Prime Minister Imran Khan hit the target full on when he spoke at the 74th UN General Assembly on Kashmir and the outrages being committed there. The effective annexation of Kashmir by India, as the prime minister said, was of course his chief reason for attending the summit and delivering what was by the end of it a powerful address commenting on the manner in which the fate of eight million Kashmiris was being ignored by the world and by the UN which had itself passed resolutions defending its right to self-determination.
Imran warned of the dangers of radicalisation in Kashmir, and possible bloodshed when the curfew is lifted and 900,000 troops are unleashed against the Kashmiri people. The people of Kashmir have of course now been under lockdown for over 55 days, and Imran Khan made it clear that in his view they were being targeted because they were Muslims, just as Nazi Germany had targeted the Jews. The reminder of how quickly the world can descend into a place of ruin, as happened during World War II, was important so that Western leaders could make a connection with the analogy. The prime minister’s somewhat detailed explainer on the RSS and Narendra Modi’s life-term membership of the fascist organisation was also significant. Perhaps world leaders will now think a little harder about quite what is happening in Kashmir and about the 13,000 young boys Imran Khan reminded us have been picked up and taken to unknown places.
While PM Imran linked Islamophobia to ‘radical Islam’ as he has done in the past, it is true that in India at least, hostility against Muslims is growing and has been seen in places outside Kashmir virtually on a daily basis. The world needs to take note of this. Imran’s other warning about the possibility that India would blame Pakistan for another terrorist attack and of the huge risks involved if a conventional war began between two nuclear-armed nations should also not be forgotten. The two countries had clashed early this year. Pakistan has, since Imran came to power last year, made repeated efforts to call on India for talks, peace and friendship. The lack of response from New Delhi has brought us to the point where we stand today, with people in border villages reporting a heavy Indian troop buildup along the LoC or working boundary.
It is not insignificant that in his own address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made no mention of Kashmir. This is perhaps a further Indian attempt to stress that the fate of the territory is India’s internal matter. Instead he spoke about the need for the world to unite to fight terrorism. Both the Pakistani and Indian leaders have spent the last week or so in the US meeting world leaders including President Donald Trump and updating them about their stance on the present situation in the Subcontinent and on Kashmir. PM Imran’s speech at the UN delivered a powerful message; it was unrelenting in its description of what was happening and what could happen. We must hope it does not go unheard by the UN and the world leaders gathered at the General Assembly.