WHERE the Biden administration’s stance on the Kashmir dispute is concerned, up till now it has veered between ambiguity and the status quo. While the State Department published a tweet calling the held region “India’s Jammu & Kashmir”, its spokesperson later said Washington’s position on the dispute has not changed. However, the tweet was not corrected. Considering this ambiguous stance, the foreign minister has rightly asked the US not to overlook the ground realities in the held region. “I expect the new Biden administration … to stop ignoring the ground realities in held Kashmir” Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Thursday. Indeed it is a pity that the Biden White House — which has touted respect for human rights as a key pillar of its foreign policy — has so far failed to take up the abysmal human rights situation in India-held Kashmir with New Delhi. Like many previous US administrations, it looks like Joe Biden might reserve opprobrium for geopolitical opponents perceived to be violating human rights, while allies and trading partners will be treated with kid gloves. This is an indefensible position for any government claiming to respect and protect human rights.
The fact is that India has come down hard on Kashmiris, particularly during the Modi regime, reversing the limited autonomy the region had in the Indian constitution before these rights were scrapped in August 2019. Though some of the restrictions have reportedly been lifted — such as provision of 4G mobile internet service — things remain far from normal in the occupied region. Earlier this week, shutdowns were observed to mark the death anniversaries of Kashmiri activists Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat on separate days. The fact is that despite Indian attempts to paint a picture of normalcy in Kashmir, the situation remains tense as the people of the region suffocate under New Delhi’s brutal rule. If the US is sincere in its commitment to human rights, it must raise the Kashmir situation with India. If this is not done, it will be fair to assume that the rights of the Kashmiris have been sacrificed at the altar of expediency. Elsewhere too, for example within the OIC, the plight of the Kashmiris is not being heard, as pointed out by Mr Qureshi. Pakistan must continue its efforts to raise the Kashmir issue at all world forums and let the region’s people know that this country stands with them during these dark times.
Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2021