On September 23, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took a swipe at Pakistan at the 72nd UN General Assembly, saying that Islamabad had given the world “terrorists” while New Delhi was producing top-notch doctors and engineers. “Why is it today India is a recognized IT superpower in the world, and Pakistan is recognized only as the pre-eminent export factory for terror?” Swaraj said.
Pakistan hit back at India and called Swaraj’s speech a “litany of lies.” Pakistan accused India of serious human rights violations in Kashmir, and said India was the “mother of terrorism” in South Asia.
Swaraj’s speech will only lead to deterioration in India-Pakistan relations, and is not conducive to improving the security situation in Kashmir.
It is inappropriate for Swaraj to connect terrorism with Pakistan. A global consensus has emerged that terrorism should not be linked to nationality or religion. For example, Al Qaeda has bases in Afghanistan, however, countries including the US do not term Afghanistan a terrorist country. Besides, some so-called terrorist organizations, listed by India, also launched attacks in Pakistan and are targeted by Islamabad.
Due to double standards, the international community does not have a uniform definition for terrorism. Most countries define terrorism based on their own standards – forces jeopardizing security of their countries and of allies are terrorists while the ones endangering other countries are “freedom fighters.” When India criticizes the world of double standards on terrorism, it has itself long supported separatist groups in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province who launch terror attacks in the country.
The existence of anti-India militant groups in Kashmir over a long time has been due to the dispute over ownership of the region. Based on the Mountbatten Plan which proposed the partition of India, Kashmir as a Muslim-majority region should have belonged to Pakistan.
However, Maharajas there were Hindus and willing to join India instead of Pakistan, triggering two large-scale wars between the two countries. This divided Kashmir into two separately governed regions along the Kashmir ceasefire line known as the Line of Control (LoC).
Subsequently, Muslim militant groups emerged in Kashmir, aiming at joining Pakistan or setting up their own countries. These groups, receiving support from Pakistan, frequently launched attacks on India. India labelled these groups terrorist organizations while Pakistan regarded them as comprised of freedom fighters. Countries like the US holding a neutral stance on the ownership of Kashmir call these groups military groups or militants.
After the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1990s, some Muslim fighters in Afghanistan who fought against the Soviet Union came to Kashmir, and tried to help Muslims there to break free of the Indian administration, intensifying conflicts in Kashmir.
After the 9/11 attacks, out of the need for India’s cooperation on anti-terrorism, the US pressured Pakistan to withdraw its support for Kashmir’s anti-India militant groups, some of which were listed as terrorist organizations by Washington. Nevertheless, these organizations are not directly controlled by the Pakistani government, and do not stop their attacks on India.
Actually, most attacks targeting India are not carried out by anti-India militant groups in Kashmir, but Maoists and the separatist forces in Northeast India are behind most assaults.
Attacks on India launched by militant groups in Kashmir won’t end until the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan is resolved. Although neither side is willing to compromise, they know it is impossible for either to obtain the entire region. As both are nuclear powers, there are more pragmatic views in the two countries over dividing Kashmir in keeping with the LoC.
China has remained neutral on the Kashmir issue, hoping that the two can peacefully solve their disputes. China can play a constructive role if the two require its help. Otherwise, China would not get involved.
The author is a senior research fellow at The Charhar Institute and director of the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University. firstname.lastname@example.org