The Russell Tribunal on Kashmir will bring an added impetus on Pakistan to project and prevail with lawfare resorts to seek self-determination for Kashmiris.
US President Franklin D. Roosevelt elected four times and one who led his country in the Great Depression and World War II, had quipped, “freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.”
So is the case with one of world’s last decolonization agenda on Kashmir. Gripped under siege and terror for more than seven decades, around 10 million inhabitants of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJ&K) cry for justice. But the respite, it seems, might set in if two recent developments go into full blown measures, enabling not only the caged community to exercise their birth right of emancipation and self-determination but also free the region from the somersaults of insecurity.
One: is the leap forward in Pakistan’s establishment perception that India should no longer be treated as a hostile state, and it is open to deal with it on multi-faceted avenues, provided it leads to the resolution of the lingering dispute on Kashmir.
Two: the institution and convening of a high-powered lawfare commission i.e. the Russell Tribunal on Kashmir, whose debut session was held in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina last month. It is a leap forward, most welcome and highly-desired development in furthering international law’s scope and ambit over the disputed territory. It signifies that human plight can never be subjugated for all times – and there is always a time when the lid blows off.
Apparently, this is what President Roosevelt meant as he underscored the indispensability of struggle and that too in the right spirit.
Both these developments are corresponding and complimentary in essence.
The First Initiative falls in the geo-strategic and political purview, wherein Islamabad had taken the bold step of counting on its self-confidence and impregnable defence to take on India on the diplomatic and the neo geo-economic spheres.
This is leadership with a visionary approach, and pushes the envelope to seek resolution of disputes in a mechanism that is open for parleys sans a militaristic approach. Perhaps, this is what New Delhi had been wailing for long as it pointed a finger of accusation at Pakistan for not giving diplomacy a try.
The Second Initiative is a perfect case of lawfare intervention. This is what Pakistan had for quite some time been campaigning, and mulling its synergies. The Foreign Office has done a commendable job by utilizing all possible avenues to fight the case of Kashmir in a legalistic manner. The dossier on Kashmir that was formally presented at the UN General Assembly, and a multitude of factsheets on Kashmir are cases in point.
The Russell Tribunal, which draws inspiration and strength from the landmark investigation it conducted in 1966 against American military intervention in Vietnam, is a shot in the arm and means a lot for Pakistan in truly portraying the human resilience in occupied Kashmir and seeking a lawful recourse on the world fora.
Also known as the International War Crimes Tribunal, it held its first proceeding from December 17-19, 2021, in Sarajevo, in partnership with Kashmir Civitas, a Canadian-registered NGO; the Russell Foundation in London; the Permanent People’s Tribunal of Bologna, Italy; the International University of Sarajevo and the Center for Advanced Studies in Sarajevo.
It is a dream come true in lawfare avenues and will surely have an impact in times to come. It will certainly reaffirm the primacy of international law as the basis for solving the dispute, as the occupied valley is one of the most militarized disputed areas on earth with more than 900,000 soldiers, indulging in human rights violations, crimes against humanity, genocide, reprehensive attitude towards women and, of course, war crimes.
Incidentally, the Russell Tribunal went into session in an era when India itself had chopped off the branch on which it was trying to hang Kashmir’s so-called annexation legitimacy. To quote Ahmer Bilal Soofi, an eminent international law expert and former federal minister, “…India stands exposed since abrogating Article 370 and 35A on August 5, 2019, and going back on its own constitutional guarantees to the people of Kashmir.”
Thus, the Russell proceedings are seized with an undeniable clue on international jurisprudence, and would suffice to put New Delhi in the dock.
Some of the findings of the Russell Tribunal on Kashmir, testified under all legal dogmas, are worth consideration:
1. Kashmir is a disputed territory, a fact established by 18 United Nations resolutions. It cannot be claimed legitimately by any country or claimed as an integral part until the time that the people of Kashmir have been granted the right to freely, and without fear, express their opinion in the referendum that they were promised and that the UN continues to urge.
2. Kashmir is among the most heavily militarized areas on the planet.
3. Kashmir is not a secessionist movement. (The Tribunal noted that) Kashmiris are in a long struggle of freedom from foreign rulers.
4. Evidence of atrocities are established in the first report ever-issued by the United Nations on human rights in Kashmir on 14th June, 2018.
5. Likewise, evidence of crimes are also proven in the second report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on 8th July, 2019.
6. Moreover, evidence of genocide brought to fore before it (the Tribunal) in Jammu in 1947 and 1948, during which time the Indian government and Dogra regime claimed to be directly responsible. The Tribunal observed that the accusations are grave and warrant deeper investigation.
7. The Tribunal also brought on its annexures two genocide alerts by Genocide Watch, an NGO led by Professor Gregory Stanton.
8. The Sarajevo moot of the Tribunal agreed that serious indications of constant restrictions on freedoms and gross human rights violations, including mass crimes, mass rapes and other crimes against humanity were duly noticed.
9. The Tribunal commented that these crimes (in occupied Kashmir) “meet the definition of genocide.”
10. The Russell Tribunal on Kashmir adjourned for another day, by penning, “the reports we have heard suggest that the government of India, the Indian Army and the Indian Intelligence Service are responsible. This requires further investigation.”
11. The Tribunal also called upon the United Nations to “properly oversee the de-colonialization process in Kashmir,” similar on the lines of Chagos Archipelago in the 1960s.
The Tribunal has rested its case in the conscience of international law and morality of state-centric diplomacy. It is, indeed, a triumph in lawfare domains for Kashmiris and Pakistan, alike, and calls for galvanizing the momentum on an issue of utmost human evolution in one of the world’s most serene but bloodied Occupied Valleys.
It is directly linked to peace prospects for more than two billion people in South Asia and last not least congeniality, trade and development of billions more as geo-economics takes roots under the Beijing-sponsored Belt and Road Initiative.
What the Russell Tribunal evaluated, cross-checked and pronounced is a new leaf on Kashmir. It has simply outpaced any of the gimmicks portrayed by India to this day. It has also cemented the belief that as avenues of political and military means find themselves stuck in the quagmire of Machiavellianism, it is the lawful route of the world community that can, and must, come to the rescue of Kashmiris.
Pakistan has for long tried political and diplomatic means with India to seek a peaceful resolution of the territorial dispute, but in vain. The reason was in the torpedoed realpolitik of our times, wherein India is valued for its demographic, technological and diplomatic muscles irrespective of the fact that the jaundiced philosophy of Hindutva had made it an apartheid state of the 21st century much worse than what South Africa was under white racism.
Last but not least, out of centrifugal realities both the countries even went to war three times in 70 years of their post-colonial statehood but couldn’t address the Kashmir conundrum. Rather, it compounded the equation of bilateralism, and further crippled the very existence of Kashmiris as the most vulnerable human species.
This has boiled down to the new psyche that it is lawful mechanism that can help Kashmir free from the yoke of neo-colonialism, and that is what the Russell Tribunal 2021 has humbly and spontaneously observed by analyzing the undisputable pieces of evidences of crimes against humanity brought before it.
Pakistan has a double-edged sword to fight with: harness all diplomatic muscles to push ahead with its newfound love in geo-economics, and let India and all of its neighbours realise that missing the bus this time will be suicidal.
Secondly, the battle to be fought is on the lawfare front. Pakistan must highlight and embody the Kashmiri struggle on all its socio-political, economic, diplomatic and legal spheres. Setting up of as many statutory bodies, panels and commissions under its domestic domains, rejuvenating media and tapping the international audience in academia, parliaments and think tanks should be the way to go. Being politically on one page is a must. Then, they will surely be heard and an impact shall be felt sooner than later.
As rightly stated, there are two kinds of problems with two timeframes: one that requires instant remedy and the other that spans over a generation to get addressed. Kashmir is certainly in the latter’s inbox. Let it graduate into a meritorious case under the legitimacy of international law. The Russell Tribunal is a great beginning and Kashmiris stand a square chance to triumph. Pakistan’s birth was a triumph of constitutionalism; Kashmir must follow suit under lawfare.
Note: This article appeared in Defence Journal, dated 10 February 2022.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent Institute’s policy.