Advocating Kashmir

Updated 02 Sep 2016


PAKISTAN is soliciting world support for its stance on the current situation in Kashmir. Pakistan’s stance is superior to India’s in terms of law, human rights and the wishes of the majority in the occupied Valley of Kashmir — which happens also to be the majority in India-held Kashmir. The enduring but as yet unexercised right of self-determination of the people of the whole of the former Jammu and Kashmir through a plebiscite is based on resolutions of the UN Security Council.

The so-called accession of Kashmir to India has been condemned as invalid by a resolution of the UN Security Council. Whatever policy errors Pakistan may or may not have made the inalienable rights of the people of Kashmir cannot be derogated from.

But the world is far from being a politically, legally or morally perfect place. Power, national interests, specious arguments, and changing priorities and concerns play a far greater role in shaping political developments. Pakistan has never cared to develop a longer-term policy or strategy towards Kashmir in which law and morality can have a larger impact on outcomes. It eschews longer-term approaches largely because it is an elitist and class-based security state. Accordingly, it shies away from popular movements even when they are for causes it formally espouses.

As a result, economic transformation, participatory and institutionalised democracy, the full range of human rights and entitlements for all the people, and support for the ‘Kashmir cause’ are all rhetorically and symbolically espoused, often with great passion, while our leaders ensure no organised and sustained popular movements for their achievement are allowed to develop. Why? Because the power and class elites fear such movements would undermine the political status quo that sustains them.

Unfortunately, Pakistan has never cared to develop a longer-term policy or strategy towards Kashmir.

Accordingly, we have the paradox of an unjust status quo-based ruling elite pretending to seek a just solution to the Kashmir dispute. If a short-term solution was available this contradiction might not matter. But since there is in reality no short-term solution only a longer-term strategy can hope to alter the parameters of the Kashmir dispute. This has never been acceptable to the ruling elite in Pakistan because it would inevitably require change in the parameters of the political status quo in Pakistan itself.

India as a largely status quo political entity seeking to preserve the status quo in Kashmir does not have to deal with this contradiction — especially in the real world — and even more so in the short term. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s Kashmir policy — as an extension of its domestic politics — has been little more than an accumulation of unsuccessful shorter-term policies that have never added up to a longer-term strategy. Accordingly, it has never been able to exploit the longer-term weaknesses of the Indian stance and policies towards Kashmir.

Moreover, other developments have favoured India over Pakistan. Both countries have acquired nuclear weapons capabilities. The international community is, accordingly, more concerned about preventing conflict and promoting even sterile dialogue and a modicum of interaction between them than forcing a just resolution to the Kashmir dispute over India’s adamant opposition. India has also emerged as a potentially major player on the regional and global scene that none of the major powers wish to alienate. Pakistan, by contrast, has emerged with the image of a challenged and possibly failing state whose advocacy of the Kashmir cause has accordingly become a liability for the cause itself despite its validity.

Instead of addressing these realities, the current frenetic diplomacy is aimed at answering domestic critics of the government’s directionless Kashmir policy. India is indeed in a tight spot as a result of its abhorrent savagery in the Valley. The major powers are well informed about the human rights situation and have in varying degrees conveyed their concerns to India. But they remain by and large firmly committed to the view that only a territorially status quo-based ‘solution’ to the Kashmir dispute is feasible. This is true even of our dear friend China.

Our delegates sent to various capitals will inevitably be confronted with the question: is Pakistan prepared to work towards a solution within these parameters, and if not, how will it bring an end to the agony of the people of the Valley and avoid a calamitous conflict with India? If their responses are largely statements about the moral and legal obligations of the international community to press India to implement the UN resolutions on Kashmir they will return with little to show. This does not imply Pakistan should itself disown these resolutions.

What is the alternative to frenetic and fruitless diplomacy? It is a viable longer-term Kashmir and India strategy. There is of course no guarantee that a longer-term strategy will bear fruit given the extent of India’s obduracy. But unless we can credibly commit to such a strategy there will be no chance of eliciting a positive and sustained policy response from the capitals of the world that could eventually impact on India. We shall be playing to our own political gallery. The Kashmiris of the Valley will have their worst suspicions of Pakistan reconfirmed. Their renewed faith in Pakistan will be dashed. Modi’s cynical strategy of playing on a Kashmiri sense of isolation and hopelessness could ultimately begin to undermine the heroic resistance of an essentially abandoned Kashmiri youth.

How will our delegates contextualise their advocacy of the immediate imperatives of the Kashmir situation within a longer-term strategy for a settlement acceptable to the Kashmiri people as well as India and Pakistan when we have no such strategy?

No matter how difficult and risky it may be to contemplate any improvement of ties with India today, an exploration of this possibility combined with an alleviation of the human and political rights situation in the Valley and a search for a longer-term compromise settlement acceptable to Kashmiri opinion is the only way forward. All other approaches are insincere. The prime minister, accordingly, needs to make a seminal statement delineating the outlines of a longer-term Kashmir strategy.

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

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2016