Waning international interest in Kashmir
Apart from EU, some international human rights organizations and countries with interest in the region have expressed concerns over the human rights...
Apart from EU, some international human rights organizations and countries with interest in the region have expressed concerns over the human rights situation in Kashmir
When German ambassador to India Michael Steiner stated his country's position on the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir during a visit to Kashmir University on July 2, it not only did not reflect the sense of how Germany alone perceives the political problem in the region, but also somehow portrayed to a large extent the position of a section of the international community on the issue. "The German position on Kashmir has not changed. We will not take a position, which can be in any way seen as an interference," Steiner told reporters on the sidelines of a function. He was categorical in saying that Germany fully recognized legitimate institutions in Kashmir. By institutions he meant the Assembly, the office of Chief Minister etc. The German ambassador's assertions are obviously those of his government and may not be construed as the position of rest of the world. But the fact is that this is line of thinking that has prevailed on the minds of the world powers over a decade. Germany is also part of the European Union and in 2004, this "consortium" of European countries stunned the international community by declaring Kashmir as the "world's most beautiful prison". The expression, generously used by Kashmiris to highlight the adversities of militarization, had been made by the European Parliament's Ad Hoc Delegation from the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy, headed by John Walls Cushnahan, a former Member of European Parliament. The delegation had extensively toured both the parts of Jammu and Kashmir across the Line of Control. This statement by the EU delegation had portrayed India in a very bad light at the international level and the case for de-militarizing Kashmir had become stronger. Not only the EU, but also the international human rights organizations and the countries having interest in the region had been occasionally expressing concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in Kashmir, thus putting it on the international radar. It is interesting to note that Germany's position on Kashmir is in tune with that of New Delhi, which is vehemently opposing third party intervention in resolving Kashmir. India has made it clear that it was a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan, thus rejecting the people on both sides of divide with contempt. Why is this statement significant? The reason is that Germany is part of the same EU. Over a period of time, the EU delegation in India has made efforts towards the development in Jammu and Kashmir. Before the volatile political unrest in 2010, the EU delegations would regularly visit Kashmir to create a space for investment in areas like agriculture, horticulture and floriculture. During informal meetings with this writer, they would always complain how tough it was to work with the bureaucracy here as the implementation of decisions took a longer time, thus threatening the scope of widening the investment base in Kashmir. So their interests had long back changed from politics and security to development, as they would see Kashmir fast transforming into a peace zone. This change did not take place only because violence plummeted to a low level and that the institutions, to which German Ambassador referred came up shaping fast, but it was more because of the dynamics of change that took place in the South Asian region in the aftermath of September 11 attacks on the US and the subsequent so called "War on Terror". These developments played a significant role in not only changing the thinking of the international community but also redefined the equations in the region. The emergence of this changed equation was further "stabilized" with Pakistan's internal disturbances. Since Pakistan was seen as the "mother of terrorism" by the west, though they had no option but to ally with them only, to fight Al Qaeda and Taliban, it gave a severe jolt to the political nature of the problem called Jammu and Kashmir. Until 1999, when Kargil war threatened a nuclear clash between India and Pakistan, the powers such as US were wary of the imbalance and for that, they always used the subtle way to talk about Kashmir as an important problem in the region, which needed a solution. But with the serious engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the violence becoming the focal point of their foreign policy, Kashmir could not be seen out of the "international terror network". This also helped New Delhi to further build the case that Pakistan had always used terror to "wrest' Kashmir from her. In the early 90's, India was always on back foot and it had become difficult for New Delhi to advance defence at the International level. Though the focus shifted to the Gulf war in 1991, it continued to invite attention at the world forums. In 1994, sanctions were likely against India, when a resolution by Organization of Islamic Conference in the United Nations was withdrawn at the last moment by then Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto on the intervention of Iran. The resolution, if passed, would have put India in a very bad situation. However, the efforts by Iran prevailed upon Bhutto coupled with the work done by a highly erudite Indian delegation led by former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee with Farooq Abdullah as its deputy leader, thus saving New Delhi from the biggest ever-diplomatic crisis. But now the interest of world powers in seeing Kashmir as the flashpoint has decreased to a great level and that also is reflected in how New Delhi sees the situation. Not acknowledging the transition from violence to non-violence as a space to resolve the issue also has a lot to do with this changing global discourse, but many experts believe that non-resolution of Kashmir issue would continue to threaten peace in the region.