CREATE A REASON TO SUCCEED
By Vincent Lyn & Sardar Nouman Azam
Many times I’ve found it necessary to step out of my comfort zone and help others in need. My colleague and friend Sardar Azam is the son of Sardar Umrao Khan. A Duke of the sub-dynasty of the Mughal Empire from Azad Jammu Kashmir, whose forefathers served their entire lives for the sake of humanity and charity. It is because of this reason that our lives have been inter-connected.
I along with His Excellency Ambassador Malik Nadeem Abid, Secretary General of International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and two other colleagues have planned a humanitarian trip to Kashmir, Pakistan. Our mission is to shoot a documentary about the ongoing struggles of the Kashmiri citizens. But more importantly to spread awareness and address the international community of our partnership to spread global peace and prosperity throughout the region of Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK). This joint collaboration is to forge an initiative to develop tourism and educational reforms throughout the region.
You might ask why on earth Kashmir?
Nature has endowed Kashmir with implausible beauty and is rightly called “Paradise on Earth”. The lakes in Kashmir are crystal clear, stunning and pristine. Kashmir is resplendent with stunning Chinar trees that turn the entire valley yellow and red when the autumn arrives, silver lakes that turn golden at the crack of dawn, and crystal blue rivers that are sourced from the icy mountains. From the majestic Pir Panjal ranges and thickly scented Kashmir cypress branches to the meandering rivers and verdant meadows, every corner of the valley is filled with great beauty. Each place is like a postcard waiting to be shown to the world.
The valleys of Kashmir symbolize the serenity that can stimulate poetry in you. Incredibly beautiful valleys like Kishtwar, Markha, Suru, Shyok, Nubra, Nageen, Betaab, Dha Hanu, Poonch and many others add a different definition to beauty. The valleys of Kashmir are untamed and un-spoilt. Surrounded by the sublime mountains, these valleys echo nature, beauty and a certain level of mysticism. The lakes in Kashmir are crystal clear, stunning and pristine. Srinagar boasts of the Dal and Nageen Lakes which are stunning. A boat ride on the lakes with the towering mountains in the backdrop will give you an excellent idea why Kashmir is truly a paradise.
In winter, Kashmir turns into a mesmerizing winter land. The white landscape and soft snowflakes falling on the stunning vistas is a sight to swoon over. The wonderful white winters of Kashmir is an experience of a lifetime. Autumns in Kashmir are delightful and vibrant. The colors of autumn are vivid and the winds are energetic and soft. The trees take on stunning scarlet, golden, and amber hues, adding an amazing charm to the landscape. Come spring and the Tulip flowers begin bloom adding a splash of colors to the entire valley. The country is blessed with untouched beauty but for me its the people and the people of Kashmir make a place and as soon as you set your foot onto this stunning paradise, the shy and smiling Kashmiri people welcome you with immense warmth, love and togetherness.
Sadly the other side of Paradise is Hell and Kashmiri’s have and continue to experience their share of ‘Hell on Earth’. Kashmir, an 85,806-square-mile valley between the snowcapped Himalaya and Karakoram mountain ranges, is a contested region between India, Pakistan and China. Both India and Pakistan lay claim to all of Kashmir, but each administers only part of it.
During the British rule of India, Kashmir was a feudal state with its own regional ruler. In 1947, the Kashmiri ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, agreed that his kingdom would join India under certain conditions. Kashmir would retain political and economic sovereignty, while its defense and external affairs would be dealt with by India.
But Pakistan, newly created by the British, laid claim to a majority-Muslim part of Kashmir along its border. India and Pakistan fought the first of three major wars over Kashmir in 1947. It resulted in the creation of a United Nations-brokered “ceasefire line” that divided Indian and Pakistani territory. The line went right through Kashmir. Despite the establishment of that border, presently known as the “Line of Control,” two more wars over Kashmir followed, in 1965 and 1999. An estimated 20,000 people died in these three wars.
International law, a set of rules and regulations created after World War II to govern all the world’s nation-states, is supposed to resolve territorial disputes like Kashmir. Such disputes are mainly dealt with by the International Court of Justice, a United Nations tribunal that rules on contested borders and war crimes. Yet international law has repeatedly failed to resolve the Kashmir conflict, as my research on Kashmir and international law shows.
The U.N. has made many failed attempts to restore dialogue after fighting between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, which today is home to a diverse population of 13.7 million Muslims, Hindus and people of other faiths. In 1949, the U.N. sent a peacekeeping mission to both countries. U.N. peace missions were not as robust as its peacekeeping operations are today, and international troops proved unable to protect the sanctity of the borders between India and Pakistan.
In 1958, the Graham Commission, led by a U.N.-designated mediator, Frank Graham, recommended to the U.N. Security Council that India and Pakistan agree to demilitarize in Kashmir and hold a referendum to decide the status of the territory. India rejected that plan, and both India and Pakistan disagreed on how many troops would remain along their border in Kashmir if they did demilitarize. Another war broke out in 1965. In 1999, India and Pakistan battled along the Line of Control in the Kargil district of Kashmir, leading the United States to intervene diplomatically, siding with India.
Since then, official U.S. policy has been to prevent further escalation in the dispute. The U.S. government has offered several times to facilitate a mediation process over the contested territory. The latest U.S. president to make that offer was former Donald Trump after conflict erupted in Kashmir in 2019. The effort went nowhere.
Why is the Kashmir conflict too politically difficult for a internationally brokered compromise? For one, India and Pakistan don’t even agree on whether international law applies in Kashmir. While Pakistan considers the Kashmir conflict an international dispute, India says it is a “bilateral issue” and an “internal matter.”
India’s stance narrows the purview of international law. For example, regional organizations like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation cannot intervene on the Kashmir issue — by convening a regional dialogue, for example — because its charter prohibits involvement in “bilateral and contentious issues.”
In 2019, the Indian government abolished the 1954 law that gave Kashmir autonomous status and militarily occupied the territory. At least 600,000 Indian troops are in Kashmir today. Pakistan’s government denounced the move as “illegal,” and many Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control say India violated its 1947 accession deal with Maharaja Singh. The U.N. still officially considers Kashmir a disputed area. But India has held firm that Kashmir is part of India, under central government control, worsening already bad relations between India and Pakistan.
In 1953, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistani Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra agreed in principle to resolve the Kashmir problem through a U.N. mediation or with an International Court of Justice proceeding. That never happened, because the Pakistani military overthrew Ali Bogra in 1955. Several more Pakistani military regimes have interrupted Pakistani democracy since then. India believes these non-democratic regimes lack credibility to negotiate with it. And, generally, Pakistan’s military governments have preferred the battlefield over political dialogue.
Terrorism is another critical factor making the Kashmir situation more complex. Several radical Islamist groups, including Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, operate in Kashmir, based primarily on the Pakistani side.
Since the late 1980s the terrorist groups have conducted targeted strikes and attacks on Indian government and military facilities, leading the Indian military to retaliate in Pakistani territory. Pakistan then alleges that India has breached the borderline, defying international treaties like the 1972 Simla Agreement to conduct its anti-terror attacks.
In many cases, treaties and international court decisions cannot be enforced. There is no international police force to help implement international law. If a country ignores an International Court of Justice ruling, the other party in that court case may have recourse to the Security Council, which can pressure or even sanction a nation to comply with international law. But that rarely happens, as such resolution processes are highly political and any permanent Security Council member can veto them.
And when conflicting parties are more inclined to view a conflict through the lens of domestic law — as India views Kashmir and Israel views the Palestinian territories — they can argue that international law simply does not apply.
Sardar and I are survivors and together we will face the good or bad, whichever comes our way. We will both stay on the path to do good, knowing that one day we will pass away and become just a memory. We have two options: A ideological system that is based on hypocrisy governing us. We can accept and surrender ourselves in front of them or we can stand up and unite the innocent human beings. Realize that they have alienable rights and the world is responsible to provide them their basic human fundamental rights. For any revolutionary and evolutionary change to begin it takes one courageous step forward. A few people on the planet realize the necessary sacrifice that’s essential and will go to any lengths to create change and succeed.
We can bring change…
CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children
Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization
Economic & Social Council at United Nations
Middle East Correspondent at Wall Street News Agency
Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts