The Ufa goof-up

Published July 14, 2015
The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.
The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.

PASSION uninformed by reason is ultimately dishonest. It never serves the national interest. But it always serves particular interests dressed up as the national interest.

This has been on display since the Ufa sideline summit meeting between Modi and Sharif — on both sides of the border. Let us note some basic truths.

India is Pakistan’s most important neighbour because the bulk of Pakistan’s population lives in areas close to the border with India. The relationship has been hostile and conflict-ridden. A former Chinese foreign minister told me when I was leaving Beijing for Delhi that ‘hostile’ countries have a greater significance than friendly countries.

Pakistan has an overriding obligation towards the welfare and security of its current and future generations. This cannot be achieved without a quantum improvement in the growth rate and significant reductions in inequality and poverty.

This will require massive investments in human resource and institutional capacity development which translates into massive improvements in education and health, service deliveries and rights protections.

None of this will be possible in a state of ‘no war, no peace’ with India.

India is an adversary with which we have serious and long-standing differences. These are a legacy of the past and a product of poor management of relations by the governments of both sides.

Among these issues is Jammu and Kashmir which is much more than a territorial or border dispute. It relates to the internationally recognised but as yet unexercised political rights of the Kashmiri people, their current human rights situation under Indian occupation, and the internationally recognised responsibilities of Pakistan towards enabling the Kashmiris to exercise their rights. Pakistan has tried diplomacy, open and back-channel; and conflict, conventional and unconventional; to move the Kashmir issue towards a possible settlement.  

The joint statement at Ufa was a disaster — Kashmir has not been specifically mentioned.

The international community has shown little interest in the implementation of the several UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir. It does not want to alienate India. Moreover, it is concerned about the possibility of nuclear conflict and the spread of international terrorism.

India is satisfied with the territorial status quo in Kashmir. Pakistan wants it revised in accordance with Kashmiri aspirations and existing UN resolutions. Since these resolutions were adopted under Chapter 6 of the UN Charter they are generally not considered enforceable in the way resolutions under Chapter 7 are.

However, if the UN secretary general considers a situation to be a threat to international peace he could bring it to the attention of the UN Security Council. It could then conceivably adopt a resolution under Chapter 7.

But it is easier to lean on Pakistan than on India. The Kargil conflict, which occurred less than a year after the 1998 nuclear tests of India and Pakistan and soon after the Lahore Summit, highlighted how dangerous the Kashmir situation could become. But it was Pakistan that was diplomatically isolated.

The legitimate Kashmir freedom struggle was irretrievably damaged by the deceit, incompetence and stupidity of the then government of Pakistan headed by the current prime minister. Ultimately, with the support if not at the insistence of the then COAS, Gen Musharraf, he was compelled to rush to Washington to meet president Clinton on July 4 (a US national holiday) to bail out the Pakistan military from the impossible situation it had got itself into.

Ironically, the defeated general who initiated the conflict overthrew the clueless but elected prime minister. Even more ironically, the same general as president reversed Pakistan’s position regarding the UN resolutions on Kashmir. On Dec 17, 2003 he publicly stated that even though “we are for UN Security Council resolutions … now we have left that aside”. This was reported in Dawn the next day.

The UN resolutions are the legal basis for Pakistan’s status as a party to the Kashmir dispute and for challenging the supposed accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India. Accordingly, dropping the demand for their implementation was nothing less than a disastrous betrayal of the Kashmir cause. The Foreign Office, of course, immediately sought to retrieve the situation by restoring the reference to UN resolutions on Kashmir. But Kashmiri trust was lost.

Needless to say, in reality the UN resolutions cannot deliver a Kashmir settlement because of Indian obduracy, international indifference and Pakistani weakness and policy incoherence. Any settlement will have to be negotiated between India and Pakistan. It will have to be a compromise. It will need to be acceptable to the range of Kashmiri opinion. Meanwhile, it will require Pakistani policy to remain in concert with Kashmiri opinion in the Valley. Article 257 of the Pakistan Constitution enables this.

A final settlement, nevertheless, can only happen in the context of a fundamentally improving India-Pakistan relationship. This is also essential for Pakistan to maximise the quantity and quality of its economic growth and development.

Has Ufa helped? As a starting point towards resumed dialogue, possibly. But the joint statement was an unnecessary disaster. It was the first prime minister-level joint statement in which Kashmir was not specifically mentioned. Kashmir was specifically mentioned in the Shimla Agreement of 1972, the joint statement in New York in 1998, the Lahore Declaration of 1999, the draft Agra declaration of 2001, and the joint statement in Islamabad in 2004. Not this time!

In 2003, Gen Musharraf dropped reference to the UN resolutions on Kashmir. In 2015, Nawaz Sharif dropped reference to Kashmir altogether. The explanatory statements made later to assuage Kashmiri and Pakistani outrage are welcome. But they do not alter the formal record of which the Ufa joint statement is now a part. Damage limitation — the Foreign Office destiny!

‘Terrorism’ in the India-Pakistan context is largely Kashmir-related. Accordingly, mentioning one without the other is unhelpful even though terrorism is a concern for both countries. Nuances matter in diplomacy.

What is required is due diligence and professionalism. The Foreign Office has them in abundance. But as has been the case it is simply not allowed to function as it should. No person or institution can substitute for it — and of course we still have no full-time foreign minister!

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.

Published in Dawn ,July 14th, 2015

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