by Noreen Haider

On the first of March, this year, the mountains reverberated with the thunder of heavy artillery fire as the cannons roared on both sides of the line of control in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The shells fired by the Indian army, hit the houses in a border village, killing six people and injuring several others including women and children. The exchange of fire continued for seven days from evening to the early hours of morning.

India and Pakistan were locked in another senseless conflict with vague objectives and no rational end in sight. The total brunt of the exchange of fire was borne by the civilian population of Azad Kashmir and on the working boundary of district Sialkot in Pakistan.

Unless the world comes together and the UN Security council puts pressure on both countries to resolve the Kashmir issue once and for all, the world as we know it is at risk

At one point during the escalation it was reported that India threatened to fire at least six missiles at strategic targets inside Pakistan, to which Islamabad said that they would fire three missiles for each one fired according to the western diplomats in Islamabad. There was no suggestion of the missiles being armed with nuclear arsenal but the threat of an all-out armed conflict was enough to create near panic and get the US officials involved at the highest level to deescalate the situation. The whole region barely escaped another horrible war by mere inches.

It is not necessary to repeat the events, perceptions, media reports and policy decisions by the Indian government that led to the latest conflict and an almost full-fledged war. That has been repeated and discussed oft enough. The important question to ponder upon is if the events that led to the conflict, the worst that could have happened or can we be sure they were the last? What happens if God forbid there is another tragic incident somewhere in Kashmir? Where would this blame game, war mongering and baying for each other’s blood take us? The realisation should leave everyone horrified, like the image immortalised by Edvard Munch in his famous painting ‘The Scream’.

Pakistan and India are nuclear powers and both have the capability of carrying the nuclear warheads on long and medium range missiles. How much more do we need to know in order to realise that one single missile fired would mean the potential destruction of the region and most likely rest of the world? There would be no time left for logical thinking once that first button is pressed, no retreat and no negotiation. The destruction would be complete and final.

The world as we know it is at risk. The International community must realise the extent of danger facing the planet due to the aggression of India and frequent escalation of tension between India and Pakistan.

‘Kashmir’ remains to be the core issue of tension between the two countries but the fact is that no amount of bombings or killings would be able to solve this complex issue. It continues to be the flash point but both countries are still unwilling to resolve the issue through a sustainable solution which would eliminate the constant state of instability and the risk of a massive destruction of the whole world.

Pakistan claims that it wants the solution to Kashmir issue according to the United Nations resolution 47 of 1948 and that it supports the right of self-determination of Kashmiris, yet, it is not prepared to accept the prerequisite of demilitarising Azad Jammu Kashmir area and has continued deployment there. Similarly India is also totally adamant on keeping its 600,000 strong troops in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir and controlling the whole area with military might and inflicting worst atrocities on the civilian population of Indian occupied Kashmir.

In this situation even the very first requisite for plebiscite and the right of self-determination of Kashmiris remains elusive. Unless both India and Pakistan back off from their firmly held stances and decide to come to the negotiating table keeping all options open, finding an actual solution to the complex issue would not be possible.

India has to understand that Kashmir is a disputed area and is not the integral part of India. It is the unfinished agenda of the partition of the subcontinent. Pakistan also has a lot of introspection to do with complete honesty. Pakistan has to decide if it really wants the people of Kashmir to have the right of self-determination. Would any eventual decision regarding the whole territory, be acceptable to Pakistan, if it is a majority decision? Are India and Pakistan, both, willing to honour the result of any majority decision by the Kashmiris? Or do both countries just want endorsements of their own wishes from the Kashmiris in case of a plebiscite.

We are at decisive crossroads now. Unless the world comes together and the UN Security council puts pressure on both countries to resolve the Kashmir issue once and for all, the world as we know it is at risk.

Pakistan and India claim to want peace in the region but they must walk the talk.The world powers should encourage both countries to accept the suggested strategy according to the UN resolution and demilitarised both sides of the Jammu and Kashmir, create a neutral atmosphere and allow the people to make a majority decision about their destiny. The world must honour the wishes of Kashmiri people and their right to decide for themselves.

If the UN wants to eliminate the danger of the destruction of the planet by the egos of two nuclear armed countries, then it must play its part in finding a solution for peace.

The reason for the complacency of global superpowers is beyond comprehension. There is nothing more important now than to resolve the Kashmir issue as the future of the world is at stake.