The US should work to counter India's actions against the people of Kashmir
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As Americans everywhere celebrated the holidays, India’s lockdown and military siege of Occupied-Kashmir will have been going on for nearly 150 days. Since its beginning on Aug. 5, when India revoked the region’s special autonomous status, the siege has had devastating effects on Kashmiris.

A recent article by Reuters reveals that the lock-down has cost Kashmir’s economy more than $2.4 billion, with the head of the Kashmir’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry warning that “this crisis will further intensify in 2020.”

Meanwhile, India’s shutdown of the internet in Kashmir has literally resulted in the en masse “disappearance” of Kashmiri users from the popular and important messaging Platform WhatsApp because of “its policy on inactive accounts.”


In fact, a recent New York Times piece notes that “India tops the world — by far — in the number of internet shutdowns imposed by local, state and national governments.” Another subsequent editorial by the Washington Post asked “… how long a country that follows this sinister path can truly be called a democracy at all.”

However, despite widespread criticism from global human rights groups, editorial boards, and within the Congress, some in the U.S. may still believe that India is a good faith, credible actor when it comes to Kashmir, and that Kashmir is an “internal” matter for India to handle.

But this analysis of the situation, which has precipitated an unparalleled humanitarian crisis and brought a nuclear-armed region to the brink of conflict, misses the mark.

For one, India’s credibility on Kashmir went out the window when it decided to unilaterally abrogate the rights of millions of Muslim Kashmiris, ignore decades of international law, pour hundreds of thousands of regular troops into the region, and then thumb its nose at the near universal international condemnation that followed.

Any faith in India’s credibility as a force for good in Kashmir is misplaced. The people of Kashmir have lived in an unending state of siege for close to five months now. To date, foreign observers, journalists, and even sitting members of Congress have been refused entry into the region.


Instead, India has been caught red-handed engaging in one of the largest cyber-war campaigns of fake news and disinformation ever to gaslight the international community and obscure what many U.S. members of Congress have rightly called a dire humanitarian crisis in Kashmir.

Second, it has been Pakistan, not India, that has continued to extend one peaceful overture after another, only to be rebuffed. Last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan came into office with an offer that Pakistan would take two steps toward peace for every step India took. Instead, India is now trying to annex Kashmir.

In November, Pakistan opened the Kartarpur Corridor, specifically to allow easy access for Indian Sikh pilgrims to Sikh holy sites in Pakistan. In return, India was handing over Muslim holy sites, like the Babri Mosque, for Hindu extremists to tear down and, more egregiously, excluding Muslims as citizens under Indian law.

In short, trusting India with the welfare of religious minorities, is to condemn them all to marginalization, disenfranchisement and worse at the hands of India’s nationalist ruling party, BJP.

Third, Kashmir is an international issue. It has been since 1948. It has been the subject of tens of U.N. Security Council resolutions, specifically stating that Kashmir is an international issue that needs to be resolved through a plebiscite and under international auspices. These are facts. This is why the international community has been universal in its condemnation of India.

Pakistan will continue to extend moral political and diplomatic support to be the voice of Kashmiris at every forum. India’s disregard for universal human rights, the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, and the shameful humanitarian crisis it has set off in Kashmir are reasons enough for the whole world to be involved in ending this tragedy.

Finally, and at the end of the day, this is not about Pakistan.

The Indian peddled cliché that Pakistan supports terrorism in Kashmir is old, tired, and repudiated. The families of thousands of Pakistani soldiers and civilians martyred at the hands of terrorists since 9/11 will tell you what we’ve sacrificed in the face of terror. Many members of Congress, like Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeHillicon Valley: Murky TikTok deal raises questions about China's role | Twitter investigating automated image previews over apparent algorithmic bias | House approves bill making hacking federal voting systems a crime House approves legislation making hacking voting systems a federal crime Lawmakers press CDC for guidance on celebrating Halloween during pandemic MORE (D-Texas), agree – Pakistan is playing a constructive, restrained role in de-escalating tensions in the region, including efforts to help end America’s longest war, in Afghanistan.

This is about the people of Kashmir who continue to suffer, going on five months now, under a relentless assault by India on every facet of their future as a people. Shutdown schools, maternity wards, hospitals, internet cafes, public spaces, media outlets, houses of worship, and even the streets. For them, in the face of what the BJP is doing, this is an existential issue.

So, the United States should be engaged, and should exercise its moral authority in Kashmir, but to stop India and to help secure freedom for the people of Kashmir.

Real people are dying both in Kashmir, and now across India’s cities, because of India’s actions – actions motivated by an extremist, xenophobic, anti-Muslim ideology that seeks to realize a vision of a Greater India. Ultimately, standing by India in Kashmir means standing by that vision – and going against the core values of the United States of America.

Asad M. Khan is Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.