Pakistan has appreciated the Turkish proposal to settle the issue of Kashmir that involves “de-escalation, meaningful dialogue, adherence to international law, and offering its office for mediation.”

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi, Pakistan’s ambassador in Turkey, said his country has already accepted the Turkish offer.

“The position taken by Turkey was eminently sensible. It was a position that both Pakistan and India should have immediately accepted, which Pakistan did by the way. Turkey called for de-escalation, meaningful dialogue, adherence to international law and UN Security Council resolutions, and offering its good offices for mediation,” Qazi said, on eve of marking one year of India’s move of dividing the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir into two centrally administered territories.

He said India, as the world’s largest democracy, should not be afraid of holding a democratic exercise that is granting the right to self-determination to the people of Kashmir.

The Pakistani envoy said his country was ready to match steps of reconciliation if India takes the lead, and agrees to have a meaningful dialogue on all issues, including Kashmir.

“If there is a problem and finding a win-win solution, it is not on account of Pakistan. Pakistan is eminently ready for it, has been ready for it for a very long time,” he said.

Domestic compulsions, raising the hype and expectations of the electorate have contributed to India’s dilly-dallying, Qazi said.

He added that it was not by accident but a deliberate ploy to lay the foundation of Ram Temple on the site of the demolished Babri Mosque in the city of Ayodhya on the first anniversary of India’s annexation of Kashmir.

The envoy asked India to evolve a consensus in its neighborhood, and treat the states on the principles of sovereign equality as enshrined in the preamble to the UN charter.

Kashmir at core of dispute with India

Anadolu Agency: What did Pakistan do in the last one year against New Delhi’s Aug. 5 move? Is there any concrete progress on it?

Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi (MSSQ): Kashmir issue is at the core of Pakistan-India relations. It also has a direct impact on the peace and security in South Asia and beyond.

Aug. 5, 2019 was one of the darkest days in the history of Kashmir and South Asia, and for Pakistan as well. On that day, the Indian state unleashed the full ferocity of its military force, employed political, constitutional, cultural, social, and demographic trickery against the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

India abrogated articles 35-A and 370 of the Indian Constitution, which guaranteed autonomous status of Kashmir within the Indian system. This special status was a reminder of the fact that the territory of Jammu and Kashmir is not a legal part of the Indian union, but it is a disputed territory. As per international law, particularly the United Nations Security Council resolutions, Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory. India, in its misguided enthusiasm to finally settle the Kashmir issue through force and fraud, abrogated these articles. It was probably hoping for acceptance of its actions by the Kashmiris, by Pakistan, and by the international community, but this has not happened. Immediately after these India’s illegal actions, Pakistan, being a party to the Kashmir dispute, mobilized global opinion. Pakistan’s parliament unanimously rejected Indian illegal actions that placed Kashmir under a constitutional, as well as a military siege.

These actions were also noticed by the world community. The Kashmiris rejected the Indian actions as every avenue available to them to register their protest given that they were under an information lockdown. Since Aug. 5 last year, India placed the entire territory under siege, communication with the outside world is blocked, and political leadership is imprisoned. So much so that even pro-India Kashmiri leaders are not allowed free movement. The irony of the fact is that even the leader of opposition of the Indian parliament could not visit Kashmir immediately after Aug. 5, and was forced to return from the Srinagar airport.

Pakistan highlighted the danger an unresolved dispute of Jammu and Kashmir posed to regional peace. We should not forget that on Feb. 27, 2019, Pakistan and India were almost at the brink of a full-scale war when Indian fighter jets violated international law and intruded into Pakistani territory, forcing Pakistan to retaliate.

The entire international community has shown concern at the deteriorating human rights in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir on account of Indian brutalities. On the one side, there is the illegal occupation army of the Indian State which has soldiers, weapons and is backed by draconian laws. On the other side, there are innocent Kashmiris who are brutally oppressed. Despite this disparity and use of brute force by India, the will of the Kashmiris remains unbroken. The Kashmiris still want their right of self-determination promised to them by India, Pakistan, and the United Nations. Pakistan stands in full solidarity with the Kashmiri people. Kashmiris are determined to achieve their right to self-determination and to decide their own destiny.

Q: Do you think that the international community [Western countries in general and the Muslim world in particular] showed necessary efforts and solidarity against India’s move on Kashmir’s special status? Was their reaction appropriate? And what did Islamabad do to mobilize the international community?

MSSQ: In situations of illegal foreign occupation, oppression and repression, and systematic human rights violations, no amount condemnation and criticism are enough. So, from that perspective, what has been said in support of the rights of the Kashmiris is encouraging, but all of us can do more.

The continuing oppression, repression and illegal foreign occupation is a blot on sense of righteousness, fair play and justice of the international community. So, the more we condemn and speak about it the better, and it is never enough. We should continue our efforts until the dispute is finally resolved in an equitable and peaceful manner.

Having said that, I don’t think when it took this action in August last year, India expected that there would be such a storm of condemnation, of analysis, of reportage, of commentary, on what it has done in Kashmir. Pakistan highlighted the wrong India had done to the Kashmiris. The Kashmiris immediately rejected it. Even though India tried its level best to prevent their voice from reaching the world outside through an Internet shut down, a communications blockade and prohibiting their leaders from speaking.

In terms of governments who have spoken about it, Turkey is fine example and it is, in fact, a model for all other countries on how to speak about and address this issue. There are parliaments that have spoken about it, there are political parties that have spoken about it and have taken positions. There is a wide range of reportage and coverage by highly influential media. And then there are the multilateral organizations. The UN Security Council has addressed this issue after a very long time. The OIC [Organizaion of Islamic Cooperation] is very regularly seized of the matter. The OIC contact group on Kashmir has met many times. Reports have come out of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations, the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of the OIC, reputed NGOs, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and so many concerned citizens all across the world have spoken about it. Some have even spoken up from inside India. So, there is a storm of concern the world over.

This is encouraging at one point, but of course the real issue is the Kashmir dispute that has to be resolved. What is at stake is not the position of one country against another country, what is at stake are the fundamental human rights and aspirations of 13 million Kashmiris, their right to self-determination and their aspirations for freedom. Both Pakistan, India, and the international community through the auspices of the United Nations Security Council, has promised them this right, and they have to fulfil this promise. All of us, including governments, citizens, political parties and international organizations should keep pressing India to grant the Kashmiris that right. As long as the Kashmir dispute remains unresolved, peace in South Asia will remain an illusion. Moreover, the unresolved dispute of Kashmir and growing atrocities by India are contrary to India’s claims of being the world’s largest democracy. Democracies don’t behave in the manner in which India is in Occupied Kashmir.

Q: Militancy in Indian-administered Kashmir has been rising since Aug. 5, 2019. Do you think it is one of the consequences of the decision?

MSSQ: Kashmir is under illegal occupation of India. It is the world’s most militarized territory. There are close to a million Indian occupation soldiers in Kashmir, 1 soldier for every 7 Kashmiris. The Indian occupation army has made Kashmiris’ life hell. Kashmiris can’t have access to news, they can’t get out of their homes, their doors are kicked in at night, their women are molested, and if their children go out running ordinary errands, they never return. So, in such a situation, what do you expect the people of Kashmir to do?

Since on the diplomatic front India has nothing to say about what it is doing in Kashmir, it tries to divert global attention by terming the Kashmiri freedom struggle as terrorism. The only terrorists in Kashmir are the Indian occupation army soldiers.

In the meantime, Indian security forces are killing young Kashmiri men. Over 100 Kashmiris have been martyred only during this year in staged encounters. The fact is that Kashmiris were the world’s most peaceful people. It is part of their civilizational. They are the most tolerant people on earth. Religions lived here together for centuries. And India has compelled to them to resist its oppression and repression.

Q: What is the solution to the Kashmir dispute? What is Islamabad’s approach on it?

MSSQ: The solution is absolutely simple; it is the solution that both Pakistan and India accepted long ago in the form of various UN Security Council resolutions. It is a logical, rational, peaceful, and democratic solution. The United Nations Security Council, said that there should be a plebiscite in Kashmir organized by the United Nations to ascertain the wishes of the Kashmiris: whether they want to go to Pakistan or India, what they want to do. Both Pakistan agreed and India agreed. India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is on record as stating ‘India is a great nation. We have given our word, and we cannot go back on it and we will give the Kashmiris their right.’

If the solution is there. If both the parties agree to it. If the Kashmiris agree to it. Why can’t we have that?

The dispute involves two democracies, one claims to be the world’s largest democracy, which is India, and Pakistan is the sixth largest country in the world in terms of population, so one of the biggest democracies after India in the world also. If democracies cannot follow the prescription of holding a democratic exercise of a free and fair plebiscite, who will? It is an irony that the world’s largest democracy, India, is afraid of a democratic exercise such as a plebiscite. So, the solution is not very hard. India needs to cease its oppression, allow the Kashmiris their fundamental human rights, lift the siege, allow the internet and social media to be freely available, stop arresting ordinary young Kashmiri boys. These are immediate things, but immediately after that, there is the option of the plebiscite. Let us hold this plebiscite and be done with it. What is India afraid of?

Q: Why are India and Pakistan unable to find a win-win formula to settle the dispute forever, and live in peace?

MSSQ: The only main issue, the core issue between the two countries is Kashmir. Resolve it and move on. Pakistan for its part has always promoted and sought dialogue. Prime Minister Imran Khan, when he assumed office, extended a hand of friendship to India, to Prime Minister Modi. Unfortunately, the Indian side was not inclined. India right now is passing through a phase of delusions of grandeur. India feels it is powerful enough to solve all the issues that they have with everybody on their own terms, according to their own wishes, and as per their own formula.

This is not how it works. There is a process, a genuine process of give and take, negotiation. Let us sit down, have a meaningful dialogue and conversation about all our issues, Kashmir included, and move on. So, if there is a problem let us find a win-win solution, Pakistan is ready for it, has been ready for it for a very long time. Unfortunately, there is a complicating factor on the Indian side, the current Indian dispensation with its belief in “a muscular foreign policy,” which basically means bullying the smaller neighbors, and which is grounded in notions of superiority of a certain segment of the Indian population over others. This is another dimension that makes solution of Kashmir more difficult. To give you a small example, you are aware of the Babri Mosque issue. It is not by accident that the date for starting construction of temple on the site, where previously the mosque used to stand, is the same the date on which India abrogated the Article 35-A and 370 – Aug. 5. This is a message to India’s minorities and the Kashmiris and it is a symptom of the mentality and thinking of the current dispensation in India.

Q: Following the India-China faceoff, there are some developments showed changing regional dynamics, and bids to increase influence in the neighborhood, do you think Pakistan and China could make a new alliance or bloc with other South Asian countries?

MSSQ: When the current government came into power in India, one of its objectives was to isolate Pakistan in the region. Look at the situation in our region now. Who is isolated? Which is the country that is at odds with most of its neighbors, China, Nepal, Pakistan, etc. This is so because the attitude and the approach of the Indian state under the current Indian leadership has contributed to a situation where lying at the heart of South Asia, India has issues with almost all its neighbors. This speaks of the need for them to re-evaluate their thinking. To go back to basics and try to evolve a consensus among its neighborhood, try to treat the neighbors on principles of sovereign equality of states as enshrined in the preamble to the UN charter.

This is what the Indian leadership need to do. But its own domestic compulsions are probably such now that are unable to do so. Because they themselves have raised the hype and raised expectations of their own electorate, and have contributed to the hardening of the Indian public opinion, that they may not be able to do that.

Q: There are several reports claiming that security agencies in Jammu and Kashmir questioned Kashmiris who return from Turkey. How do you evaluate this action of Kashmiri police?

MSSQ: It also fits the general pattern of powers which occupy others’ territories. Illegal occupiers will do anything to legitimize their actions or to curtail any element of freedom of the population that they have occupied. This speaks of the desperation in the Indian setup and the Indian oppression machinery. Now, they are trying to approach ordinary Kashmiris. And trying to harass them for the visits they have taken abroad.

This is the style not of democracy, this is the style of oppressive, authoritarian, totalitarian governments. I cannot imagine why a self-proclaimed democracy would be doing this, unless it was so frustrated in its actions, so convinced internally that the actions that it took on Aug. 5, 2019 have brought it nothing except bad publicity and a further deterioration of the situation in Kashmir.

Why should the Indian state be the asking ordinary Kashmiris as to why went to Turkey, why not for instance to the United States or United Kingdom or France? This speaks of a very strange sickness and perverse process of thinking, which cannot be commented any further.

Q: Do you believe Turkey provided enough support to Kashmir? Turkey is seen as one of the loudest voices in the world to speak for oppressed people, especially for Palestinians, Rohingya and other oppressed communities. Has Turkey done enough for Kashmiris?

MSSQ: Turkey has been a model for the international community. During the last year’s crisis in February, the position taken by Turkey was eminently sensible. It was a position that both Pakistan and India should have immediately accepted, which Pakistan did. Turkey, called for de-escalation, meaningful dialogue, adherence to international law and UN Security Council resolutions and offering its good offices for mediation. This is the kind of leadership that other countries also need to emulate. If a significant number of countries take this position, the situation will not only not deteriorate but the never-ending cycle of violence and human rights violations of the Kashmiris will end.

President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan spoke about Kashmir dispute in his address to the UN General Assembly in New York. There was another big event on the sidelines of the UNGA and he once again raised this issue. Similarly, when the Aug. 5, 2019 illegal step was taken by India, the Turkish Foreign Ministry came out with a very sensible press statement. And these are the positions that other countries should also be taking because the message needs to go to India that what is doing in Kashmir is not right. It is certainly not right for the Kashmiris, neither for region and not even for India itself.

Like Turkey, the Labour Party conference in the UK, the European Parliament, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, OIC and many more have spoken about it. However, keeping in view the ongoing brutalities of Indian occupation forces in Kashmir, the world community needs to speak about it consistently so that the sufferings of innocent Kashmiris can end.

Q: Do you have any other message for our readers?

MSSQ: I would again like to thank the government, leadership, state, and the people of Turkey for their principled position on Jammu and Kashmir. They have shown the way to the world not only on Kashmir but issues like Palestine.

Pakistan continues to stand with our brothers and sisters in Kashmir and we will extend all political, moral and diplomatic support to them until the final resolution of Kashmir dispute according to the aspirations of the people to be expressed through a free and fair plebiscite under the auspices of the UN. If history is a teacher, oppression will eventually fail and repression will end.

Force always is defeated by perseverance of the people who are seeking their right of self-determination and freedom. The Kashmiris’ struggle is just, and they will Inshallah [God willing] achieve their goal, it may not be immediately, but eventually they will win because history is on their side, and Pakistan is on their side, and all freedom and justice loving people are on their side.

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