NEW DELHI: Kashmir’s pro-independence alliance All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference (APHC) has called for dialogue between Pakistan and India to “urgently” resolve a decades-long conflict over the disputed territory.
Muslim-majority Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which both claim it in full and rule it in part. Since gaining independence in 1947, the nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two of their three wars over control of Kashmiri territory.
The portion of the disputed region ruled by India has been plagued by separatist violence since the late 1980s. On August 5, 2019, New Delhi scrapped Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution, which granted special autonomous status to the region, and divided the state into two federally administered units.
That move was followed by a crackdown on political activity, including the arrests of hundreds of political leaders and a series of administrative measures that raised concerns over attempts at engineering a demographic change in India’s only Muslim-majority region.
As the security situation continues to worsen in the region, the APHC said in a statement on Thursday evening that peace and the resolution of the Kashmir conflict can be achieved “through dialogue among India and Pakistan and the people of J&K (Jammu and Kashmir).”
“The fast-changing geopolitical reality of the region also points to the need for urgent conflict resolution,” APHC chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who has been under house arrest since 2019, told Arab News on Friday.
Despite the recent resumption of a 2003 Kashmir border ceasefire between India and Pakistan in February, Farooq said the “oppressive situation on the ground continues unabated.”
“Political leadership and hundreds of political prisoners and youth are languishing in jails or under house detention and the health of many among them is a constant source of worry,” Farooq said. The majority of the APHC’s leaders, including the ailing Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah, remain in detention.
For Srinagar-based political analyst Gowhar Geelani, Farooq’s comments on Pakistan-India dialogue are a “significant development” indicative of “backchannel diplomatic parleys between Pakistan and India.”
“This (suggests) that there could be some forward movement on Kashmir, as far as symbolic restoration of a political process is concerned,” he said.
Last month, Kashmiri leaders from pro-India parties, many of whom were also arrested in the 2019 crackdown, also urged New Delhi to engage in dialogue with Pakistan and use backchannel diplomacy to address the existing tensions between the two nations for the sake of Kashmir’s economy.