By Colonel (Retired) Wes Martin, U.S. Army Military Police has served in law enforcement positions around the world and holds a MBA in International Politics and Business.
When India and Pakistan were released from British colonial rule in 1947, the issue of Kashmir was not thoroughly resolved. Located northwest of India and northeast of Pakistan, long-term planning should have yielded the entire Kashmir region to Pakistan. Like Pakistan, the vast majority of the Kashmir population is Muslim.
The wisdom of Solomon in offering to “split the baby” seldom works in geo-politics. Being forced to accept what they can get, nations will acquiesce and suffer the difficulties created by the compromise. Adding to the problem, the Kashmir region also includes a section of southwestern China.
India’s pledge to honor the “split the baby” decision resulted in Article 370 of the country’s 1947 constitution, rooted in Hinduism, which accounts for eighty percent of India’s population. Article 370 allows semi-autonomous rule of Kashmir. While India maintained control of foreign policy and defense matters, legislative and judicial rule matters belonged to Kashmir.
The compromise has always been problematic, sometimes the flashpoint of small wars between India and Pakistan. National restraint prevented wars from turning into an Armageddon. All three of Kashmir’s land owners have nuclear stockpiles.
The majority of Kashmir citizens are moderates as evidenced by Mehbooba Mufti, a woman serving as the last Chief Minister (CM) for the state. Like India, the moderates have had to deal with radical elements within Kashmir, which wishes complete freedom from India and will exercise violence to further create tensions.
India’s Prime Minister (PM) Modi recently invited President Trump to lead Kashmir peace talks between Pakistan and India. Upon hearing of the offer, both President Trump and Pakistani PM Imran Khan immediately accepted. Unfortunately, every time PM Khan reaches out in peace, Modi views it as weakness and becomes more aggressive.
The talks never came to be. Instead, Modi mobilized Army forces into Kashmir. Revoking Article 370, he has eliminated Kashmir of its autonomy, removed property ownership rights from people of Muslim faith, and arrested political leaders. Modi’s current strategy toward full annexation of Kashmir is found in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”
Under Modi’s orders, large detention camps have been constructed and populated with hundreds of thousands of Muslim citizens throughout Kashmir. Removed from their homes and consolidated into squalid conditions, the detainees are denied basic life support and medical treatment. These camps have become incubators of COVID-19.
To the people of Kashmir, Modi’s camps bring back memories of Italian General Graziani’s 1930s concentration camps in Libya where hundreds of thousands of Muslims were left to die of starvation and disease. As with Graziani, Modi is conducting slow-moving genocide, disguised as national security.
The detention of political leaders like former-CM Mehbooba Mufti and her predecessor, Omar Abdullah, ensures silence of the leaders who can help stabilize the growing anger of the population. Mehbooda’s administration ended with the Modi crackdown.
PM Modi claims he is exercising the “Public Safety Act” to prevent disturbances. In truth, his unwarranted aggression against the Muslim citizens and silencing voices of the moderate leaders, Modi is fueling the flames of discontent. Modi is waiting for the right moment to “cry havoc,” unleash the “dogs of war,” and claim that was his only option to restore peace.
So far, other than comments by United Nations (UN) Secretary General (SG) Antonio Guterres, nothing has been done to save the people of Kashmir. Having proved himself in his previous position as UN High Commissioner of Refugees, Guterres is a good man who wants to do the right thing. However, he cannot do anything without international support.
With the exception of one over-whelmed brigade of international forces, the UN stayed back in the 1990s while 800,000 innocent people died of genocide in Rwanda. President Clinton identifies not taking action to stop the Rwandan genocide as the greatest mistake of his administration.
Rather than today’s national leaders declaring a mistake years from now, the world must stop sitting idle while innocent people are either being killed or held in concentration camps waiting for starvation and disease to take their toll. The citizens of Kashmir need tangible help today, not words of sympathy or a holocaust museum built in their honor decades from now.