By Shamshad Ahmad Khan
Former foreign Secretary and Ambassador to the UN
What is happening in New York right now is the UN’s 74th annual ‘carnival’ held every year, in September, with world leaders assembling on the pretext of attending the UN General Assembly’s annual session. For nearly two weeks, at this time of the year, the ‘Big Apple’ as the New Yorkers like to fondly call their city, is paralysed with extraordinary traffic ‘gridlocks’ and security ‘nightmares’. The United Nations is the centre stage of this event where the world’s rulers of all brands assemble in a gala ‘funfair’ mood trying to take a break from the worries of their routine life back home.
Their programme at the General Assembly (GA) session normally kicks off with a breakfast hosted by the UN secretary general at the UN Headquarters, with a lavish ‘global’ menu. A series of luncheons, receptions, banquets and a proforma ritual called ‘bilaterals’ then keep them busy with each other. Six to seven course dinners are hosted for them in top-class seven-star hotels of the city, in the name of the world’s poor and hungry. The only real UN-related official engagement of world leaders is the ‘general debate’ in which they deliver a 10-15 minutes long written statement from the podium of the General Assembly.
The ‘eloquent’ statements so made are only a rehash of the ‘words of wisdom’ that world leaders have been showering upon humanity for years, on issues of global importance with little relevance to the stark realities of the contemporary world. And this cycle of global carnivals goes on religiously every year. “They come, they speak, and they leave.” This is the sum total of the UNGA’s session every year. In their resounding statements, we hear lot of good things about our future in terms of peace and prosperity, and about mankind’s freedom from all evils and menaces.
But for Pakistan, this session has unprecedentedly assumed a special importance. Imran Khan is making his debut appearance at the UN General Assembly to present the Kashmiris’ case to the world. He will be articulating his country’s policy on Kashmir including on the Indian atrocities against the Kashmiris while drawing the attention of the world community to their sufferings and hardship in the aftermath of the August 5 military crackdown in the Indian occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir. A total lockdown keeps the people of Kashmir disconnected with the outside world.
To further aggravate the situation, Modi rushed additional civil-armed troops including uniformed RSS militants as part of a cold-blooded military crackdown in the occupied state. Kashmir is now aflame with volcanic eruption of unrelenting popular anger and frustration against India’s military occupation. The Valley today is the scene of the biggest, bloodiest and also the most obscure military occupation in the world. India is forcibly hanging on to Kashmir when the Kashmiris don’t want to have anything to do with India. The Kashmiris consider Indian forces as an occupation force.
They want nothing but freedom from India’s military occupation. The Kashmiri youth are dying on the streets, not asking for jobs or books. They want freedom. They are holding the Pakistan flag. It is a clear verdict they are giving to the world from the streets of Kashmir Valley and elsewhere in the occupied territory. This is the crux of the Kashmir situation today. As one of the oldest unresolved international disputes, Kashmir is today a nuclear flashpoint and a sombre reminder to the world that it cannot continue to ignore the legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiri people.
Kashmiris want nothing but freedom from Indian occupation. Their message is loud and clear. India will do itself good by seeing the writing on the wall. Stark lessons are there to read in history. Brutal military force brings no relief to anyone. Popular movements cannot be suppressed. Even the US owes its existence to a long, arduous war of independence. Indian leaders also cannot deny the reality of their own history. It was the War of Independence in 1857 that laid the road to India’s liberation. India is not a superpower, but it aspires to be one.
It seeks to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and yet it is unwilling to implement the Council’s resolutions. On the one hand, it tries to mislead the world and obfuscate the Kashmir issue by alleging that it is simply about ‘cross-border terrorism and infiltration’. On the other hand, it does not allow UN peacekeepers to check this so-called infiltration. The truth is that Kashmir is neither about cross-border infiltration nor terrorism; it is about the denial of an indigenous people’s inalienable right to self-determination.
To misrepresent the gravity and magnitude of the Kashmiri uprising, India has been crying wolf by raising the bogey of “terrorism.” What India doesn’t understand is that there is no going back for the people of Kashmir in their genuine liberation struggle. No amount of atrocities and humiliations will stop them from pursuing their legitimate cause. Kashmiris today feel betrayed. Theirs is the voice of a wronged and forcibly subjugated people challenging the world’s and India’s conscience. They want their right of self-determination.
India’s efforts to obfuscate the Kashmir dispute as an issue of terrorism will not succeed. It is time for the voices of reason and responsibility — in America, China, Russia, Europe and the Arab and Muslim world — to caution against militarism calling demand for strict adherence by all states, large and small, to UN Charter’s central principle prohibiting the use or threat of use of force in international relations. It’s indeed a colossal challenge. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has responded to this challenge swiftly and effectively.
Unlike his predecessors who were always apologetic in even uttering the word ‘Kashmir’, Imran Khan has placed Kashmir on the top of global agenda. What should also be clear to Narendra Modi is that by putting up an arrogant face you cannot change realities. Imran Khan’s debut appearance at the UN General Assembly in New York later this week gives him another opportunity to present the Kashmir situation to the world in its true perspective. The threat of an apocalyptical India-Pakistan conflict is fraught with disaster of an unimaginable magnitude and must be averted at all cost.
Another important event during these days will be a high-level meeting of OIC’s Contact Group on Kashmir which might adopt a clear position this time on the Kashmir issue asking India to withdraw its draconian measures in the occupied territory. Perhaps, it’s also time for world’s living Nobel Peace Laureates to wake up and smell the gunpowder in Srinagar streets. Imran Khan should make an appeal to them from the GA podium. Besides his Address in the UN General Assembly, Imran Khan will be meeting several world leaders including President Trump to apprise them of the Kashmir situation.
He will also be addressing a meeting of civil society and intellectuals at New York’s prestigious body Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). A Kashmir rally will be a major public event outside the UN on September 27 on the First Avenue where thousands of Kashmiris and their sympathizers will gather to protest India’s atrocities in the occupied territory. Imran Khan should not be keen for a meeting with Indian prime minister until and unless the later lifts all the draconian restrictions on the Kashmiris restoring pre-August 5 status quo ante.