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Kashmir in the cold


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IN a TV interview, Pakistan’s foreign minister “categorically” denied that Pakistan was going to “freeze” the Kashmir dispute, asserting “we have changed the road that leads to resolution of [the] Kashmir issue and other issues that exist with India”.

Foreign Minister Khar has done much to counter the portrayal of Pakistan by the western and Indian media as the ‘epicentre’ of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. She has also done well to uphold Pakistan’s positions in difficult engagements with the US and India. Her remarks during the interview were thus highly unfortunate, reflecting diplomatic naivety and historical inexactitude.

First, there is no point in denying that Kashmir has been put on the ‘back burner’ as far as Pakistan’s diplomacy is concerned. But what was even more disturbing was Ms Khar’s misreading of history and her assertion that we [Pakistan] “are equally responsible” as India for “building animosity and hostility”.

This is not true. It was not Pakistan but India which unilaterally took over Kashmir through an engineered accession, and the peremptory dispatch of troops to Srinagar despite a ‘standstill agreement’ with Pakistan; reneged on its pledge to allow the Kashmiris to determine their own future through a UN-supervised plebiscite; politically compromised or jailed Kashmiri leaders; repeatedly and brutally suppressed the serial uprisings of the Kashmiri peoples, killing over 80,000 since 1989, ‘disappearing’ 10,000, incarcerating thousands more; imposed a military occupation by 700,000 troops in Kashmir.

It is true that Pakistan did support the Kashmiris at various stages in varying degrees to wrest their freedom from India. Unfortunately, our efforts to support Kashmiri freedom were even more ham-handed than the Indian campaigns to suppress the Kashmiris. But while our support may have been inefficient, it should not be perceived as illegal.

In the post-colonial period, international law had evolved in several UN declarations on decolonisation which made it legal to support, even militarily, the struggle of peoples under colonial or foreign occupation for self-determination. How then is Pakistan equally to blame for ‘animosity and hostility’?

What we should accept blame for is losing several strategic opportunities for securing Kashmiri rights and freedoms. The last such opportunity presented itself during the decade of the 1990s. Pakistan’s decision to inject the ‘jihadi’ groups, rather than support the indigenous Kashmiri liberation movement, and the subsequent transgressions and cruelty of religious fanatics, led inevitably to charges of ‘terrorism’ and the progressive delegitimisation of the just Kashmiri freedom struggle.

Post 9/11 and with Pakistani leaders dependent on US largesse to survive, it was not difficult for India to outlaw the Kashmiri jihadist organisations and terminate all support for the Kashmiri freedom struggle. The subsequent effort by Pakistan to evolve a bilateral solution through ‘back-channel’ diplomacy was equally ill-considered. The ‘solution’ would have legitimised the status quo and forever forsaken the rights of the Kashmiris. Blissfully, it was spurned by India as Pakistan descended into political chaos after 2007.

Today, Pakistan is even weaker than during this quixotic endeavour to achieve a ‘final solution’. It is preoccupied with addressing the challenges posed by the US-Nato war in Afghanistan and the frontier regions of Pakistan. It would find it difficult to muster the political, military and diplomatic resources to seriously address the Kashmir dispute. As the Chinese proverb says: ‘When you have the wolf at the front door, you can’t worry about the fox at the back door’.

Thus, putting a settlement of Kashmir on the back burner is tactically sensible and justifiable. Our foreign minister should feel no shame in admitting this openly and explain the logic behind the policy. This would help to retain the public’s trust in our foreign policy.

However, this does not mean that Pakistan should refrain from publicly expressing and upholding its longstanding and legitimate position on Kashmir that a final settlement must be based on the resolutions of the UN Security Council, agreed by and thus binding upon Pakistan and India, calling for a UN-supervised plebiscite to enable the Kashmiri people to determine their own future. Some lawyers have argued that a legal position can lapse with time; Pakistan must ensure against this by regularly and publicly reaffirming its position on Jammu and Kashmir.

For their part, the Kashmiris have not relented in their determination to win their freedom from Indian rule. For the past three years, a large and peaceful movement, led mainly by Kashmiri youth, has been demanding an end to Indian repression. This movement enjoys the support of virtually all Kashmiri political parties. This movement has been systematically suppressed, with frequent resort to massive violence by the Indian and local security forces.

Some of the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteurs have demanded investigations to trace the thousands of missing persons in held Kashmiri as well into the mass graves of 2,700 people discovered recently. Pakistan should be in the forefront of such legitimate endeavours to save the Kashmiris from the violence of India’s occupation.

If the moral, legal and political yardsticks applied to recent crises, such as Libya and Syria, were to be followed also in Kashmir, India would face calls from the Security Council and the OIC to halt its repression, provide a humanitarian corridor for access to the Kashmiri people, withdraw its forces from Kashmiri towns and engage in a political dialogue, mediated by a UN special envoy, to reach a political solution to the crisis.

Publicly reaffirming its position on Kashmir and protesting against violations of the human rights of the Kashmiris is not in contradiction to Pakistan’s desire for dialogue with India. A dialogue is desirable even if it does not yield solutions; so long as it does not compromise fundamental or strategic positions or interests.

A diplomatic dialogue does not require unilateral or peremptory concessions by either side. Nor will appeasement of an adversary, for example, by accepting equal blame for ‘animosity and hostility’, help to achieve breakthroughs even on so-called solvable issues.

Indeed, it is simplistic to conclude that some issues on the Pakistan-India agenda, such as Sir Creek and Siachen, are solvable, while Kashmir and the other main issue not mentioned by the foreign minister, peace and security, are not ‘solvable’ and thus need not be addressed, at least at this time.

We need to think more deeply before accepting this logic. Any dispute becomes ‘solvable’, either when the involved parties accept mutually accommodative concessions or compromises, or when one side in the dispute accepts military or political defeat. Hopefully, Pakistan has not accepted defeat; and compromises are possible on every issue of the Pakistan-India dialogue agenda.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (26) Closed

abhinav Apr 01, 2012 11:31am
put your own house in order before it splits into hundreds of Kashmir
feroz Apr 01, 2012 01:25pm
Lets focus on improving pakistan first..karachi is in a mess. Economy is failing. Extremism is on the rise. What can we possibly offer the kashmiris? We should instead focus on keeping the country intact.
R Sahu Apr 01, 2012 01:32pm
What ever comments the author has made about Kashmir, the same should also apply to Balochistan.
Mari Apr 01, 2012 01:53pm
Just replace the word Kashmir with Balochistan. The article will then be appropriate.
Arindom Apr 01, 2012 03:37pm
Kashmir in the cold and Balochistan in the Hot! haha.... these diplomats are amazing in thier ivory towers!!
sunil Apr 01, 2012 05:33pm
Isn't there also a UN resolution regarding 'use of terror' in neighboring countries? And what about the 'aspirations'of Balcoh youth? uncomfortable questions? An old proverb: One's freedom fighter is terrorist for other.
dalitblitz Apr 01, 2012 07:31pm
such thinking has not helped in resolving issues nor shall it do now or in future, there is hardly anything for either side to lose or win, my humble submission would be to concentrate on the job at hand and keep trying to improve human development rather than see this Kashmir problem through religious prism which Pakistan has so far been trying to, with hardly any success though. if India can carry such large diverse populace towards betterment in life, so can Pakistan, for sure. what is needed is change in outlook. it is not happening, but sooner the better.
V. Sreenivas Apr 01, 2012 08:22pm
One is judged by ones action and not by words. A Pakistan which canot protect its minorities, discriminates those belonging to Shia sect and Ahmedias cannot claim to be a champion of freedom for others. Casting aspertions on others is not a constructive step.
Gajanan Taman Apr 01, 2012 10:23pm
Is Pakistan an upholder of human rights?What it did in Vaziristan is still fresh in our minds.Kashmir in no longer on the U N agenda.The Simla Agrement has ruled out third party intervention.If Pakistan believes in dialouge,it should cease sending terrorist hordes across the border.
Deo Apr 01, 2012 10:39pm
64 years of fight have been a curse to India, Pakistan, and to the people of Kashmir. There are no winners in this fight. Important is to reach a satisfactory solution acceptable to India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiries, rather than searching 'the best' solution from the perspective of one of the three parties. The 'old' generation of diplomats in India and pakistan have failed in their responsibility to solve the outstanding issues between India and Pakistan. I congratulate the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan for accepting some responsibility for these failures. I sincerely hope that a high ranking senior minister in india will do the same and tell indians that they share a lot of responsibility for the sorry state of affairs between India and Pakistan. People of India, Pakistan, and Kashmir deserve a better future.
observer Apr 01, 2012 10:53pm
Mr ex-Ambassador to UN claims,"It was not Pakistan but India which unilaterally took over Kashmir through an engineered accession, and the peremptory dispatch of troops to Srinagar" If that be so, why does the UN Resolution dated 13th August, 1948 say,"As the presence of troops of Pakistan in the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a material change in the situation since it was represented by the Government of Pakistan before the Security Council, the Government of Pakistan agrees to withdraw its troops from that State." Either the ex-Ambassador is right or the UN is right. Which one?
Jaya Kumar Apr 01, 2012 11:10pm
Maybe kashmiris want independence,but i dont think they wish to be a part of PAKISTAN,just like the balochis.
Shreekant Apr 01, 2012 11:03pm
Dear Pakistanis. The two nation theory for the division of India was wrong. You can not make a nation out of any religion. That is why Pakistan is wrong and so is Israel. The so called struggle for freedom exists only because it is funded on insanely religious grounds by Pakistanis. The money will be better utilized solving Pakistan's internal problem. Don't use religion for political purposes - it only leads to hell.
Arkady Apr 02, 2012 05:30am
Like the Tears For Fears song goes - "When life begins on needles and pins, It ends with swords and knives." . That is going to be Pakistan's destiny unless it gives up its hatred and reverses course.
Pollack Apr 02, 2012 05:23am
"India which unilaterally took over Kashmir through an engineered accession," When facts are not on your side, just "create" new facts. :-)
Zaheer bajwa Apr 02, 2012 06:21am
To my Indian friends, ok pakistani's are bad and you are all noble people, your this nobility should demand from you to look into what has been and is going on in kasmir. Unfortunately you turn a blind eye once it comes to crimes of your forces in Kashmir.
Tamilselvan Apr 02, 2012 06:26am
Let the line of control be the border. Compare the plight of minorioties in both countries and ask them where they would prefer to live. Look at the progress made in the last 6 years in Pak held Kashmir and Indian side of Kashmir and decide where life is better.
NASAH (USA) Apr 02, 2012 06:30am
The Honorable ex ambassador says -- "But what was even more disturbing was Ms Khar’s misreading of history and her assertion that we [Pakistan] “are equally responsible” as India for “building animosity and hostility”. Thanks for quoting Ms Khar with such a magnanimously positive statement. I will have to say that for us from abroad with different less emotional perspective it is a most refreshing honest enlightened admission that the two countries are finally tired of the 64 years old self hurting hatred and animosity that did not start because of Kashmir problem - no sir -- it started decades before the partition. In my view Ms Khar statement is by no means 'disturbing' -- it is positively reassuring - she read the history right.
Santosh Apr 02, 2012 07:01am
baseless article
Taatya Singh Apr 02, 2012 07:48am
India entered the picture with respect to Kashmir only because of the Pashtun tribesmen from Pakistan entering Kashmir and threatening to take it over. So what Foreign Minister Khar says is true about Pakistan being equally responsible. What Munir Akram says is incorrect.
Karnatakan Apr 02, 2012 08:00am
The Musharaff proposal was one way to resolve the dispute. India did not reject the proposal out of hand, but it saw that that Musharaff was getting progressively weaker politically. He was fighting for his survival and was in no position to seal a deal over Kashmir.
Raj Apr 02, 2012 08:15am
The Muslims who went to Pakistan after the partition are still called REFUGEES even after 65 years.isnt that enough shame?
indus Apr 02, 2012 08:58am
Keeep dreaming. Clean mess in your backyard.
Chetan Apr 02, 2012 11:42pm
Mr. AKram: By your arguement that "In the post-colonial period, international law had evolved in several UN declarations on decolonisation which made it legal to support, even militarily, the struggle of peoples under colonial or foreign occupation for self-determination." then India should also support self determination of Balochistan and Sindh by legal support, even military support under foreign( Punjabi) colonial occupation of these two provinces.
suresh May 18, 2012 04:12pm
We turn a blind eye to kashmir,what about the human rights voilations by millitants.What about Baluchistan,where there is freedom struggle going for more then 5 decades.When it comes to kashmir it is is freedom struggle,when it comes to Baluchistan it is foreign sponsered terrorism. In short different rules for different countries
JAY KOMERATH May 27, 2012 02:27pm