Sanjay Bhattacharyya is the Indian Ambassador to Turkey.
The Kashmir issue has been reported widely in Turkish media but many have missed the basic facts and conveyed a misleading and incorrect narrative. There is need for a reality check on the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) issue.
The difficult times prior to 5 August were dominated by cross-border terrorism from Pakistan; after 5 August, India took measures to deter terrorism and provided an ecosystem for people to achieve their aspirations.
We are proud of India’s democracy, economic and social transformation and integration into global systems. In India, citizens always come first and their interests shape policy.
Status of Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu & Kashmir is an integral and inalienable part of India. The Maharaja of J&K signed the Instrument of Accession on 27 October 1947 for the legal incorporation of J&K into India.
However, Pakistan invaded J&K in 1947 and has been in illegal occupation of parts of J&K, including Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK/POJK) and illegally ceded parts of the territory to China. 1.3 billion Indians are united in their resolve to have physical jurisdiction one day.
Initiatives adopted by Government of India on 5 August
On 5 August, internal measures were adopted to build a new J&K. First, elements of the temporary Article 370 of the Constitution of India were made non-operational for effective integration of J&K into the mainstream.
Second, J&K was reorganised into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh by a bill passed in Parliament; J&K would have its own Legislature. The initiative would provide governance, development, security against cross-border terrorism and stability. Significantly, there is no change in our external boundaries or LOC.
Pakistan inflicted terrorism, violence and radicalisation in J&K for decades, in broad daylight. It was condemned by the international community, Pakistan was put on the FATF grey-list for its violations and hundreds of Pakistani terrorists and terror organisations were proscribed by UN.
Yet, Pakistan continued its misguided policy of Islamic jihad against India. India’s recent initiatives confirmed zero tolerance for terrorism; that is perhaps why Pakistan’s leaders seemed so disturbed.
Fake story versus reality
Unfortunately, Turkish media has been a victim of propaganda and motivated narrative. Regrettably, this narrative ran counter to the positive momentum in India-Turkey bilateral relations and the strong understanding between PM Modi and President Erdogan to realise the fullest potential of our partnership.
Siege vs saving lives: Restrictions (not curfew) were imposed on assembly and communications as a precautionary measure. We cut off channels used by terrorists to connect with their cells to ensure Kashmiri lives were not subjected to Pakistani terrorism.
Yet, since 5 August, terrorists killed five innocent Kashmiris, shot children and resorted to intimidation to prevent normalcy. Today, 93 percent of the State and 90 percent of the valley have no restrictions and life is returning to normalcy.
Terrorism vs Human Rights: Pakistan’s gift to J&K (and the region) has been terrorism, radicalisation and denial of human rights. India’s deployment of security forces protects the human rights of our citizens against terrorists. With the recent changes in Art 370, over 100 Central laws, including Women’s Rights, Right to Education, Human Rights Act, Muslim Personal Law, that strengthen human rights, have now been extended to J&K.
Religion vs Democratic and Secular ethos: India is a secular nation and J&K is the land of Sufism and coexistence. The vibrant Islamic community of India, second largest in the world, rejected the religious card proposed by Pakistan.
Islamic countries recognised the Kashmir issue has no connection with religion in India’s democratic and secular tradition. India’s vibrant democracy thrives on diversity, pluralism and tolerance. J&K benefited from democracy for seven decades as a State of India. Unfortunately, areas under Pakistan’s occupation have not experienced democracy or human rights.
Support of international community: Governments across the world recognised our positive initiatives on J&K as our internal affair. India received explicit support from governments in our neighbourhood, namely Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives; major powers such as US, UK, France, Russia, Japan, Germany; and other countries including UAE, Bahrain, Thailand, Zambia, Poland.
In contrast, Pakistan’s misguided policy was unable to get even 16 countries to support a resolution in UNHRC although it claimed 58 (yet unnamed) members had supported its country statement!
UN and mediation: Pakistan never fulfilled its obligations under UNSC resolutions of 1948, which called on it to withdraw Pakistani forces from POK and GB as it was the aggressor in Kashmir. India and Pakistan signed Simla Agreement in 1972, which called for peaceful, bilateral resolution of outstanding issues. There is no role for third-party mediation on the issue. The land of Gandhi and Buddha will not spurn Pakistan if it forsakes its alternative diplomacy of terrorism and belligerence and adopts the path of peaceful negotiations.
Pakistan leadership’s intemperate statements, threats of war and nuclear weapons have put the spotlight on Pakistan’s aggression and cross-border terrorism and its illegal occupation of Indian territory. There are serious concerns about human rights atrocities by Pakistan, absence of democracy, repopulation and unlawful changes of status in GB and POK.
The fear of terrorism is on the wane and there will be an era of peace and stability in the region. With focus on political devolution, elections to Block Development Councils are to take place in October-November 2019, followed by elections to the Legislature. Village Panchayat elections were held earlier.
Corporate giants are committed to development of infrastructure, industries, education, tourism, agriculture and handicrafts. J&K Investment Summit will be held in Jammu and Srinagar for this purpose, with participation of domestic and foreign entities. This would be an excellent opportunity for Turkey to be a partner in many of the major infrastructure projects on the anvil in J&K.
The youth of the region are very excited about the new opportunities and are looking for education and employment. The youth of Kashmir have responded enthusiastically to 50,000 new government jobs and recruitment in the Indian Army.
With normalcy returning, a new era of peace and prosperity dawns.