Editor’s Note: Shah Mahmood Qureshi is the foreign minister of Pakistan. View more opinion on CNN.
Nearly two decades ago, US President Bill Clinton called Kashmir “the most dangerous place in the world.” On his mind undoubtedly were India and Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities and the risk that the internationally recognized dispute over Jammu and Kashmir may lead to a major war with catastrophic consequences.
Today, India’s draconian measures in Kashmir are inching the situation towards the unthinkable.
On August 5, India unilaterally announced the abrogation of the special autonomous status granted to Jammu and Kashmir within its constitution.
What has followed has reminded the world of the extremism and xenophobia that still plagues it. It has forced everyone from international media to human rights organizations and legislators in the Western world to call the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Indian government out on its actions. And for good reason.
A child born in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) in the last month will have lived the entirety of his or her life never having been afforded fundamental human rights.
The people of Kashmir have been under total lockdown. They have seen shortages of food and medicine. Thousands have been detained through mass arrests. Tens of thousands of troops roam the streets of IoK, and residents have alleged beatings and mistreatment.
Using the familiar tactics of night raids, alleged torture, a media blackout and the suppression of protests, the Indian government has been trying desperately to conceal the dire humanitarian and security situation on the ground. Kashmir’s crisis has also featured a deluge of fake news. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for his part, has claimed India is ending IoK’s semi-autonomy to rid it of “terrorism,” and its army has denied allegations of abuse.
India’s government wants to gaslight the international community into normalizing India’s de facto annexation of the Muslim-majority state, and its ethno-nationalist saber-rattling in a region with major US interests and international stability at stake.
The world must stand up for what is right.
The international community must expose the reality that the BJP government is enacting a nefarious political agenda. In its plans to allow Indians to buy land in Kashmir, India’s government is putting Kashmir’s Muslim majority at risk—a policy that could change Kashmir’s identity. In Pakistan’s opinion, this violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits a country from transporting its own people into occupied territory.
As the country that has always committed itself to speaking up for the people of Kashmir, Pakistan cannot be silent on the unfolding catastrophe in Kashmir.
Since August 5, Pakistan has taken the voice of the voiceless Kashmiri man, woman and child to every forum and raised it with every leader through every channel.
Last month, we addressed two letters to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) calling on India “to rescind its unilateral actions, lift the curfew and other draconian measures.”
We have asked for respect and protection of the human rights of Kashmiris. We insisted on an immediate end to the curfew and communications shutdown, and the release of the nearly 4,000 Kashmiris who have been arrested since August 5. We demanded a stop to the use of pellet guns that have blinded citizens. We asked that human rights organizations and international media be allowed to visit Kashmir.
Further, we requested the implementation of several UNHCHR recommendations, including the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights violations and regular reporting by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Jammu and Kashmir.
Most of all, we have called for a peaceful solution to the dispute through the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions that put the wishes of the Kashmiri people first.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has already pledged that every Pakistani would be an ambassador for Kashmir. At the UN General Assembly, he plans to focus the world’s attention on the plight of Kashmiris—imploring the world to rise for justice and support the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.
We must not be naïve about what is happening in Kashmir, and India must be stopped before this goes any further. It must be prevented from trampling on the Kashmiris’ right of democracy, peace, dignity and freedom from India’s oppression. It must not be allowed to force a military confrontation in a nuclearized region that will surely bring global security into question.
Pakistan has called for a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir dispute. But be warned, India’s is not a voice of reason and tolerance. It can go to any length to detract attention from its actions in Kashmir.
The world must let Kashmir speak and be heard.