When India stripped Kashmir of its “special autonomous status” on August 5, 2019, it succeeded in doing what human rights groups had failed to do for decades: Plastering the suffering and frustration of the territory’s 8 million Muslims on the front page of every major newspaper in the world.
Despite India’s sinister attempts to stifle and suppress Kashmiri voices by imposing a suffocating military curfew and a state-wide Internet access denial, it has not been able to stem a steady torrent of information from filtering out of the disputed valley. Indeed, the shutdown provided many with their first ever glimpse into the brutality of the Indian military. It also raised hopes that the renewed and growing international condemnation will finally provide a path towards Kashmir’s future self-determination via a UN-mandated referendum, a promise made by the international community seventy year ago.
For three decades, the Indian military has carried out all kinds of human rights abuses against civilians in Kashmir with total impunity.
For three decades, the Indian military has carried out all kinds of human rights abuses against civilians in Kashmir with total impunity, a reality measured in documented accounts of indefinite detainment, torture, rape, forced disappearances, reprisal killings, and unmarked mass graves.
These crimes have even been recorded in the words of those belonging to Indian security forces, with one police officer describing their methods to “sow confusion, hatred and suspicion” in an account documented by Cathy Scott and Adrian Levy in The Meadow (1995).
“Massacres in a village, rapes at night of women fetching water, morale-sapping shootings and bombings that targeted lawyers, journalists, trade unionists and philanthropists in the high street, their offices or homes. Some of it was accidental, but most of it was done to inflame, poison, erode and terrify all residents.”
More recently, the international community has been made privy to UN-sponsored report into the Indian military’s use of torture as an “instrument of control,” documenting 421 cases of torture since 1990.
Much more is known, but it has now been more than five months, however, since India scrapped Article 370 of its Constitution. Sadly, once again, global interest in the plight of the Kashmiri people has waned, leaving 8 million Muslims to continue their suffering in near total silence.
The Arab Muslim world’s total disregard for the territory’s Muslim majority population is significantly more stunning.
While the Western democratic world’s callous apathy towards Kashmir is somewhat understandable, or at least explainable, in today’s identity politics-driven world, the Arab Muslim world’s total disregard for the territory’s Muslim majority population is significantly more stunning.
“This muted response is underwritten by more than $100 billion in annual trade with India that makes it one of the Arabian Peninsula’s most prized economic partners,” observes the Associated Press.
In fact, official foreign trade statistics reveal Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries count among India’s largest trading partners in terms of goods exported and imported in 2019, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ranking as the largest partner all around, and Indian investments in the UAE surpassing $55 billion.
With this in mind, it is not surprising that the UAE has gone as far as to praise India for its repressive measures in Kashmir, with the Emirate Ambassador to India, Ahmed al-Banna, claiming that New Delhi’s abrogation of Article 370 “would improve social justice and security… and further stability and peace.”
Saudi Arabia has walked a similar line, referring to Kashmir as an “internal issue,” while offering tepid calls for a “peaceful settlement” and refusing to comment on the India military’s curfew and communications blackout. Noteworthy is the fact that Saudi Arabia is India’s second biggest oil supplier.
If these respective GCC nation-state responses sound eerily similar it’s because they echo their stated positions towards China’s systematic and industrial scale persecution of 13 million Muslims in Xinjiang, with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, and Oman expressing support for Beijing’s “security measures” in what was until 1947 the independent state of East Turkestan.
In short, GCC states have placed a higher price on the value of Chinese investment and trade deals than they have on the lives of upwards of 3 million Muslim concentration camp detainees, a calculation they’ve also made towards what are effectively 8 million caged Muslims in Kashmir.
GCC states frame Kashmir as a dispute between India and Pakistan, and not as a struggle for independence and self-determination, something that is akin to an anathema for Middle Eastern regimes still reeling from the Arab Spring and dealing with their own separatist and anti-government forces.
Moreover, GCC states frame Kashmir as a dispute between India and Pakistan, and not as a struggle for independence and self-determination, something that is akin to an anathema for some Middle Eastern regimes still reeling from the Arab Spring and dealing with their own separatist and anti-government forces. But more than that, the Indian economy is equal to 7 times that of Pakistan, its Muslim majority neighbor, so the choice is made obvious for Arab governments that believe economic size matters in an increasingly geopolitically fractured world.
“As a growing market for Arab oil and gas, as a source of highly trained and competent personnel, and as a friendly country with a powerful military and a strong interest in geopolitical stability, India is a valuable neighbor in a dangerous part of the world,” observes The Wall Street Journal.
Without a reliable ally in the world beyond Pakistan is it any wonder the people of Kashmir have been rendered irrelevant?