India’s silence on human rights violations in PoK is a blunder

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Updated: September 2, 2019 10:43:44 PM

Pakistan has virtually committed genocide in Gilgit and Baltistan and changed the demography. Why then do we not hear New Delhi raising the issue of human rights violations in PoK and Xinxiang just as Islamabad and Beijing have been doing in the case of Kashmir?

india, china, pakistan, gilgit, baltistan, human rights, pok, kashmir, un, india un, bharat karnad, balochistanIndia’s permanent representative at the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin.

India’s neighbours Pakistan and China could be anything but human rights champions. However, post the informal consultation at the United Nations, that is exactly what they have projected themselves to be by raising the bogey of alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. Despite their own dismal record, the reason both nations have so far managed to get away with their propaganda is that New Delhi has decided not to raise their human rights violations in Balochistan or China’s Xinjiang province.

Forget Balochistan, India has even shied away from highlighting Pakistan’s atrocities in territories it stakes its rightful claim to — Pakistan occupied Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan. Pakistan has virtually committed genocide in Gilgit and Baltistan and changed the demography by resettling people from other parts, pushing the indigenous population into a minority. So, why don’t we hear New Delhi telling this to the whole world at the United Nations just as Islamabad and Beijing have been doing in the case of Kashmir?

Financial Express Online reached out to former National Security Advisory Board member and research professor at the Centre for Policy Research Bharat Karnad to understand the reasons behind India’s reticence on this subject.

Edited excerpts of the exclusive conversation:-

Pakistan has been accusing India of human rights violence in Jammu and Kashmir. It has taken the matter to the United Nations. Do you think it’s time India should raise human rights issues in Balochistan?

It would be more productive and fruitful if the Indian government raised human rights issues about Gilgit, Hunza and Baltistan. Because that is very much part of the combined erstwhile princely kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir. And that is part of India, Balochistan is not. Pakistan has changed the demography in Gilgit and Baltistan, Shia was targeted by Sunnis and people from other parts were re-settled. That is something we have not done over the years.

We don’t know what will happen once the curfew is lifted. But if the security forces contain the violence that may happen then Pakistan and China’s allegations of human rights violations won’t hold up. Then India can legitimately say that reactions by and large are peaceful and then we can interpret that Kashmiris are in consonance with New Delhi’s objective of integrating with Indian Union.

But unfortunately, we have not been raising the issue of Gilgit, Hunza or Baltistan — which was illegally detached. We said about it earlier but for the last 30 years, we said nothing. That means you have accepted it. So why are you raising this issue now? How are you going to explain that suddenly you have woken up to this issue? It can be called a political ploy. It can be interpreted that we are reacting to Pakistanis accusing us of human rights violations. This is what happens when we lose sight. The Indian government lost the sight of larger problem it had — the larger problem was not just Jammu and Kashmir or Ladakh, it was also PoK, Gilgit, Hunza and Baltistan.

Do you see any change happening there or will status quo continue?

The total solution to this (PoK, Gilgit and Baltistan) was almost reached by Pervez Musharraf during the Manmohan Singh government where it was proposed that the present LoC (Line of Control) would be formalised as international boundaries, it would have been the perfect solution. But Manmohan Singh at the last minute drew back from it. So we lost that opportunity. But that is the only solution available. There won’t be any radical change. It’s over. It’s also true that we cannot think of taking back Kashmir. Because we did not make a case for it for the last 30 years.

Why do you think India did not raise this issue in all these years?

That’s difficult to know. We keep losing our strategic focus. It’s been 30 years and we will have a hard time to justify. But that’s not the point. This is posturing for the sake of the negotiations that are going to happen. We will say ‘if you are so worried about human rights please explain your acts in Gilgit and Baltistan’. But we are still not raising it. There is virtual genocide going on against the Baltistanis. They are in the worst of conditions, Pakistan’s ISI is after them. As claimants to protectors of Baltistan, Hunza and Gilgit, India should give them aid.

What is your reading of why India is not raising the human rights issue in Gilgit and Baltistan?

I have no idea why. Having done away with Article 370, now India should raise the issue. Its claim on PoK is still valid, so why is it then not fighting for the rights of people in Gilgit and Baltistan. New Delhi is massively targeted by human rights people from all over the world. Look at any western media they are talking about human rights in Kashmir. Because Pakistan made it the principle issue. We should, therefore, counter Pakistanis by raising their atrocities in Gilgit and Baltistan.

Syed Akbaruddin (India’s permanent representative to the UN) should have raised this issue right there and then when he spoke after the informal meet on Jammu and Kashmir at the UN. We lost that opportunity. Pakistan UN representative Maleeha Lodhi said that informal meeting means that the UN has now restored the context of the resolution passed by it in 1948. So why didn’t Akbaruddin say – “in that case, let’s have 1948 resolution”. If you raise that, Pakistan has not met and cannot meet two of the three conditions. And what is that one condition — Pakistan was supposed to have vacated all its forces from PoK even as India was allowed to keep its constabulary forces. But we did not raise this.

I don’t understand the government. Is that the line Jaishankar (foreign minister) wanted him not to say. Jaishankar himself was a diplomat. He must have given instructions to our representative there. My advice to the government would be to raise the issue of Baltistan here on end. Every time they (Pakistan) talk about Kashmir or Srinagar valley, we should raise Gilgit and Baltistan. Talk about demographic change forced upon these people with Punjabi Muslims and Sunni Pathan being re-located in these northern areas. Pakistan is committing genocide there for the last 40 years but we are not highlighting it.

This comes at a time when the United States is negotiating peace talks with Afghanistan Taliban. Do you see any threat for us after the Americans withdraw from that region?

India should use its connections there, and ensure that there is no accord unless its interest are not met. We can not permit peaceful accord in Afghanistan to be there without that agreement helping serve India’s interest. We have an interest in Afghanistan that has to be served. And if it doesn’t serve our purpose, we should torpedo it. We should not let it happen.

 

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