EVEN as Kashmir Day was observed on Wednesday, few people realised the enormous damage done to the cause of Kashmir’s freedom by Pakistan’s past cultivation of non-state actors. True, some political governments were mindful of the hazards inherent in such a policy but helpless in the face of the military’s stiff opposition to their views. The issue was the generals’ insistence that they alone knew how to run Pakistan’s security policy. Conceding this point meant handing over to the army the gamut of security issues from Afghanistan and Kashmir to N-weapons. This practically hamstrung the Foreign Office and — in Kashmir’s case — served to de-legitimise the Kashmiri struggle for freedom from Indian occupation. When it began in the late 1980s, the uprising in the Valley was genuine and indigenous and reflected the Kashmiri people’s justified anger over India’s occupation of their state in violation of all moral and legal standards. New Delhi was stunned, for the occupied territory had never seen such a revolt before. No wonder it responded by rushing more troops to the Valley and implementing laws that armed its security agencies with sweeping powers of search and arrest. The result was a menacing rise in human rights violations that drew international condemnation. However, the situation took a tragic turn when militant organisations, euphoric over the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, began to cross over into India-held Kashmir and thus gave an altogether new and unwanted dimension to the Kashmiri people’s struggle. In the process, Pakistan was looked upon with suspicion for allegedly supporting infiltrations.
In the wake of 9/11, and the rise of terrorism on a global scale, India won a major propaganda victory when it sought and received unqualified Western support to de-legitimise the Kashmiris’ struggle and portray the freedom fighters as terrorists. With Afghanistan liberated, and the ingress into the valley restricted under world pressure, the ‘out of job’ militants turned their guns on Pakistan. Today, Pakistanis are paying with their blood the price for the security establishment’s foolhardiness. Nevertheless, the past flawed policies on Kashmir should not be allowed to overshadow the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination now. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent dialogue offer to India should be seen in that context.