OPINION: Solution to Kashmir Conflict Lies in East Timor

OPINION: Solution to Kashmir Conflict Lies in East Timor
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The UN should look to resolve the Kashmir dispute b reviewing the example of East Timor's independence movement.

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By Syed Fazl-e-Haider

Karachi, Pakistan — The Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan can be resolved based on the independence movement of East Timor, a country in Southeast Asia that had been annexed by Indonesia in 1975. A UN-sponsored referendum in August 1999 gave the East Timorese the right to decide their future after 24 years of Indonesian occupation.

Over 70 percent of East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia. Under Indonesian occupation, more than 100,000 East Timorese were killed and atrocious human rights abuses were reported.

After the referendum, Indonesian-backed militia terrorized the country, killing over 2,600 people and forcing hundreds of thousands into Indonesian West Timor. In a month, an Australian-led International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) was deployed to end violence in East Timor.

Kashmir, now under the occupation of India, is looking to the UN for implementation of its resolution passed 70 years ago. In January 1948, the UN Security Council offered to assist in resolving the Kashmir conflict by setting a commission between India and Pakistan. And in the past three decades, Kashmir has already sacrificed over 100,000 lives in the freedom struggle for the right to self-determination.

On August 5, India revoked the autonomous status of Kashmir and cut off all communication from the area. But almost 100 days of strict curfew, lockdown, and communication blackouts are set to be over. Pakistan's Prime minister Imran Khan, while addressing the UN General Assembly in September, warned of a “bloodbath” when India lifts its curfew in Kashmir.

In his explosive speech, Khan said, “There are 900,000 troops there, they haven't come to, as Narendra Modi says — for the prosperity of Kashmir... What's he going to do when he lifts the curfew? Does he think the people of Kashmir are quietly going to accept the status quo?"

Will the UN wait for that bloodbath? The first and foremost action could be the deployment of an international force for Kashmir to stop human rights abuses and restore normalcy in Kashmir.

East Timor was a colony under Portugal before the Indonesia occupation. Similarly, Kashmir maintained the status of a princely state during the British Empire rule from 1846 to 1952. It was primarily the responsibility of Great Britain to accomplish the British India partition agenda of 1947, which gave birth to India and Pakistan. Kashmir, the unfinished business of partition agenda, was left unresolved and unattended over the past seven decades and it became the bone of contention between India and Pakistan. By revoking the special autonomous status of Kashmir on August 5, India has pushed back the dispute 70 years to 1947 when India and Pakistan were in a state of war on Kashmir.

What would not have happened if the dispute had been resolved by Britain 70 years ago? The two neighboring states would have not gone to a full-scale war three times. The two countries would not have indulged in an “arms race” and perhaps they would have not gone nuclear. Perhaps there would have been a trade of goods and cultural exchange instead of the exchange of fire on the border.

A cut in defense budgets of the two nations would hopefully spare enough cash to be spent on the welfare of millions of South Asians living below the poverty line. Kashmir has already become a flashpoint for a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

The UN has been slow to grasp the fundamental seriousness of resolving the dispute, which remains as the organization’s most persistent failure.

“We will fight. And when a nuclear-armed country fights till the end, it will have consequences for the world. It’s not a threat. This is a test for UN,” Khan said in his speech.

Time calls for immediate action from the UN and the world community to avert the carnage of the Kashmiri people reeling under the security lockdown, communications blackout, and harassment of the Indian occupied army for the last three months.

Syed Fazl-e-Haider is a contributing analyst at the South Asia desk of Wikistrat. He is a freelance columnist and the author of several books including the "Economic Development of Balochistan."

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