India protested a senior British diplomat’s Jane Marriott visit to Azad Jammu and Kashmir, saying the trip had infringed on India’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The question of Indian territorial sovereignty on Azad Jammu and Kashmir holds no legal position as according to UNO Jammu & Kashmir is an internationally recognized disputed territory.
Indian attempt to unilaterally decide the status of Kashmir is not only illegal but also unacceptable for Pakistan, and the people of Kashmir.
Pakistan allows the International community, diplomats, and human rights organizations to visit Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJ&K) to witness and examine the normalcy that exists here, as it has nothing to hide, unlike India. Kashmir has been a major cause of disagreement between India and Pakistan since independence.
The nuclear rivals have fought major wars and faced off each other many times since their inception due to the unresolved nature of the dispute. UN mediation has also taken place to find an implementation strategy of UNSCR 47 which rules that “the question of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India and Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite” but all in vain.
Kashmir is claimed in full and administered only in parts by both nuclear rivals India and Pakistan. The BJP government since its election campaign in 2014 has claimed to change the status of Kashmir and has been quite assertive to unilaterally decide the fate of Kashmiris. Although, Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute between India and Pakistan United Nations resolutions call for a referendum where the people of Kashmir should determine their fate of whether to join India, Pakistan or remain independent.
The UNSCR 80 of 1950 “ reaffirms that final disposition of J&K dispute will be in accordance with the will of the people, expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite”. However, India changed the status of its controlled territory in 2019 by revoking special status granted to people in Article 370 and 35 A. On the human rights situation after the revocation of article 370 article, the South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, Meenakshi Ganguly said, “The government got off to a bad start by detaining political leaders, banning public meetings, and shutting down the internet.”
The security forces don’t abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials in their engagement techniques and crowd control mechanisms leading to death and severe injuries of people in IIOJK.
Despite acute human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, India paints a false image of normalcy in the occupied region of J&K. India conducted a G20 tourism group meeting in 2023, an International event attended by heads of state, ministerial-level representatives, and delegates despite UNSC recognition of Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed territory.
Michael Kugelman Director of the South Asia Institute at Wilson Center in the US, “The real goal of New Delhi to hold this meeting is to present a false image of all is well, which the world will buy because much of the international community already appears to believe that Kashmir is no longer a conflict or a dispute”.
India must be held accountable for unilaterally yet illegally deciding the fate of Kashmiris before raising any fingers at Pakistan. Pakistan respects the internationally recognized dispute, United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and the bilateral nature of the issue. Despite the peaceful relationship between Pakistan and the strong approval of the people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir towards Pakistan, Pakistan did not change the status of Kashmir unilaterally and called the International community to hold India accountable for changing the nature of the Kashmir Issue.
The visit of a British diplomat is in no way a violation of India’s sovereignty, as India is reluctant to hold a referendum and let Kashmiris decide their fate.
The subject visit of a British diplomat only highlighted the development, infrastructure, peaceful social structure, and satisfaction among common Kashmiri in AJK. The spokesperson for the British Foreign Office said “Marriot met with the UK-Pakistani diaspora, played in a football match with street children, and visited a bakery.” Leader of Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK Fahim Kayani, firmly rejected India’s so-called “strong protest” against the recent visit to Mirpur by the British High Commissioner, stating that Pakistan has nothing to hide.
Pakistan has allowed the international community to freely inspect its administered part, unlike India. These visits by diplomats are necessary to internationalize the issue and let the international community monitor the situation in Kashmir. This ensures transparency of the ground situation in Kashmir. Colonial India claims to be a democracy, and it should allow the International community including diplomats, journalists, and rights watch groups unimpeded access to occupied Kashmir.
Here the word unimpeded and unrestricted access holds significance. Kashmir has been turned into an open–prison by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) led BJP regime with severe human rights violations. Moreover, if the claims of Indian normalcy are true, why has India deployed around a million military personnel in IIOJK and blocked access to communication even internet and phone services? If Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir is peaceful and there is economic prosperity and growth, why Kashmiri leadership and journalists are under house arrest? Who will object to freedom, economic growth, and prosperity, if the situation is so normal and people are happy under Indian occupation?
India under BJP has taken on to hide its policies in Kashmir through internet lockdowns, illegal detentions, and putting journalists behind bars and is raising questions on who visits Pakistani-administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir. This holds no legal grounds and must be avoided by India. Instead of asking Pakistan to wake up and accept the unilateral revocation of Article 370, India should wake up and accept the reality that its unilateral moves hold no significance for Pakistan and the legality of the disputed territory.
Article 370 is not a history but an important aspect of the special status of Kashmir and India has no legal right to revoke it unilaterally.
India should wake up and let Kashmiris decide who maintains control and sovereignty over them. There is a need to realize that only Kashmiri people have the right to decide with whom they will accede. The sooner India realizes this, the better the situation in Kashmir will turn out. There is a need for the International community should condemn India’s unilateral moves and violations of law and the UN Charter as India has blocked the implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir for many decades. The complete silence of the International community has allowed India to continue its fascist policies in Kashmir harbor agents in other states and violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states like Qatar and Canada.
The Author is Researcher at the Center for International Strategic Studies, AJK, working on Comprehensive Security and Strategic Stability. She is also an M.Phil. Scholar at Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad.