A Kashmir statement

Published September 13, 2016
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.

PAKISTAN’S policy towards Kashmir (and Afghanistan) is a metaphor for its governance at home. They are dysfunctional.

We cannot implement longer-term policies, and short-term policies don’t work. We have tried shorter-term Kashmir solutions ranging from diplomacy to dialogue to violence.

They all failed as have our several short-lived policies towards human rights protections, human resource development, socio-economic development, security, corruption, counterterrorism, institutional reform, etc. Only longer-term policies can effectively address such fundamental issues.

Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin told a joint session of the Pakistan parliament that Kashmir was an issue inherited from history and its solution should be sought in that context.

In other words, it had no short-term solution. Ignoring his common-sense advice has proved unwise. It has neither alleviated the sufferings of the Kashmiris nor has it served their freedom struggle.

Even a longer-term strategy may fail for several reasons including the inability or unwillingness of Pakistan’s leadership to clean up the country’s image and face down competing centres of power: India’s well-documented crimes against humanity in Kashmir and its Hindutva pathology; and the irresponsible indifference of the international community towards the dangerous and hideous human rights situation in India-held Kashmir.

Pakistan’s reliance on jihadi ‘assets’ has resulted in comprehensive jihadi ‘blowback’. Its foreign policy is determined by unelected and incompetent decision-makers who largely operate from behind security screens.

This has significantly disabled Pakistan’s diplomacy. There are hardly any international takers today for Pakistan’s case on Kashmir and other issues. Only an assertive Foreign Office can alter this nonsensical situation.

A bold policy statement by the PM might signal a departure from our pathetic leadership norms.

A ‘soft state’ is one that knows what it must do but cannot or does not do it.

Pakistan knows CPEC cannot be a substitute for good governance including a decent foreign policy. Yet it acts as if CPEC is a magic wand for all its problems.

The elites of a soft and failing state always see the costs of state failure as less than the costs of state reform.

Unless Pakistan begins to transform itself it will never be a credible strategic partner for a successfully emerging China.

The credibility of any policy statement by a leader is judged by perceptions of his leadership and the image of the country under his leadership.

A bold and realistic policy statement by the prime minister might signal a departure from our pathetic leadership and governance norms. This may be seen as ‘great expectations’. A prime minister’s policy statement might include:

— his commitment to promoting the political and human rights of the Kashmiri people in accordance with existing UN resolutions;

— his hope that both sides will avoid mutually exclusive positions on Kashmir to enable movement towards an acceptable settlement;

— his willingness, despite current circumstances, to seriously engage with his Indian counterpart to resolve issues of core concern to both countries and other issues on the agenda of the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue;

— both sides will need to implement politically difficult decisions to build mutual trust and confidence;

— he supports the Shimla Agreement as it recognises the positions of both sides on Kashmir. Accordingly, neither side can require the other to change its position as a precondition for dialogue;

— his readiness, in consultation with Kashmiri opinion, to consider some of the tentative understandings reportedly reached in the back-channel talks of 2004-6 to bring about a climate in which progress towards a mutually acceptable settlement of Jammu and Kashmir is facilitated;

— an agreed settlement could be embodied in a new UNSC resolution that could be unanimously adopted;

— mutually acceptable modalities for the participation of Kashmiri representatives in a Kashmir settlement process need to be worked out;

— agreed mechanisms for the maintenance of peace along the LoC need to be reinforced by strong political leadership in both countries;

— the tragic human and political rights situation in India-held Kashmir needs to be urgently addressed as it is incompatible with an uninterrupted settlement process;

— bilateral and Kashmir-related CBMs need to be restored and expanded;

— win-win progress may be slow and difficult, but once achieved, it should be made irreversible;

— the support of public opinion, including civil and political society, in both countries for sustained progress towards a settlement acceptable to the people of Kashmir, Pakistan and India, should be a shared and governing priority;

— a breakthrough towards a settlement of Jammu and Kashmir can bring about a climate in which major initiatives like a no-war pact, no first use of nuclear weapons, enhanced trading, transit, travel and tourism arrangements, joint ventures and significantly increased cultural and media exchanges become feasible;

— some of these initiatives may be implemented earlier to bring about a conducive climate for substantive movement on Kashmir; and

— his invitation to the Indian prime minister and suggestion that work on drafting a joint prime minister statement on the sidelines of the Islamabad Saarc Summit should commence.

While these points are not new their public advocacy and implementation would be. There will be criticisms that such a policy approach is tantamount to abject surrender. This is not so.

Pakistan would neither have to compromise its conventional and strategic deterrence nor its Kashmir commitments.

What the prime minister would need to do is honestly tell the nation there are no short-term or military-cum-militant solutions to the Kashmir dispute, and avoidable confrontation with India entails significant avoidable costs without helping the Kashmir cause.

But a prime minister beset by a sea of troubles may not wish to even consider, leave alone pursue, such a policy course. That would be unfortunate as no breakthrough can be brought about clandestinely.

Meanwhile, Modi’s rank communalism and his rants against Pakistan appear to rule out any prospect of a positive response.

Nevertheless, there is no realistic alternative to steadfastly pursuing a consistent and realistic longer-term Kashmir policy if there is eventually to be normalcy in the Valley and prosperity and security in the region.

Even our Chinese friends will tell us the CPEC was never meant to be a substitute for a common-sense national and foreign policy.

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 13th, 2016



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