International Affairs

World Agenda: Kashmir – the elephant in the room: Times

NEW DELHI: In our latest daily column, the Times’ Delhi bureau chief says India must not ignore Kashmir when searching for explanations for extremism. More significantly, most regional experts agree with Mr Miliband that “resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms”.

For too long, Kashmir has been the “elephant in the room” in the international discourse on security in South Asia – and a stain on the copybook of the world’s largest democracy. In 1948-9, the United Nations passed resolutions calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir on whether it should join India or Pakistan.

Ever since, India has refused to comply and blocked international efforts to resolve the issue, over which it has fought two of its three wars with Pakistan. Now that both have nuclear weapons, Kashmir is a legitimate concern for the whole world, yet foreigners who bring it up are invariably shouted down.

India’s media rarely challenges government policy there, while the foreign media has been understandably focused on Pakistan and Afghanistan since 9/11. As a result, few outside the region are even aware that India still has half a million troops in Kashmir, making it one of the most heavily militarised corners of the planet.

Or that by official estimates, more than 47,000 people have been killed there since an uprising against Indian rule began in 1989 (rights groups put the toll nearer 70,000). Or that that Kashmir’s four million Muslims routinely suffer arbitrary arrest, torture and extra-judicial execution by security forces, according to most rights groups. Last year alone, at least 42 people were killed by security forces in protests against Indian rule. By comparison, 22 people were killed in the anti-China riots in Tibet in 2008.-SANA

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Noreen Gill

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