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August 14, 2019

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Kashmir issue must be handled in line with relevant resolutions

THE Kashmir issue, a dispute born out of the region’s colonial history, has sparked two wars and a spate of armed conflicts between India and Pakistan over the past 70 years.

The situation, which re­mained tense since earlier this year after the two coun­tries exchanged airstrikes for the first time in decades, worsened once again follow­ing India’s move on August 5 to revoke the “special status” of India-controlled Kashmir, and split it into two Union territories.

India’s decision to elimi­nate autonomy for Kashmir, a mountainous stretch that lies in the north of the South Asian subcontinent, has been described as the big­gest political move in nearly 70 years in one of the world’s most militarized regions. One Indian newspaper carried a front-page story titled “His­tory, in one stroke.”

The move sparked out­rage from Pakistan, which downgraded its diplomatic relations with India, expelled the Indian high commissioner and suspended trade.

India and Pakistan have inherited the Kashmir issue from their shared colonial history.

When the South Asian subcontinent gained its in­dependence after World War II, the British colonialists left behind them the Mountbat­ten Plan and a divided region, the root cause of turmoil and violence.

Maximum restraint

During decades of sangui­nary conflicts and territorial disputes, life for the people of Kashmir has been a disaster.

According to data gath­ered by locals, around 160 civilians were killed in 2018, which is believed to be the highest number in more than a decade, a UN report stated in July.

The past year also regis­tered the highest number of conflict-related casualties since 2008 with 586 people killed, including 267 mem­bers of armed groups and 159 security forces person­nel, stated the report.

Since nobody can turn the clock back, both sides should refrain from any unilateral ac­tion that may complicate the current critical situation.

UN Secretary-General An­tonio Guterres has twice this week called on India and Pak­istan to exercise “maximum restraint.”

Expressing grave concern over the recent escalation of turmoil in Kashmir, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi voiced op­position to any unilateral action, urging the issue to be properly handled in a peace­ful way in line with the UN Charter, relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and bilateral agreements be­tween Pakistan and India.

In addition, New Delhi’s pol­icy shift further complicates its boundary issue with China as its move to change the sta­tus of Kashmir includes the formation of Ladakh, where the western section of the China-India boundary is lo­cated, as one of the Union territories.

Beijing has made it clear that its position remains unchanged. China is op­posed to India’s inclusion of the Chinese territory in its administrative jurisdiction. And China will not recognize the legitimacy of India’s ac­tion to undermine China’s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally changing its do­mestic law.

Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan told India’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in Beijing that under the guidance of leaders from the two countries, China and India have enjoyed a further development of coopera­tion across-the-board and a sound momentum of bilateral relations.

To sustain such a sound momentum, India should properly handle its differ­ences with China, especially territorial issues.

Ultimately, it is up to coun­tries concerned to come together to maintain regional peace and stability. As long as they can join hands, the South Asian subcontinent, which used to enjoy peace and prosperity for millenni­ums, will have a good chance to outlast the poisonous lega­cies of Western colonialism.

The author is a Xinhua writer.


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