence and destruction. That destruction and violence will not remain confined to Pakistan and India or South Asia but its consequences will reach far ends of this entire region as well.

On August 05, 2019, the Indian state in a blatant display of arrogance and a complete disregard for international law and human rights revoked Article 370 of its constitution which gave special status to the state of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Except for Pakistan and Turkey, and to some extent Iran (with careful wordplay), the entire international community remained silent on India’s illegal annexation of Jammu & Kashmir. Even the ‘champions of human rights’ namely the United States of America and the European countries seemed to have lost their tongues  to raise their voices against the Indian state’s atrocities against the innocent people of IOK.

Kashmir has been under siege for more than a month now with complete disconnect from rest of the world. Internet and media were blocked as the first and foremost measure by the Indian state to ensure that no news regarding the occupying forces’ brutalities against the people of IOK reaches the outside world.Schools, hospitals, offices and markets have been under complete shut down since August 05. Numerous precious lives have been lost due to lack of healthcare facilities and people being unable to leave their homes.

As the world kept watching Jammu and Kashmir burn, Pakistan opened up an unprecedented diplomatic and media front and became the only voice for the oppressed people ofJammu and Kashmir. Every capital of the world was approached and every international forum utilized by Pakistan (in the month) to make the international community aware of what India was doing in Kashmir and to garner support and sympathy for the brutalized Kashmiris but to no avail.

Several human rights organisations, including the United Nations have been calling India out on the human rights violations that have been taking place in IOK but the extremist-infested, far-right BJP government under Modi refuses to budge under any circumstances. The main reason behind such arrogance of the Indian state is the deliberate ignorance and reluctance of the international community to address the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, which by the way, is the oldest pending dispute on the United Nation’s agenda for the last 70 years.

If one goes by the intensity of disputes and the magnitudes of their probable consequences, the Kashmir dispute is the most dangerous issue with potential for devastating violence and destruction. That destruction and violence will not remain confined to Pakistan and India or South Asia but its consequences will reach far ends of this entire region as well.

Pakistan and India are both nuclear weapon states with two of the world’s largest standing armies. The Kashmir issue is the major dispute between these two nuclear armed neighbours which have resulted in multiple wars and countless skirmishes in the past as well. It is a nuclear flashpoint. For the past seventy years, Pakistan and India have been unsuccessful in finding a political solution to the dispute which has resulted in the perpetual suffering of the innocent people of Kashmir. It is about time the regional powers, namely Russia, realise the gravity of the situation in South Asia and help in resolving the Kashmir dispute.

Russia enjoys good relations with India and since 2014; its relations with Pakistan have also embarked on an upward trajectory. Russia can play an extremely positive intermediary role on the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India. This role can be played individually and outside the jurisdiction of any multilateral organisation or through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as well since Pakistan and India are now full members of the organisation.

The SCO is a dynamic organisation and its platform can be used to resolve the only major territorial issue between two of its member countries and Russia should play its role in resolving the Kashmir dispute. Russia is a major power. It enjoys considerable influence and respect in the region and internationally as well. Any efforts made by Russia to amicably resolve the Kashmir dispute via negotiations and political means will be welcomed, especially by the people of Kashmir.

Not much is expected from the United States in this regard, especially since the Indo-US bonhomie which began a few years ago, combined with the US strategy to keep the Asian continent in turmoil; it is a great opportunity for Russia to get constructively involved in regional politics and manifest itself as a cohesive force in the region.

Although it might sound like wishful thinking but as Nelson Mandela said, “It always seem impossible until it’s done”, but if countries like Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and India have normal relations with each other void of any territorial disputes and political issues, the Eurasian region will turn into the biggest pool of human resource (skilled and unskilled) with the largest landmass in the world with abundant natural resources.

The US has already called Russia and China as resurgent powers and threats to its national security. It is playing the role of a divider in Asia and fully pursuing its China-containment and Anti-Pan Eurasian policy. Imagine an Asia without the Kashmir dispute between two nuclear armed Pakistan and India. The social, political and economic benefits of the resolution of the Kashmir dispute will be beyond measure. Not just for Pakistan and India but for the entire continent. The Russian idea of Eurasian integration will finally see itself to fruition and due to its unmatched potential; it will only be matter of time that this region will become centre for world commerce and trade.

Although it might sound like wishful thinking but as Nelson Mandela said, “It always seem impossible until it’s done”, but if countries like Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and India have normal relations with each other void of any territorial disputes and political issues, the Eurasian region will turn into the biggest pool of human resource (skilled and unskilled) with the largest landmass in the world with abundant natural resources.

Furthermore, this region will snatch the dominance from the West, especially the US that it has enjoyed for the last one century. The rest of adjacent regions, especially the Middle East will also bandwagon if such collaboration is reached because as of now, nothing more can be expected of it either as it is dependent on the US and is bound to toe the its policy.

Hence, it is in the interest of Russia to forego its temporary economic interests with India and support the resolution of Kashmir dispute to tap on the long-term economic and political gains. With India’s current posture, nuclear war does not seem to be very far, the war you can imagine will eliminate the entire region and will have spill outs in all directions. Plus, humanity trumps everything. If not for political and economic reasons, Russia should strive for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute purely for humanitarian reasons.

The time for maintaining neutrality is over. It is high time for Russia to stop using the age-old convenient rhetoric of Kashmir being a bilateral dispute of Pakistan and India. Kashmir is an international issue, says the United Nations Security Council resolutions and the eminent diplomats of Russia (then USSR) at the time, helped in passing these resolutions. And lest we forget, those resolutions were not enforced, as is normally the practice in the UN but they were mutually agreed by all the parties and stakeholders. If the dispute was pertaining only to legal and political issues then the matter could have been treated as a bilateral dispute but since the issue has a humanitarian aspect to it as well, as unprecedented human rights violations have been taking place in IOK for the past seventy years, the issue is no longer a bilateral dispute but rather a matter of international concern!

Russia cannot and should not run from the responsibility that befalls its shoulders. Rather than taking sides of Kashmir, Russia should take a stand for Kashmir. In the words of Albert Einstein, “the world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”. Russia should not remain silent anymore while Kashmir burns and India keeps on carrying out atrocities against innocent Kashmiris. History will remember, and Russia should not be on the wrong side of it.

About the Author: Mr. Muhammad Taimur Fahad Khan is a freelance journalist. He holds an M. Phil Degree in International Relations from  National Defence University, Islamabad. He wrote many research articles, Policy Briefs, Issue Briefs, Book Reviews and Monographs on topics related to International Relations. He is currently serving as Research and Media Officer at Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Reader’s Review.

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