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“Beyond Borders: Unveiling the Striking Parallels Between Palestine and Kashmir”

Opinion Piece

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with Indian PM Narendra Modi | Credit: Wikimedia Commons

To understand the roots of political disputes, historical backgrounds must be reexamined. Kashmir has been a subject of dispute between the two nuclear rivals, India and Pakistan, since 1947. Their land is occupied, and it is one of the most militarized areas of the world. Similarly, Palestine has been occupied by the Israeli state for over 75 years now, with Palestinians facing a brutal occupation with the violence intensifying.


Palestine and Kashmir share similarities particularly in regards to the complications around respective conflicts. Kashmir valley is situated in Northern India and it borders Pakistan. Ever since the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, Kashmir has been a disputed area between the nuclear armed states. Palestinian territories encompass of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, and the violence Palestinians face dates back to the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, which is called the Nakba, meaning ‘catastrophe’. The Nakba was the mass displacement of Palestinians and it is remembered as a tragic time in history when approximately 700,000-750,000 Palestinians were dispossessed from their land by Zionists. In the case of Kashmir, there was a promised referendum on whether to accede to India or Pakistan from the Indian government stated by Prime Minister Nehru. This promised referendum never took place and currently India occupies 45% of the Kashmir valley with Pakistan occupying roughly 35%. In both the cases of Palestine and Kashmir, there is a story of suffering and hardship at the hands of occupying forces, in complex geopolitical regions that go back centuries.


This article proposes that there are striking parallels between Palestine and Kashmir that the international community often overlooks. Firstly, there is a significance of the two lands which is the main motive of both Israeli and Indian governments. There are both religious and cultural implications over East Jerusalem for all the Abrahamic religions and Israel claims this strategic importance. This issue of it being ‘holy land’ is a significant aspect for the occupation. In the case of Kashmir, there is geopolitical significance of the region, as the territory borders Pakistan and China making it a political interest for powers in the region.


The Palestinian conflict is directly related to prolonged struggle between Israelis and Palestinians over territory, which has its roots in the aftermath of the Second World War, when Israel was formed as a state in 1948. The Kashmiri conflict is also territorial dispute between India and Pakistan which stems from opposing claims to the land. Both of these disputes have involved conflicts over territory and the similarities are very prominent. Until present day, Palestinians have not attained a fully-fledged state and Kashmiris have not received their promised plebiscite to vote on their preference.


The concepts of self-determination and sovereignty play a fundamental role when comparing the two occupied lands. The United Nations General Assembly declaration on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960, Resolution 1514, stated that “further continuation of colonialism is a crime which constitutes a violation of the Charter of the United Nations”. In the case of both the Kashmiris and Palestinians there is an idea of self-determination; Palestinians have been claiming territorial sovereignty over land in Israel for over 75 years, and Kashmir has witnessed its territorial integrity and special status disintegrate over the same time period. The escalation of violence and conflict in the recent years help understand the striking similarities. After the partition of India and Pakistan, the Indian government brought military forces into Kashmir for ‘temporary protection’ which then became a tool of accession. The Indian Constitution’s Article 370 and 35A restricts the authorities of the Parliament granting autonomy to a certain extent to Kashmir. This made it illegal for the Indian government to make political decisions and changes without the agreement of Kashmir’s Constituent Assembly. In the case of Palestine, since the state of Israel was created, Israel have been embroiled in armed conflicts with neighboring Arab states. This conflict was subsequently followed by the establishment of settlements in West Bank and the occupation of East Jerusalem and West Bank. When comparing the two cases, it is evident that they involve this tool of accession or establishment of authority and power over a disputed territory. The use of such tools help shroud occupation in a veil of legality, and discredit attempts to change the status-quo.


When delving into other similar aspects between Palestine and Kashmir, it is important to look at the culture and identity. Palestinian people share a distinct identity, and the dispute has caused significant displacement resulting in many Palestinian refugees. Similarly, only Kashmiri’s have lived in the territory as permanent residents of which all share cultural, traditional and religious identity dating back to their ancestral lineage. It may be stated that the preservation of these identities is amongst the factors of ongoing tensions.


The conflicts have further escalated over the recent years. In 2019, the Indian BJP-led government revoked the special status of Kashmiris that was granted by Article 370 and 35A. This decision was made illegally and was unilaterally followed by a lockdown of the region, with the Indian government turning off internet and mobile services in Kashmir. Likewise, in Palestine, since Benjamin Netanyahu’s government came to power in 2021, he has encouraged construction of settlements in West Bank - this has allowed Israeli authorities to move Israelis into the occupied Palestinian lands. The Netanyahu administration has also imposed government policies and espoused a rhetoric that portrays Palestine as an existential threat. This leaves Palestinians with no political power whilst suffering from restrictions of basic human needs including water, food, and shelter. When considering Kashmir, alongside the revoking the region’s special status (Article 370), the Indian Parliament has an act called AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act) that gives Indian forces special protections, and technically would allow soldiers to commit human rights violations without risk of prosecution. Both Israel and India have also employed an increasingly Islamophobic rhetoric in recent years to shore up support for actions in the contested regions. These are ways that both the Israeli and Indian governments have legitimized claims to the regions, justified their occupation of both lands, and increased the risk of human rights violations occurring.

It is essential to understand the historical background of the occupation whether it is about Palestine or Kashmir. Clearly, the border disputes share a lot in common specifically in the ways occupation is legitimized or seems somewhat legal. Therefore I argue that the term ‘occupation’ is relevant to both cases even if the nature and extent may differ.





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