Parallels are often drawn between Palestine and Kashmir. For years, there have been arguments that Indian Kashmir is an “occupied territory”, much like Palestine. Both Kashmir and Palestine are viewed by many as territories fighting for the “right to self-determination”.
One significant contradiction, however, is that Kashmiris have always shown solidarity and support for Palestinians and their cause, while the latter has not reciprocated the same. What could be the reason for this one-sided affection, if one may call it.
Kashmir’s Support For Palestine
India’s Kashmir Valley has a long history of showing support for Palestinians. A key reason for this being the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the world’s third holiest site in Islam.
The most intense anti-Israel protest that occurred hitherto was in Srinagar when Israel annexed East Jerusalem in June 1967. Churches were reportedly set on fire, even some foreign tourists were attacked. In Srinagar, a curfew was imposed for more than 160 hours and large protests were held at major mosques and other historically significant places.
Students have been at the forefront of such protests. Islamic Students League (ISL), a dissenting group formed in the 1980s, took out protest marches in support of Palestine on many occasions.
Similar protests happened during the 2014 Gaza crisis when Palestinian flags flew over vehicles, poles, and shops in Kashmir to show their solidarity. In the same breath, they protested against the Indian state.
In 2018, hundreds of Kashmiris held rallies in a show of solidarity with the 62 Palestinians killed in Gaza. Even now, common Kashmiris took to the streets protesting against the Israeli aggression in Gaza.
This received little international coverage: Indian-occupied Kashmir police arrested 20 people who stood in solidarity with Palestine – including Kashmiri artist Mudasir Gul, who painted this image & was forced to deface it. https://t.co/lingM2HPkH pic.twitter.com/kIWnXk7nrj
— Sana Saeed (@SanaSaeed) May 18, 2021
Jammu & Kashmir police sent a clear message that pro-Palestine protests will not be tolerated in the Valley and arrested 22 people, mostly youth, in the last few days.
Kashmir Vs Palestine
The genesis and the nature of the Kashmir and Palestine problems are quite different. The creation of the Israel state is based on The Zionist movement, a religious and political movement that brought thousands of Jews from all over the world back to their “ancient homeland” in the Middle East and they rebuilt Israel as the center of Jewish identity.
Palestine, which was a part of the Ottoman Empire, was dissolved by the Allied Powers after World War I. The League of Nations in 1922 handed the United Kingdom mandatory power over Palestine on the condition that Britain should assist in the formation of a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine, who had suffered a long history of anti-Semitism in Europe.
By 1947, on the eve of the United Nations’ decision to partition Palestine between Jews and Palestinian Arabs, there were around 1.35 million Palestinian Arabs and around 650,000 Jews living in the mandated area of Palestine.
Notwithstanding it, the United Nations General Assembly decided to grant the Jews about 56 percent of Palestine’s land for a Jewish state.
Palestinians and their neighboring Arab states refused to recognize the UN partition resolution. They went to battle with the emerging state of Israel and were defeated.
Israel controlled more than two-thirds of the old British-mandated territory by the end of the war in July 1949, while Jordan acquired control of the West Bank, Egypt, and the Gaza Strip.
However, Israel took control of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights in 1967 following a series of wars.
Kashmir — Caught Between India & Pakistan
The Kashmir dispute, on the other hand, dates back to 1947 when India and Pakistan gained independence from British colonialism. This independence resulted in the emergence and continuation of the Indian-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir.
Before independence, Kashmir was a distinct state with a Muslim majority but it was ruled by Hari Singh, a Hindu ruler. As a result, Pakistan dispatched tribal raiders to annex Kashmir in 1947. In response, Kashmir’s monarch requested Delhi for military assistance and protection and was conditioned to be assisted if Kashmir’s king signed the instrument of accession.
After the instrument was signed and the ruler of Delhi sent Indian forces to Kashmir, the first war between India and Pakistan erupted. As a result, in 1948, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 47 specified that Pakistan must remove all of its soldiers from Kashmir, while India must do the same while maintaining some forces on the border to protect Indian territory.
The people of Kashmir would then have complete autonomy in deciding whether they want to be a part of India, Pakistan, or an independent state. However, forces did not withdraw, a referendum did not take place, and a line of ceasefire was established, dividing Kashmir into two parts, one under Indian control and the other under Pakistan.
As a result, war over Kashmir continued with major clashes taking place for years subsequently.
Diverse Religio-Cultural Factors
Among things to understand, the creation of Israel displaced millions of Palestinians. The Arabs saw the establishment of Israel as an extension of imperialism and colonialism, as it brought the European Jewish problem to the Middle East.
The Israeli state had to fight a war with its neighbor for its right to exist. Although Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza has provided it with defensive control and resources in the event of an Arab attack, it has also brought a large population of Palestinians under Israeli authority.
Palestinians were neither consulted nor given any choice in the creation of the state of Israel. Their occupation is rather forceful, however, the same cannot be said for Kashmir.
Kashmir was legitimately merged on a legal basis through the instrument of accession and became an equal member of the Indian Federal Union.
Unlike Israel, which was based on the sectarian ideology of Zionism, which favored Jews and Judaism over other Middle Eastern religions and cultures, India was not formed on such restrictive philosophy.
Unlike Israel, which publicly protects the rights of Jews over all others, India has never claimed religious exclusivity for its Hindu majority.
On the other hand, India had granted Jammu and Kashmir Articles 370 and 35A (in 1949 and 1954, respectively) in order to protect the autonomy given to them at their accession. These constitutional provisions were withdrawn almost 70 later and the state was bifurcated into two federally controlled Union Territories.
Justifying the move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had then termed these two special provisions as an impediment to the development of J&K and Ladakh.
“This act of the government will usher in a new dawn in the region and help in the development of the youth there,” he had said.
The controversial revocation of J&K’s special status was aimed at improving tourism, reforming education and health policies, uplifting tribal populations, developing local self-governing organizations, and curbing militancy.
Israel’s occupation of Palestine is driven by the idea of ensuring the security of the former, whereas India justified its action saying it would foster national integrity.
Palestine Not Supporting Kashmir
India has historically been supportive of the Palestinian cause. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was recognized as the legitimate representative of Palestinians by New Delhi, the first non-Arab government to do so.
In 1975, the PLO opened an office in New Delhi, and full diplomatic relations were established in March 1980. Subsequently, India recognized Palestine as a state on November 18, 1988.
India has undertaken an effort to build relations with Muslim countries since its independence. The formation of Pakistan in 1947 had especially driven India’s support for the Palestinian.
With Nehruvian idealism and the Non-Alignment Movement emerging in post- Independence years, India sought to find its ideological footing and cultivate the goodwill and assistance of the several Arab nations of West Asia. India’s proximity to the Soviet bloc also contributed to its support for Palestine back then.
Over the years, Indian and Palestinian leaders have exchanged visits on a regular basis. India has provided material and technical assistance to the Palestinian people in addition to its strong political support for the Palestinian cause at the international and bilateral levels. Palestine has also received financial assistance from India.
Under Prime Minister Modi, India’s relations with Arab countries have improved significantly even though he seems to be following what is called a ‘de-hyphenation policy’ on the Israel-Palestine issue.
In February 2018, Narendra Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to make an official visit to Palestine. He was conferred upon the ‘Grand Collar of the State of Palestine’, the highest civilian award of the land.
Even in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, India has not supported Israel and instead advocated a two-state solution. India has adopted a balancing out policy towards Israel and Palestine for long. Though India has emphasized that its Israel policy is not hyphenated to Palestine’s but New Delhi has tried to maintain a balance in diplomatic ties.
India’s envoy to the UN has urged both sides to show “extreme restraint, desist from actions that exacerbate tensions”, and refrain from trying to change the existing status quo, including in East Jerusalem and its neighborhood.
“Jerusalem has a special place in the hearts of millions of Indians, who visit the city every year,” the envoy said. “The Old City also houses the Al Zawiyya Al Hindiyya – the Indian Hospice, which is a historic place associated with a great Indian Sufi saint Baba Farid and located inside the Old City.
Tirumurti, the Indian envoy recently said that India believes every effort should be made to create conducive conditions for the resumption of talks between Israel and Palestine.
“In conclusion, I reiterate India’s strong support to the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-state solution.”
After the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir in 2019, the reaction of the Arab world, including Palestine, was not harsh and critical. This was in stark contrast to Pakistan’s constant accusation that there had been widespread human rights violations after New Delhi had withdrawn the special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Turkey has also joined this chorus and leveled similar allegations against India.
India is today a significant trading partner with countries in the Middle East, which do not see Kashmir as a stumbling block. For several decades, India’s pro-Palestinian stance has gained traction among Muslim countries.
Despite having outstanding relations with Israel, India’s ties with the Middle Eastern countries including Palestine have intensified dramatically. Given these circumstances, Palestinian support for Kashmir is quite unlikely.