Two days before Kashmir Solidarity Day, observed on February 5 every year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was welcomed with a complete shutdown in Kashmir as a mark of protest against tyranny and oppression on Kashmiris during the five years of his government.
Modi visited Kashmir Valley, Ladakh and Jammu regions and laid foundation stones of various development projects amid great measures taken in the name of security across Kashmir.
Meanwhile, Pakistan on Tuesday observed Kashmir Solidarity Day to condemn brutalities meted out to innocent Kashmiris.
The death of Burhan Muzaffar Wani gave a new impetus to the struggle for liberation in Kashmir. The longstanding dispute is also being discussed on various international forums; the debate was reignited when the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights issued a report on the deteriorating human rights situation in Indian-held Kashmir in June 2018. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s recent statements on the unresolved dispute also generated debate on the issue.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, replying to a question by a Pakistani journalist at a press conference in New York a few weeks ago, had said he hoped that Islamabad and New Delhi would soon engage in meaningful dialogue.
Guterres said, “I’ve been offering my good offices in relation to the dialogue between the two countries that, until now, had no conditions of success.”
Regarding gross human rights violations in Indian parts of Kashmir, Guterres said the UN had clearly done its job, as he referred to last year’s report that calls for an inquiry commission to investigate the violations being reported in the valley.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) President Sardar Masood Khan said he hoped that UN’s Human Rights Council would soon constitute a commission. He also pointed out a report published by an All-Party Parliamentary Group which also calls for the repeal of black laws and an end to a culture of impunity that enables forces to illegally kill Kashmiris without any fear of prosecution.
Norway has a long history of conflict resolution and Bondevik played a key role in mediating with Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka a few years ago
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, while talking to NDTV during her recent visit to India, urged Pakistan and India to begin dialogue to resolve the dispute. She said she believed that there was no military solution to the issue.
Her statement on the longstanding issue came after former prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik visited both parts of Kashmir and held meetings with the leadership on both sides of the Line of Control (LOC).
Norway has a long history of conflict resolution and Bondevik played a key role in resolution of the conflict with Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka a few years ago. In November last year, in a highly unusual step, Bondevik was invited through the organization led by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who met senior Hurriyat leaders including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Gilani.
India has never allowed any political personality, envoy or human rights bodies to enter her side of Kashmir or meet the Kashmiri leadership.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq tweeted photos from the meeting with Bondevik, saying Norway was known to play a “constructive role in conflict resolution across the globe.” He urged Bondevik to help reach a peaceful resolution.
In a statement, Hurriyat leaders said the Norwegian delegation had assured them that “they would use their good offices to ensure that there was a sustained and result-oriented dialogue between India and Pakistan for an amicable solution on Kashmir.” This was reported by Press Trust of India.
The second part of Bondevik’s visit was Azad Jammu and Kashmir, where he met President Masood Khan, Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider and other leaders and representatives of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, AJK Chapter.
AJK President Masood Khan, while briefing the former prime minister of Norway, said, “Diplomacy can help us bridge divides and come to understanding on a just and lasting resolution on the Kashmir dispute.”
He added that the UN Security Council Resolution on the Kashmir dispute adopted under Chapter 6 of the UN Charter outlined the modalities for a peaceful settlement of the dispute.
Praising Bondevik for his role as peacemaker, Masood Khan said that Norway had a long history of impartial diplomacy. He said he hoped the country would play a positive role in a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
Bondevik expressed his wish that all parties to the Kashmir dispute sit together to find an amicable solution to the conflict dating back 70 years. After his meeting with the leadership on both sides of the divided state, Bondevik said India and Pakistan should return to the table and draw up a lasting solution to this conflict in South Asia.
Last week, on the invitation of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, President Masood Khan met and interacted with President of the United Nations General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa during a luncheon held at the Foreign Office.
Khan urged Espinosa to raise her voice on the plight of the people of Kashmir and call for protection of their rights.
Espinosa, in a public statement, called for respect of human rights in Kashmir. She said that the UN resolutions on Kashmir were passed by the UN Security Council. However, as the president of the UNGA, she said, it was her role to “ensure the implementation of UN’s mandate and general recommendations for international peace and security.”
Indian army’s human rights violations in the occupied valley, brutal use of force and targeted killings has attracted the attention of the international community, including the UN and other human rights bodies. Many have expressed a desire to mediate between the two main players.
The PTI government offered resumption of dialogue on Kashmir upon coming to power but India appears reluctant. Meanwhile, people on the ground have once again pinned their hopes on the international community who is expected to exert pressure on governments of India and Pakistan for a constructive talk on Kashmir in the coming days.
The author is a freelance writer based in Muzaffarabad. He tweets at @SMubasharNaqvi