A united national front

27 Nov 2016


INDIA is maintaining its daily shelling along the LoC in Kashmir. As advised editorially in this paper, Pakistan must “keep its nerve”. Yet, Pakistan’s response cannot be passive. It must dissuade India from pursuing its aggressive designs against Pakistan, now and in the future.

Pakistani officials and analysts have opined that India’s LoC firing is designed to divert attention from the ongoing popular revolt in India-held Kashmir (IHK) and/or prevent Pakistan’s armed forces from acting robustly against terrorism on our western border. These are reasonable assumptions.

However, Pakistan’s response should take account of India’s comprehensive strategy against it, not merely its current LoC belligerence. India seeks to isolate Pakistan by portraying it as a terrorism sponsor while it sponsors TTP terrorism and separatism in Balochistan; it seeks to demonise and delegitimise Pakistan’s nuclear weapons; and attempts, directly or through western friends, to co-opt Pakistani politicians, businessmen and intellectuals to accept Indian dominion over Pakistan.

Pakistan’s response should take account of India’s comprehensive strategy against it.

Through such military, diplomatic and political avenues, and combined with the economic and diplomatic pressure from the US and its allies, India hopes to wear down Pakistan’s resistance to Indian domination. The scent of defeat reeks already within parts of Pakistan’s elites. If India believes that Pakistan is sufficiently ‘isolated’ and internally divided, it may feel emboldened to embark on a military adventure against it.

Pakistan’s response should encompass well-prepared, determined diplomatic and media campaigns to neutralise India’s propaganda, expose the reality of its militarism and oppression in IHK and signal its determination to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the Kashmiri people’s rights.

It is regrettable that the prime minister’s bold speech at the UN General Assembly in September has not been followed by promised actions, including formally approaching the UN Security Council. Pakistan should approach it with three clear proposals:

One, a call to end Indian brutality and grave human rights violations in occupied Jammu & Kashmir and the dispatch by the UN high commissioner for human rights of a UN fact-finding mission to India-held Jammu & Kashmir to investigate and secure an immediate end to these violations.

Two, a proposal that the Security Council demand an end to ceasefire violations on the LoC and instal other measures of mutual and reciprocal restraint and arms control to prevent the outbreak of a Pakistan-India conflict.

Three, a proposal for adopting specific steps by the Security Council to implement its own resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir, including the appointment of a special representative of the UN secretary general to update and activate the approved arrangements for its demilitarisation and organisation of the promised plebiscite there.

Other diplomatic moves that Pakistan can make to exert pressure on India include:

First: a proposal in the Security Council’s counterterrorism committee to investigate links between TTP and the militant Islamic State group, and the relationship between TTP and the intelligence agencies of India and Afghanistan. These two countries are, in effect, sponsoring the IS terrorists.

Second: an approach to international human rights groups to press for the release of Kashmiri political prisoners and repeal of India’s emergency laws, which enable Indian security forces to oppress Kashmiris with complete impunity.

Third: an approach to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the extensively documented evidence of Narendra Modi’s responsibility for the 2002 massacre of 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat.

Pakistan may be obliged to consider options beyond diplomacy. India has claimed, falsely, that it conducted “surgical strikes” across the LoC. This claim provides Pakistan with a legitimate right to reciprocate. It should refrain from doing so since this is likely to provoke a general conflict. However, if India does cross the LoC, Pakistan should be prepared to respond decisively, for instance, by cutting off the road between the Kashmir Valley and Jammu.

Pakistan is also well within its rights to respond to Indian and Afghan sponsorship of terrorism by attacking and eliminating TTP safe havens in Kunar and other parts of Afghanistan. If the US-Nato forces do not eliminate these safe havens, Pakistan will need to do so.

While Pakistan has disavowed support for the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, Kashmiris have an internationally recognised right to seek self-determination from alien occupation through all available means at their disposal, including armed force. There is nothing to stop them from forming a Kashmir liberation army.

Many Pakistanis, including some in our ruling circles, are concerned about the economic implications of possible US sanctions and appear willing to sacrifice the Kashmiris and accept Indian diktat to avoid such sanctions. If such fears had prevailed in the past, Pakistan would not have established its strategic relationship with China, developed its nuclear capability, nor conducted the 1998 nuclear explosions in response to India’s tests.

Pakistan should be prepared to face pressure from India and its Western friends. There can be no development without security and sovereignty. Sanctions against Pakistan, if imposed, will be unjustified. Their impact will be limited and temporary. The preservation of national dignity and Pakistan’s commitment to the Kashmiri people make the possible cost worthwhile.

Some Pakistani analysts have pointed to the lack of international response to Pakistan’s demarches on Kashmir and India to argue that Pakistan’s positions are unpalatable. In fact, other countries are unlikely to respond positively so long as they perceive that Pakistan’s leadership is itself not fully committed to the objectives its diplomats and envoys propagate.

Pakistan’s politicians appear to be more preoccupied by their own petty squabbles over Panamagate, MQM divisions and CPEC projects.

Instead of advocating united national action against Indian subversion and aggression, many of Pakistan’s Western-oriented ‘intellectuals’ argue that the fault lies with Pakistan and especially its armed forces. Pervez Hoodbhoy’s recent denunciation of Pakistan’s so-called establishment is a case in point.

When a nation faces an existential external threat, unity is its ultimate strength and weapon. National unity can be promoted by mobilising the people, as Churchill did to enable Britain to resist Hitler. But, at times, national unity has to be imposed. Chiang Kai-shek agreed to form a ‘united national front’ with Mao’s communists against the Japanese invader only after the ‘generalissimo’ was incarcerated by one of his own commanders.

Today, Pakistan needs a ‘united national front’ to confront an aggressive India.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2016