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India’s purported Annexation of Kashmir:   An unacceptable challenge to International Law, Global Security and all Regional Stakeholders

7 August 2019:  The World Sikh Parliament unreservedly condemns India’s brazen attempt this week to override international law and democratic legitimacy by unilaterally purporting to divide and annex Kashmir. These moves by New Delhi were overseen by a massive military build-up aimed at terrorising the very people whose destiny, like that of the Sikhs in recent decades, is being stolen by a Hindutva agenda bent on creating a Hindu state extending well in to the territories of neighbouring national homelands. They were taken with absolutely no attempt to engage with Kashmiris or the UN (which has recently, quite rightly, reiterated the need to respect Kashmiri self-determination), and underline India’s record as a serial violator of fundamental human rights.

Having experienced the same pattern of betrayal – Sikhs were promised a national homeland in independent India only to be denied even recognition as a nation as well as a distinct religion post 1947 – we now also apprehend a massive military crackdown of genocidal proportions in Kashmir, as was used to suppress the Sikh self-determination struggle in the decade after India’s invasion of Punjab in June 1984. The international community must intervene urgently to prevent the deaths of tens of thousands of Kashmiri non-combatants at the hands of PM Modi’s henchmen.

Just as importantly, it is time world powers realised that the right-wing agenda in India is quickly paving the way to further military conflict with not only Pakistan but China. Both neighbouring states have warned India that its Article 370 abrogation and ‘union territory’ annexation moves are not only illegal but constitute a direct challenge to their own longstanding territorial claims. The prospect of these three nuclear armed powers turning to full scale war to ‘resolve’ the crisis is both real and alarming. The World Sikh Parliament, pointing out that such a conflict would devastate the Sikh homeland in Punjab, had urged those powers and the UN just four months ago to take serious steps to escalate the issue on the international agenda; we reiterate that request now, as the only meaningful way to counter Indian aggression.

As highlighted at the World Sikh Parliament’s conference in May 2019 in Birmingham, the only realistic long term prospect of resolving territorial disputes and avoiding catastrophic conflict in the region is to implement the right of self-determination in both Kashmir and Punjab, so that buffer states representing the democratic mandate of the people can take shape and prevent a war that may cost tens of millions of lives. The physical separation of these warring states at sensitive border areas is long overdue.

India has officially rejected the UN’s own prescription on self-determination, as enshrined in Article 1 of the 1966 International Covenants on Human Rights. That is a position that has already led directly to hundreds of thousands of deaths in needless conflicts in Punjab and Kashmir – as well as other regions such as Assam, Naga territory and elsewhere. It is time the international community showed some moral and political leadership in stopping what will otherwise be an inevitable holocaust in South Asia.

The Sikh nation’s struggle for an independent and sovereign state in what is Indian-occupied Punjab is underpinned by the same international law which the UN recognises as being the key to resolve the Kashmir conflict. We support the right of the Kashmiris to self-determination and pledge to work with the international community to bring freedom and justice to Kashmir, just as we will in Punjab.

We urge Sikh military personnel not to take part in any Hindutva aggression against either unarmed civilians or, when it comes to it, Pakistan or China. They should instead endeavour to establish themselves in a defensive posture to protect the Sikh homeland and its population from the fall out of a dispute which the Sikh nation is not a party to. The Indian government has spent the past months intensively propagandising against the Sikhs in foreign capitals, labelling our legitimate and lawful freedom struggle as a terrorist enterprise; the irony is that the very same Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Ajit Doval will now be desperately looking to Sikh soldiers to defend them when they have clearly overstepped red lines abroad. These foolish adherents of a fascist ideology are about to learn that the Sikhs value their own nationhood and egalitarian outlook, not the caste-ridden Hindutva vision of Brahmanical society that targets minorities in a cowardly and contemptible manner.

Sikhs and Kashmiris will, on 15th August 2019, jointly protest outside the Indian High Commission in London (as well as other Indian missions around the world) against India’s unlawful colonial practices and its unabated human rights abuses. They will assert their right to self-determination and make it clear to Indian diplomats and the international community alike that their national homelands, where they are the majorities, must be freed if enduring peace is to be restored to the region.

The events of recent days have proven beyond any doubt that it is no longer credible for leaders across the world to dismiss this crisis as an internal matter for the Indians to deal with, nor for them to pretend this is something that can be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan. This is a multi-faceted international issue with numerous stakeholders – all of whom must be engaged at this time in order to find a peaceful and just outcome.

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