Introduction: Junaid Qureshi is a Writer, Columnist, International Human Rights Activist, Political Analyst and Director of the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) based in Amsterdam. EFSAS provides strategic in-depth analysis, research, statistical data, policy advice and forecasts related to developments in the fields of politics, international relations, conflict management, human rights, security, diplomacy, strategic affairs and conflict resolution in South Asia. The core specialization of EFSAS is in the fields of Terrorism, Indo-Pak relations and the Jammu & Kashmir conflict and its greatest strength lies in the application of comparative regional analysis and research. It furnishes decision-making institutions, opinion-makers, civil society and academics with high-quality policy analysis and recommendations regarding South Asia in general and Jammu & Kashmir in particular. For more about EFSAS, please visit their website: http://www.efsas.org/
- You said almost a year ago, on the death of Burhan Wani, that gun and stones will not achieve anything? What are your views about where we are now?
Indeed some people were outraged on my comments on the death of Burhan Wani as tensions and emotions were high at that time. Yet, I said the truth and I believe that speaking out was the need of the hour. Just because a narrative is unpopular given the circumstances at that time or because of religious and sentimental alliances, it does not make the narrative incorrect or untrue. Today, when things have relatively settled down, many people, especially youngsters, are saying exactly what I said. Let me reiterate; “One Burhan Wani died, another will die tomorrow until and unless we understand that picking up the gun is not a way out. The youth of Kashmir must understand and their leaders should understand as well that one Kalashnikov, a hundred Kalashnikovs, a thousand Kalashnikovs are not going to make a difference to the Kashmir issue. The Kashmiri youth need to ask a pertinent question to these Separatists: “If Jihad is so pious, why don’t you or your children pick up guns or stones?” Now, my words have triggered a debate about the issue and many youth are asking this question on Social Media, in drawing rooms and on the streets. The so-called leaders have always maintained that the cause of Azaadi needs sacrifices, but what they do not tell the people of Kashmir is that these sacrifices should always come from the neighbour’s children and not theirs. This is pure hypocrisy. This is not a struggle for Azaadi. This is a business on the dead bodies of the youth of Kashmir. I am proud that, despite the opposition at that time, I said the truth a year ago and today I am pleased to know that many in Kashmir endorse and support my views. It’s time for alternative narratives. We have been bombarded for decades with a false propaganda of lies. We have been kept in the dark about our history, our legal standing and the International perspective. It’s time to speak out and speak out loud. This propaganda of lies can only be countered by a propaganda of truth.
- Will the current uprising yield results?
I find the question a bit misleading when you ask what this ‘uprising’ will yield. I do not call this an uprising. Uprisings are spontaneous and not sponsored. Of course, one cannot deny that there is some anger and resentment, but about what? Is there resentment and anger about the fact that gun-wielding militants are killed? What did we expect?
We are unaware about the realities of the world. Of course, gun-wielding militants will be killed. That is how the world works. Again, I said it a year ago and say it again, that this will not achieve anything. Jammu & Kashmir is much more than the Valley only. It is much more than only Hyderpora, Maisuma or a few alleys of Downtown Srinagar. What do we expect to gain from pelting stones, burning our schools, breaking windows of the cars of Kashmiris, calling for shut-downs, destroying apple-orchards? This behaviour is unfortunately not new; When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged in Pakistan, there was an outrage in Kashmir against the Jamaat-e-Islami and its members. Members of Jamaat-e-Islami were beaten up, their houses burned to ashes and acres of tree orchards belonging to the Jamaat, particularly in South-Kashmir, were totally destroyed. The office of Jamaat-e-Islami in Baramulla was ransacked and books of Tafsir by Maulana Madudi including many copies of the holy Quran were thrown out on the street and burned.It doesn’t take much common sense to conclude that the actions after the hanging of Bhutto and the actions of today, only hurt interests of Kashmir and Kashmiris. It does not make a damn difference to India or Pakistan. A few stones will not get the Kashmir-issue settled in favour of Pakistan. We lost more than 200 young children in the past 8-9 months, while we lost thousands of people in the past few decades. What exactly did we achieve? Which inch of Jammu and Kashmir did we liberate? Which country in the world, except an occupier, is talking about Jammu & Kashmir? How many of us remember the names of those who lost their lives? Have the so-called leaders, who are spearheading this menace, ever enquired about the dependants of those who lost their lives? Leave India and Pakistan, both of which are acting in their national interests, what are we Kashmiris doing?
- What does the World, in particular the West think about the Kashmir-issue?
The world views issues through legal, strategic and economic perspectives. There is no space for sentiments or religious affiliations. The consensus in the worldis that on legal grounds, the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India gives India a valid legal claim to the State of Jammu and Kashmir while it completely excludes Pakistan, which manifests itself as a self-styled protector of the rights of people of Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir while it illegally administers almost half of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir (Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan Administered Jammu and Kashmir). That is the reality. Whether some may like it or not.
Currently, the world has economic interests with India and strategic interests with Pakistan. These circumstances, and the various bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan, growing terrorism in the region and expansionist designs of China make the issues much more complex. With the rise of radical Pan-Islamism, especially post 9/11, the world is not bothered and neither interested in what is happening in a few Mohallas or alleys of the Kashmir Valley. This is not a Nationalist movement, which would have made things different. It started in the late eighties with the support of an occupier and soon turned into a religious movement when militants started targeting the Kashmiri Pandits. Now, it has transformed into a radical Pan-Islamic movement, in which the demands are not for freedom, more autonomy or the rectification of political grievances, but for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate and the implementation of the Sharia. The world is astonished as well as surprised that we Kashmiris, while protesting the killing of terrorists, wave flags of ISIS, demand ‘Azaadi’ and at the same time wrap the dead bodies of our youth in flags of Pakistan.The world is confused and has been struggling with a question; What exactly is it that the Kashmiris want? I believe that even we Kashmiris do not have a conclusive answer to that question. We have no consensus among ourselves. Let’s not forget that by Kashmiris, I mean every State Subject of the Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir irrespective of caste, creed or colour.
- You have been very active at the United Nations. Could you tell us a bit more about your activities and the status of Jammu & Kashmir in the UN?
Yes, I as the Director of the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) have been very active at the United Nations, in particular at the Sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. I speak there and share my views on Kashmir, Indo-Pak relations and geo-politics of the region. I have noticed that there are many confusions about the UN Resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, even among those in Kashmir who demand its implementation. Despite the fact that the Shimla Agreement of 1972 between India and Pakistan has made the UN Resolutions immaterial, I would like to clear a few facts about the United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir. Please be advised that these are all verifiable facts:
The invasion led by Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir on 22nd of October 1947 was against all canons of International Law and a clear contravention of the UN Charter. In July 1948, the Pakistani Foreign Minister admitted delinquency but cited fear of Indian aggression as a main reason behind Pakistan’s actions, of which there were no evidences. Furthermore, in accordance to the United Nations Charter, Pakistan had “no right of self-defense in the absence of an armed invasion or attack on its territory”. The Pakistani Foreign Office in a letter to the Security Council, signed by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Zafrullah Khan enquired if the words “Future Status” as stated in the resolution of 13th August 1948 could mean an Independent Jammu and Kashmir. The reply was that the Kashmiri people could have an Independent Jammu and Kashmir if that was the majority’s decision. After receiving this reply, the Pakistani Government decided to suggest an amendment to this resolution and in a letter to General A. G. L. McNaughton, President of the Security Council, dated 28th December 1948, Pakistan wrote to propose a change in this clause for the words, “The future status of State of Jammu and Kashmir” substituting it with, “The question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India and Pakistan”. Pakistan proposed this change to which India did not object and as a result of this request the next resolution which was passed on 5 January 1949, read:
1) “The question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India and Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite”.
The second clause was: 2) “A plebiscite will be held when it shall be found by the Commission that the cease-fire and truce arrangements set forth in Parts I and II of the Commission’s resolution of 13 August 1948 have been carried out and arrangements for the plebiscite have been completed”.
Part II of the Truce agreement stated:1) As the presence of troops of Pakistan in the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a material change in the situation since it was represented by the Government of Pakistan before the Security Council; the Government of Pakistan agrees to withdraw its troops from that State.2) The Government of Pakistan will use its best endeavour to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting.
3) Pending a final solution, the territory evacuated by the Pakistani troops will be administered by the local authoritiesunder the surveillance of the commission.
This was formally agreed upon by Pakistan on 25th of December 1948, and conveyed to the Security Council. Till date Pakistan has failed to implement its clauses, and as such, the UNCIP was unable to communicate to India ratification of implementation of the Resolution of 13th August 1948 by Pakistan. With that, the question of a Plebiscite fell through and was never revived at the UN level. The factual situation is that these resolutions are based on choice between India and Pakistan; these do not allow unlimited self-determination which means a choice without limitation. If the resolutions were based on self-determination like East Timor, then under the UN Charter, the Secretary-General could move the case at UN level. In such a situation he was not obliged to wait for the willingness of India and Pakistan to discuss the matter in the UN. This was precisely what two former General Secretaries, Boutros Ghali and Kofi Annan have stated.
When the Hurriyat Conference demands implementation of the UN Resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir, then it should put forth its demands to Pakistan and not India, as Pakistan has to first withdraw its troops from Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan Administered Jammu and Kashmir in order for these Resolutions to be implemented. Instead, it tries to befool the people of Jammu and Kashmir by claiming that India is responsible for the non-implementation of the UN resolutions. Legally, that is incorrect. In my opinion, we Kashmiris have been making demands from India which we should have made from Pakistan and vice versa.
- What do you think about the role of the Hurriyat Conference? What does the world think about the Hurriyat Conference?
Like I said, the Hurriyat’s claim that they represent the aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir is absolutely false to the extent that I would call it an utter lie. Perhaps it does enjoy some limited support in certain Mohallas and alleys of some cities and villages in the Valley only, but it does not represent the whole of the Kashmir Valley, let alone the people of Ladakh, Jammu, Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan Administered Kashmir. The Hurriyat Conference is not taken seriously by the world.The only time when some came to know about the Hurriyat Conference and at the same time stopped paying further attention to it, was when the Chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, Mr. Syed Ali Shah Geelani led to funeral prayers in absentia of Osama Bin Laden, which confirmed that the Hurriyat Conference supports terrorism and terrorists. In my discussions with various Western Institutions, Scholars and Governments, I have observed that they do not even know what or who the Hurriyat Conference is, let alone that they are aware about its rather debatable aims and objectives. After the recent admission of a Senior Hurriyat leader, Mr. Naeem Khan, during a sting operation by an Indian TV channel (on the basis of which the Chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, Mr. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has suspended him) in which he admits that the current unrest is sponsored by Pakistan and that the Hurriyat has been involved in burning schools in Kashmir in return for monetary benefits from Pakistan, I think that we Kashmiris should count our blessings that the World does not know the Hurriyat Conference. What would we explain to the world? That the claimants of our aspirations are burning schools for hard cash? That would be embarrassing.What is the roadmap of the Hurriyat Conference anyway? Attaining accession to Pakistan by keeping our children illiterate and giving stones and guns in their hands instead of pens? I am pleased that the World does not know about the Hurriyat Conference. If it would, it would shame us Kashmiris for having such people among us.
- What are your views on the recent use of Human Shields by the Indian Army?
I am not a Military Strategist, but I strongly condemn the recent use of human shields by the Indian Army. The Indian Army is bound by the Constitution of India and is part of the State of India. A State should always, without exception, adhere to the rules of engagement. That makes a State, a State. There are examples of uses of human shields, notably by Israel, but India should not want to emulate Israel. India is the heir of the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi. It is a regional power and an aspiring world power. It should find alternative ways to deal with violence while adhering to the spirit of its own Constitution.
- As you have been among the first Kashmiris to take up the issue of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, could you elaborate your stand a bit more?
Indeed, I have been an ardent critic of the China Pakistan economic Corridor (CPEC). I have spoken about it many times at international forums and have also held a Europe-wide Signature Campaign in order to create awareness about the illegality of this project. The construction of this corridor complimented by the military benefits for both China and Pakistan and an investment of 54 billion dollars, has all the ingredients to exacerbate the complexities of the Kashmir-Issue, threaten peace and secure China’s strategic interests by allowing it, to increase its illegitimate share in Jammu and Kashmir.Pakistan’s proposed move to illegally annex Gilgit Baltistan, change the fundamentals of the actual Jammu and Kashmir-issue and cement China’s stake in this dispute are in response to concerns raised by Beijing. China finds it internationally indefensible to invest billions of dollars on a road that passes through a disputed territory claimed both by India and Pakistan. In case Pakistan imposes its sovereign writ over Gilgit-Baltistan, India will then have a political and moral right to fully integrate Jammu and Kashmir into India and scrap Article 370 of its constitution, which gives Jammu and Kashmir a Special Status. Any kind of solution to the long standing issue of Jammu and Kashmir will only be jeopardized by such intrusions. Historical evidence and logically drawn inferences and analyses, support the notion that the construction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor is illegal and in contravention of International Law. China is not investing billions of dollars to simply withdraw if any solution is found to the Kashmir Issue.China’s heavy investment in the disputed region is not speculative: it is a calculated investment to bolster her strategic interest in the region.
- Any hopes for the future?
The current situation of distrust and fundamentalism is not likely to alter unless there is a structured and genuine dialogue at diplomatic level while at the same time there is an Intra-Jammu & Kashmir dialogue which aims to reach a consensus among the people of Jammu & Kashmir. There must be a sense of ownership by all stakeholders and efforts made ensuring positive steps forward which includes putting a halt to cross-border terrorism. There is an urgent need for Pakistan and India to comprehend that while they are sovereign and independent, in order to ensure peace in South Asia their very existence has become more interdependent than before. Interrelated stakes, appetite for peace, economic progress, growing menace of Terrorism and respective introspection among all stakeholders should necessitate a solution based on the principles of coexistence.