On Thursday, July 5, 2018, the Toronto branch of the CIC welcomed the president of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan as a guest speaker for the event “Resolution of Longstanding Disputes and Humanitarian Law – A Perspective from South Asia".
President Khan provided his point of view on the Kashmir dispute and the resulting human rights issues.
He firstly acknowledged Canada’s importance as a stakeholder in the conversation, due to its responsible position towards human rights matters.
He then provided a brief historical background on the roots of the dispute. In 1947, India and Pakistan gained their right to self-determination but excluded the region of Kashmir – now divided into Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The Kashmiris reject India’s occupation and strive for independence. However, President Khan noted that according to the Indian constitution, Kashmir is an integral part of India, which they believe justifies their rights over the territory.
President Khan noted that the scope of the conflict goes beyond territorial occupancy and involves human rights violations. Since July 2016, India has reinforced its troops in the region. The situation has rapidly escalated, as there has been accounts of arbitrary arrests, violence against women, extrajudicial killings and numerous reports of missing persons.
According to President Khan, the Kashmir people have organized unarmed and non-violent protests as a response, even though the United Nations – through its Chapter 7, Article 51 – prescribes the right of a country for self-defense against an armed attack.
This situation is receiving very little media coverage. In fact, the president noted the relative silence of the international community, which he believes remains passive due to western countries’ economic and political stakes with India.
Pakistan’s position is that India cannot resolve this issue with force, but rather through dialogue and bilateral negotiations.
President Khan also seized the opportunity to urge Canada to start raising the issue and initiate the conversation. It is imperative, he said, to break the silence around the Kashmir dispute.
He also observed that it is the UN’s responsibility – through its Security Council – to address these human rights violations. He thinks that a fair resolution would be to:
- First open dialogue by relaying the issue on the table (mainly at the UN level) with an intent to find a lasting agreement;
- Leverage existing resolutions; and
- Ensure that the actual solutions come from the people of Jammu and Kashmir
In a question-and-answer session that followed his presentation, President Khan confirmed the need for any solution to come from the Kashmiri people. Some countries such as China, have expressed concerns about the situation. President Khan agreed with an observation that it was important to involve Canadian parliamentarians, as well as credible multilateral institutions, such as human rights organizations. In response to a concern raised by one attendee about the exodus of Hindu people from the region, and any possible chain reaction leading to other states in the region seeking independence, President Khan expressed the view that the fight for self-determination will continue.