by Brian Cloughley
South Asia defence analyst and author of ‘A History of the Pakistan Army’
On 9 May 2017 a young Indian army officer, home on leave, was kidnapped and murdered. He was aged 22, recently commissioned, unarmed, and about to attend a family wedding in Kulgam District of Indian-administered Kashmir when five men burst into his father’s house and overpowered him, took him away and shot him dead.
Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz was a decent fellow from a humble background who had made good through a combination of intelligence and hard work. He was, of course, a Muslim, which made him doubly vulnerable to those fellow-Muslims who killed him. Their achievements were to plunge a family into grief, deprive the world of a good upright citizen, sow even deeper hatred throughout India, and demonstrate that they were arrant cowards who chose to murder a defenceless man.
These reptiles are not freedom fighters. They are simply murderous criminals who lack any sort of morality and possess not a shred of compassion for their fellow human beings. Which brings us to the treatment of another young man in the Valley, Farooq Dar, a Kashmiri not much older than Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz, who survived to tell his tale, but also suffered at the hands of bullies who had no fear of justice being applied.
According to the Economist, a reputable publication with no axe to grind in the India-Pakistan imbroglio over Kashmir, Mr Farooq Dar “suffered a severe beating” by Indian soldiers and was then “tied up on a spare tyre attached to the front bumper of an armoured jeep. Indian soldiers claimed he had been throwing stones. Mr Dar was driven in agony through villages south of Srinagar, the largest city in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. The soldiers reckoned the sight of him would deter others from throwing stones at their patrol.”
There are precedents for cowardly killing — and for bumper travel. I served in the British army in Cyprus at the tail end of the so-called Emergency when Greek Cypriot “freedom fighters” created mayhem and committed some hideous crimes, including the shooting in the back of a retired British army colonel who was watering the lawn of the house he owned in the island he loved. What brave fellows.
And sometimes, when travelling in rural areas, British troops would lash a chair to the front bumper of the lead Landrover and place upon it the headman of a village and, on safe arrival at the next village, replace him with his equivalent for onward travel. It discouraged ambushes, and worked until a Westminster politician got to hear about it and there was merry hell to pay.
Savagery in Cyprus achieved nothing in the way of peaceful resolution, and the same applies in modern-day Kashmir.
By far the majority of those citizens of Indian-administered Kashmir who object to draconian Indian rule in the disputed territory are peaceful and want matters to be resolved politically, in accord with UN Security Council Resolutions, but many who have resorted to barbarism. Unfortunately the Indian army and paramilitary forces have lowered themselves to the level of the insurrectionists.
The introduction of pellet-firing shotguns to blind protestors was particularly malevolent, but well in line with the recent statement by India’s army chief that “This is a proxy war and proxy war is a dirty war. It is played in a dirty way . . . You fight a dirty war with innovations.” Like blinding people. The Indian Express reported that after one demonstration in 2016, doctors performed nearly 100 operations on people with pellet gun injuries. Sixteen were blinded. Welcome to free Kashmir.
As Human Rights Watch observed, “a major grievance of those protesting in Kashmir is the failure of authorities to respect basic human rights,”
But the whole Kashmir catastrophe is about human rights, and it is time India and Pakistan got together and devised a solution about the disputed territory. Countless lives would be saved if these governments eschewed the crude and extremely dangerous attractions of ultra-nationalism and agreed to settle the dispute.
The main UNSC resolution about Kashmir is 112 of 24 January 1957, which is succinct to the point of embarrassment for the present-day Security Council — and for India. It reminds the governments that “. . . that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.”
But that’s never going to happen. No Indian government would last five minutes after complying with the UN resolution. And Pakistan knows this perfectly well, so there is no point in pursuing the point rhetorically and without the slightest hope of success. Mr Sartaj Aziz said recently that Pakistan wanted to negotiate on these grounds, but he is a clever man and must know that he’s blowing into the wind.
The first thing to be done is for the Security Council to order that the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, UNMOGIP, should operate on the Indian side of the Line of Control, which India has prevented for over forty years. This would ensure that cross-Line firing incidents would be reported and adjudicated upon by an impartial international body, thus leading to diminution of exchanges of fire — and, of much more importance, the end of civilian deaths and a decrease in bilateral military and national tension.
Then there should be decision on the only solution that would benefit the citizens of Kashmir — on both sides of the Line of Control — and which would reduce the possibility of an India-Pakistan war, which is growing daily.
The Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan should meet and agree that the Line of Control (with pragmatic but minor adjustments) should be declared the International Border. There would be political ramifications, and the ultra-nationalist bigots on both sides would huff and puff with make-believe indignation, but the killing would stop and the countries would cease to be at each other’s throats. The threat of nuclear war would be much diminished. Trade would boom and people would prosper. And Messrs Modi and Sharif would bask in the award of the Nobel Peace Prize.