A year since Kashmir lost its autonomy, narratives of the region’s past, present and future are as contested as ever.
Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated that he is prepared to hold talks with neighbouring India only if it lifts its “military siege” on Indian-administered Kashmir and gives its residents the right to self-determination.
Khan made the remarks during a short video address released on Tuesday to coincide with the anniversary of the day Indian security forces entered the part of Kashmir it administers in 1947, two months after both India and Pakistan gained independence from the British.
In his speech, Khan said he would engage in dialogue with India only if it took steps to reverse what Pakistan terms New Delhi’s “occupation” of India’s only Muslim-majority region.
“I am ready [for talks], but for that, you will need to end the military siege that you have imposed on Kashmir, and the second thing is that you will need to give Kashmiris the right to self-determination as per the United Nations’ resolutions,” said Khan.
Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full but administer separate portions of it, divided by a Line of Control, across which a tenuous ceasefire has been in place since 2003.
In August 2019, India revoked a constitutional provision that had given Indian-administered Kashmir a measure of autonomy, bringing it into the country’s administrative and governance mainstream.
The move was accompanied by the influx of tens of thousands of troops into the territory, where an armed separatist movement has raged for years.
A curfew was imposed across the mountainous Himalayan territory, with severe restrictions on public gatherings, communication and other civil liberties and hundreds of people arrested.
The restrictions have continued after the coronavirus pandemic erupted in March.
In his comments on Tuesday, Khan decried what he termed a “military siege” of Kashmir’s citizens in Indian-administered Kashmir.
“They are neither Indian citizens, and neither do they have the right of self-determination that was given by the United Nations Security Council,” he said.
In 1948, the UN Security Council passed a resolution mandating that both sides cease hostilities to pave the way for a plebiscite where Kashmiris would be given the right to choose between joining either Pakistan or India.
But New Delhi has continued to tighten its control over the Muslim-majority region with a large military presence and a series of legislation aimed at suppressing the separatist voices.
Khan’s statement on Tuesday coincided with India enacting new laws that allow any Indian national to buy land in Indian-administered Kashmir, spurring allegations about New Delhi planning a demographic change in the region.