The Platform

Indian soldier in Kashmir.

The Kashmir issue expands beyond a bilateral dispute, its implications reverberating well beyond the subcontinent.

Since the accession of Kashmir to India, the decades have seen this contested region weather numerous upheavals. These challenges, largely orchestrated by Indian authorities, persist despite countless diplomatic endeavors. The elusive resolution to this protracted dispute continues to profoundly affect the lives of Kashmiris.

One of the defining crises of the region is the enduring human rights abuses by security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir. Various human rights organizations have documented a disturbing series of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and acts of torture. Furthering these concerns, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) endows Indian security forces with vast powers, including legal immunity, creating a culture of impunity for their actions.

Adding to the complex crisis is the alarming use of pellet guns for crowd control during protests. This practice has resulted in grave injuries, including blindness, among civilians—children being among the most vulnerable. The tactic has elicited outrage and condemnation, both domestically and abroad. Critics contend that these aggressive measures only serve to alienate the populace, exacerbating the cycle of violence and unrest in Kashmir.

Internet blackouts and media restrictions further complicate the Kashmir quagmire, giving rise to fears about information suppression and infringement on Kashmiris’ freedom of expression.

In a controversial move in 2019, India’s Hindu nationalist government rescinded Article 370, a clause in India’s Constitution that had afforded the country’s sole Muslim-majority state special privileges for nearly seventy years. This decision, executed without the consultation or consent of the Kashmiri people, seemed to cement Hindu dominance and meld Kashmir more firmly into the Indian nation.

Post revocation, Indian authorities imposed a stringent lockdown and communications blackout in Kashmir. Subsequent measures included mass arrests, ranging from politicians and activists to journalists and lawyers. Kashmir’s status was also reduced, transforming the state into two federally administered territories.

In the aftermath of these sweeping changes, Kashmiris have reported a litany of abuses by Indian authorities. These include human rights infringements, the stifling of dissent, economic devastation, and the effacement of their cultural identity. Spurred by a curfew, protests have erupted with demonstrators demanding their right to self-determination, as advocated by the United Nations.

Echoing demands for self-determination is the call for a plebiscite, a democratic tool that would allow Kashmiris to determine their allegiance—India, Pakistan, or independent statehood. Lord Mountbatten initially proposed this idea in 1947, and it has since been endorsed by several UN resolutions.

Yet, India has consistently spurned the idea of a plebiscite, justifying its refusal with reference to past elections in Jammu and Kashmir as proof of its legitimate accession. Moreover, India accuses Pakistan of stoking violence and terrorism in the region to undermine its sovereignty.

Pakistan, meanwhile, which governs a portion of Kashmir known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), has vocally supported the Kashmiri cause. Pakistan condemns India’s actions and advocates for international intervention to mediate the dispute peacefully.

The international community’s response to the Kashmir issue has been disappointingly tepid, despite appeals from human rights organizations and civil society groups. Global powers, including the United States, China, and Russia, have advised restraint and dialogue between India and Pakistan but have yet to implement substantial measures to address the core conflict.

Observers regard India’s annexation of Kashmir as part of a more extensive trend toward rising nationalism and populism, casting a shadow over the principles of multilateralism and democracy. The maneuver has amplified tensions between India and Pakistan, raising the specter of potential military conflict with serious ramifications for regional and global security.

The Kashmir issue expands beyond a bilateral dispute, its implications reverberating well beyond the subcontinent. The international community bears the onus of addressing this problem affecting millions of lives, with ramifications for peace and stability across South Asia and the world. The need for dialogue and peaceful resolution remains paramount for the welfare and prosperity of the region’s inhabitants.

Umar Moiz Sheikh is a peace activist with a Master's degree in security studies from the University of London, currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Peace and Conflict Studies.