New York, August 30 (Dawn): With the United Nations and the major Western powers asking India and Pakistan to settle the Kashmir issue through bilateral talks, the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan laid down his condition for the resumption of dialogue with India in an opinion piece in The New York Times on Friday.
“Dialogue can start only when India reverses its illegal annexation of Kashmir, ends the curfew and lockdown, and withdraws its troops to the barracks,” Imran wrote.
India had said that Pakistan must stop being a springboard for terrorists striking at targets in India, and stop being a sponsor of cross-border terrorism, before talks could begin.
“The world can’t ignore Kashmir. We are all in danger,” Imran said.
The article coincided with the Pakistan government’s call to observer ‘Kashmir Hour’ across the country to show solidarity with Kashmiris in India. Cities came to a standstill as tens of thousands of people poured onto the streets while the national anthems of Pakistan and Kashmir played across television and radio. Traffic came to a standstill, traffic lights were switched off and trains stopped briefly as part of the premier’s campaign to draw global attention to the plight of the Kashmiris.
“We are with them in their testing times. The message that goes out of here today is that as long as Kashmiris don’t get freedom, we will stand with them,” Prime Minister Imran told thousands of demonstrators in the capital.
Calls For Dialogue
In the article, which was published shortly after his address, the Premier reiterated the importance of dialogue before he set his pre-condition.
“With the nuclear shadow hovering over South Asia, we realize that Pakistan and India have to move out of a zero-sum mind-set to begin dialogue on Kashmir, various strategic matters and trade. On Kashmir, the dialogue must include all stakeholders, especially the Kashmiris,” he wrote.
“We have already prepared multiple options that can be worked on while honoring the right to self-determination the Kashmiris were promised by the Security Council resolutions and India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Through dialogue and negotiations, the stakeholders can arrive at a viable solution to end the decades of suffering of the Kashmiri people and move toward a stable and just peace in the region.”
“But dialogue can start only when India reverses its illegal annexation of Kashmir, ends the curfew and lockdown, and withdraws its troops to the barracks,” Imran said referring to the lockdown and communications clampdown in Kashmir since August 5.
“It is imperative that the international community think beyond trade and business advantages. World War II happened because of appeasement at Munich. A similar threat looms over the world again, but this time under the nuclear shadow,” warned the Pakistan Premier.
“On July 26, 2018, in my first televised address to Pakistan after winning the elections, I stated we wanted peace with India and if it took one step forward, we would take two steps. After that, a meeting between our two foreign ministers was arranged on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in September 2018, but India canceled the meeting. That September I also wrote my first of three letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for dialogue and peace.”
“Unfortunately, all my efforts to start a dialogue for peace were rebuffed by India. Initially, we assumed that Mr Modi’s increasingly hard-line positions and his rhetoric against Pakistan were aimed to whip up a nationalist frenzy among the Indian voters with an eye on the Indian elections in May.”
“On Feb. 14, a few months before those elections, a young Kashmiri man carried out a suicide attack against Indian troops in Indian-occupied Kashmir. The Indian government promptly blamed Pakistan.”
“We asked for evidence, but Mr Modi sent Indian Air Force fighter planes across the border to Pakistan. Our Air Force brought down an Indian plane and captured the pilot. We struck back to signal we could defend ourselves but chose not to strike a target that would cause loss of life. I made a conscious decision to show that Pakistan had no intent of aggravating the conflict between two nuclear-armed states. We returned the captured Indian pilot, with no preconditions.”
“On May 23, after Mr Modi’s re-election, I congratulated him and hoped we could work for “peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia.” In June, I sent another letter to Mr Modi offering dialogue to work toward peace. Again, India chose not to respond. And we found out that while I was making peace overtures, India had been lobbying to get Pakistan placed on the “blacklist” at the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force, which could lead to severe economic sanctions and push us toward bankruptcy.”
“Evidently Mr Modi had mistaken our desire for peace in a nuclear neighborhood as appeasement. We were not simply up against a hostile government. We were up against a “New India,” which is governed by leaders and a party that are the products of the Hindu supremacist mother ship, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or the RSS.”
“On Aug 5, in its most brazen and egregious move, Mr Modi’s government altered the status of Indian-occupied Kashmir through the revocation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. The move is illegal under the Constitution of India, but more important, it is a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Kashmir and the Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan.”
“And Mr Modi’s “New India” chose to do this by imposing a military curfew in Kashmir, imprisoning its population in their homes and cutting off their phone, internet and television connections, rendering them without news of the world or their loved ones. The siege was followed by a purge: Thousands of Kashmiris have been arrested and thrown into prisons across India. Kashmiris coming out in defiance of the curfew are being shot and killed,” Imran charged.