On February 22, 1994, both Houses of the Indian Parliament passed a resolution unanimously, stating that Pakistan has been occupying areas of India in Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian Government is committed to take back the occupied areas. It also stated that Pakistan was using the occupied territories to train and launch terrorists in India and asked Pakistan to desist from terror supporting activities. The resolution reiterated that the State of Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and demanded that Pakistan vacates its occupied areas. It advised Pakistan against violating the Shimla Agreement by trying to internationalise The Kashmir issue. Two more cause of concern related to the abysmal human right violations and conditions of people living in Pakistan-occupied areas of Jammu and Kashmir, were also part of the resolution.
AREAS UNDER OCCUPATION
Post independence and Partition of India, the Princely States had the right to decide whether to accede to the dominion of India or Pakistan, depending upon geographical congruity. On the night of October 22/23, 1947, Pakistani army attacked the princely State of Jammu & Kashmir with the intention of attaching it by force. On October 26, 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh formally acceded to the dominion of India and the Indian army came into action. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru took the matter of Pakistani aggression to the United Nations. The Kashmir war lasted till a UN-mandated ceasefire came into effect from midnight on December 31, 1948, to January 1, 1949. Pakistan has been in illegal occupation of these territories since the ceasefire.
The occupied territories of the (erstwhile) State of Jammu and Kashmir consist of Mirpur-Muzzafarabad areas (14,000 sq km approx), termed as PoJK (Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir) by India and euphemistically termed ‘Azad Jammu Kashmir’ by Pakistan. This area is part of the present day Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Additionally, about 75,000 sq km territory of Gilgit and Baltistan is occupied by Pakistan, which is part of the present day Union Territory of Ladakh, a part of Leh district.
China occupied about 35,000 sq km of Eastern Ladakh called Aksai Chin in 1962, post Indo-China war from October 22 to November 21, 1962. Additionally, Pakistan ceded approx 5,100 sq km of Shaksgam Valley illegally to China in March 1963 under a Sino-Pak boundary agreement.
WHY THE RESOLUTION?
Why was the parliamentary resolution passed on February 22, 1994? To understand the significance and context, the geopolitical background has to be studied. From 1989 onwards, terror activities increased in Kashmir, leading to the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus. The Afghanistan situation had invested Pakistan with a geopolitical importance with it emerging as a key ally of the USA. Pakistan constantly tried to internationalise the Kashmir issue, and was shrill in advocating plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir, conveniently blacking out the UN resolution which had asked Pakistan to vacate the occupied areas as a pre-condition to plebiscite. In February 1990, under Benazir Bhutto, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed a resolution rejecting J&K’s accession to India. The USA took a pro-Pakistan stand on this issue during that period. It should be noted that the Instrument of Accession was not open to international jurisdiction.
USA’s stand emboldened Pakistan, which declared its intent of tabling a resolution at the United Nation Human Rights conference in Geneva in March 1994. Pakistan had already been building a narrative of ‘human rights violations’ by India in Kashmir. Had the resolution been tabled and passed, it would have opened possibilities of UNSC sanctions against India and interference by the international community. On February 22, 1994, by passing a unanimous resolution, the Indian Parliament countered the US-led international pressure on India. It countered Pakistan claims and reiterated India’s legal claim on J&K. By March 7, 1994, the Indian team led by Leader of Opposition Atal Bihari Vajpayee garnered enough support of countries in Geneva not to back Pakistani resolution. Iran backed out and on March 9, 1994 Pakistan withdrew its proposed resolution.
Focus on Pak Occupied Kashmir
Post victory at Geneva and the subsequent softening of US’s stand, the Parliamentary Resolution along with issue of PoJK was put in cold storage. On August 15, 2016, the then newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan in his speech at the Red Fort, and brought the focus back on the Pakistan occupied territories. On August 5, 2019, Article 370 was abrogated and the state of J&K was reorganised into Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. On August 7, 2019, Home Minister Amit Shah invoked the Parliamentary Resolution of 1994, stressing that Jammu-Kashmir is an integral part of India and Parliament is committed to reclaiming both Pakistan-occupied areas and Aksai Chin.
Post 2019, both Home and Defence ministries have often invoked the Parliamentary Resolution and underlined that talks with Pakistan will be only on Pakistan vacating the occupied territories. On October 27, 2022 on the occasion of Shaurya Divas, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh stated that India is committed to reclaim PoJK and Gilgit Baltistan as stated in the Parliamentary Resolution of February 22, 1994. This was followed by Indian Army Chief stating that the Indian Army is totally prepared to reclaim the Pakistan occupied areas. The parliamentary resolution of February 22 is an important milestone in India’s parliamentary history. It laid the foundation for reclaiming occupied territories, and countered Pakistani propaganda on human rights in Kashmir, bringing focus on the dismal state of affairs in Pakistani occupied areas. It further laid to rest any doubts on the legality of the Instrument of Accession, while upholding the Shimla Agreement clauses as the only recourse.
Post reorganisation of Jammu Kashmir, the occupied areas of Jammu Kashmir have been, for the first time, represented as districts of Mirpur and Muzzafarabad in the map of the Union territory of Jammu &Kashmir. Gilgit and Baltistan have been represented as part of the Leh district of the Union Territory of Ladakh, with the boundary corresponding to the boundary as it existed pre 1901. This is the first time that occupied territories have been represented as parts of existing districts. To conclude, it is very important to revisit the parliamentary resolution every year on February 22 till we actually reclaim our territories. It is for the people to remind the Indian Parliament of its commitment and the unfinished task of reclaiming the occupied territories. Territories are not lost by occupation, but are lost only when a nation and its people forget them.