How much is a Kashmiri Muslim’s life worth? - ZEKERIYA KURŞUN

How much is a Kashmiri Muslim’s life worth?

A new conflict erupted while the world was busy dealing with the power struggle between the U.S. and Russia in the Middle East and the big bargain struck between them on Syria. Pakistan and India are on the brink of war. Just like the jet crisis occurred between Turkey and Russia, both countries made global headlines thanks to a series of accusations they hurled at each other.

Kashmir is not only Pakistan’s problem

Kashmir, which is located northwest of India and northeast of Pakistan has been the focal problem between the two countries. Even though the Kashmir issue was always associated with Pakistan’s history since its independence from India after the end of the Second World War, its roots actually go deeper in history.

Kashmir, which completely embraced Islam during the time of the Mongolian Empires and Khanates, has become a battlefield between powers that wanted to dominate the region. Most of the time, the fate of the region was determined by the occupying powers. However, the actual cause of today’s crisis is the fact that the right to rule over the region was sold by the British right after their occupation to the Jammu administrators for 500 thousand Rupees which represents the Indian side of the region today. This great crime committed, which corresponds to 3 rupees for each Kashmiri if we divide this amount by the population of the time, will be a constant source of shame for a country that supposedly abolished slavery. Naturally, the local Muslim population protested this decision and there had been uprisings from time to time. However, just like the British administration did in Palestine, with the regulations made during the 1930s they tied the hands of the Kashmiri Muslims. Moreover, in a bid to find a way out, some Muslim leaders even preferred to cooperate with the moderate leaders of India but they couldn’t achieve a good outcome.

When Pakistan emerged as an independent country in 1947, Kashmir which mostly comprised of Muslim emirates ruled by a Hindu, Gulab Singh. The Pakistan-India divide actually represented a Muslim-Hindu division and normally it was expected that Kashmir should become a part of Pakistan. However, that didn’t happen. Since the British favored India, Kashmir was divided into two and most of it remained under Indian rule. Thus, this historical problem has become ever more apparent and turned into the unresolvable conflict it is today. A 740-km-long no man’s land drawn between both sides has since witnessed constant violations and conflicts.

If we go back in history we see that the Kashmir crisis flares up at five to six-year-intervals since 1947 in parallel with the conjuncture in the world. Hence both sides are building their bilateral relations with this issue in mind and they even make their defense expenditures in accordance with it. The rejection of the proposal Pakistan’s legendary leader Jinnah made, against India’s claim that Kashmir belongs to them, to determine the future of the region with a plebiscite, has added a new dimension to the issue. The first war between the two sides which was began with the Kashmiri Muslims’ revolt lasted until 1949. In 1949 when an armistice was signed between the two sides with UN’s initiative in January, 65% of Kashmir remained under Indian control. A law introduced in 1957 proposing to annex parts of Kashmir that are under armistice control and place them under Indian rule, fueled the conflict again and led the two countries to another war in 1965. Even though the United Nations established a ceasefire at the time too, it couldn’t resolve the issue and the third war that erupted in 1971 was going to bring about a refugee crisis that displaced millions. As Indira Gandhi and Zia-ul-Haq's initiatives to resolve the issue cost them their political careers, the dream of Muslims living under the Indian administration to unify with Pakistan remained very much alive. When both sides acquired nuclear power when they developed nuclear missile systems and carried out nuclear tests around the same time, the conflict cooled down, but it wasn’t completely resolved.

The UN has been inadequate

It would be a mistake to see this issue only as a problem born out of borders and the partitioning of the region between spheres of influence. The essence of the conflict is the unjust division of countries and regions when the new world order was being established, in addition to Europe’s fear of Muslims that goes back centuries and is in fact not only a byproduct of the current age. Europeans who arrived in India, especially those who settled in the region in the 19th century made sure that they keep Muslims who do not obey them under pressure and favored Hindus to them. Therefore, this historical fact is the main driving force behind this problem we have today.

On the other hand, it is also noteworthy that, any problem experienced by the Muslim world remained unresolved even after they were brought to the UN, which founded right after the Second World War with the aim of regulating international relations in accordance to the new world order and achieve world peace. It is almost around the same time when both the Palestinian and the Kashmir issues came to a boiling point. Another significant coincidence is that the conflicts and wars between these sides occurred around the same time. In both conflicts, the main actor was the British. In the issues of Palestine and Kashmir, UN resolutions only escalated the conflicts instead of resolving them. In this regard, it is not for nothing that today Pakistan is looking to Turkey and President Erdoğan to mediate. Moreover, the fact that India also implicitly approved this demand by remaining silent shows that both sides have given up all hope of a UN-sponsored process.

In short, Turkey, which is at the center of the world’s consciousness, bears a responsibility and an interest to establish peace because of its unique position and history. However, unfortunately, there are no institutions or research centers in Turkey that are working towards “establishing peace.”

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