‘K’ is for Kashmir

Updated August 20, 2017


WHILE celebrating the nation’s 70th independence anniversary, we cannot forget that the ‘K’ in Pakistan’s name — Kashmir — is not (yet) part of our country. The men, women and children of India-held Kashmir (IHK) are even now engaged in a heroic David and Goliath struggle for freedom from India’s brutal occupation and oppression. Pakistan has done very little to support them.

An equitable solution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute will not be easy. However, for political, strategic, moral and legal reasons, Pakistan cannot resile from its position on Kashmir.

By any objective criteria, Kashmir should have been part of Pakistan. The Kashmiris demonstrate each day their desire for integration with Pakistan. Pakistan has a political and moral obligation to support their aspirations and the political vision that inspired its own creation.

Some among Pakistan’s elites appear to have lost the will to support the occupied territory’s struggle.

Pakistan is a party to the UN Security Council resolutions prescribing a UN-supervised plebiscite to enable the people of Jammu and Kashmir to exercise their right to self-determination. It is thus legally bound by this commitment.

Read: Diary of a Kashmir curfew

Kashmir is the source of the rivers that feed the Indus Valley. Water is an existential issue. Control over this life source cannot be legally surrendered to India.

Kashmir is India’s Achilles heel. Its massive military deployment in Kashmir diminishes India’s capacity for aggression against Pakistan. Its brutal suppression of the Kashmiris erodes India’s moral and political claim to regional domination and great power status. The leverage which Kashmir provides Pakistan to achieve an ‘equal’ relationship with India should not be unilaterally discarded.

Unfortunately, in the face of India’s growing power and the pressure exerted on Pakistan through the campaign against ‘Islamic terrorism’, some among Pakistan’s elites appear to have lost the will to support Kashmir’s struggle for self-determination and seem ready to accept the status quo in Kashmir.

The much-touted peace plan negotiated with India during the latter years of the Musharraf government was no more than a dressed-up acceptance of the status quo. It may have proved to be even worse since it envisaged joint India-Pakistan ‘administration’ of both sides of Jammu and Kashmir, thus conceding that India has a legitimate presence in Kashmir. Moreover, since the ‘problem’ — insurgency and resistance — is in Indian-occupied Kashmir, why would Pakistan give India an ‘administrative’ role in Azad Jammu and Kashmir? The mischief that India could play there is not difficult to imagine. New Delhi could insist that the northern territories be included as part of the area being jointly administered. It could seek a role in the management of the Karakoram Highway and attempt to disrupt this sole and strategic road link between Pakistan and China. (It is not surprising that the plan was rejected by Syed Geelani, the one Kashmiri leader who has been the most vigorous and consistent in his support for Kashmir’s integration with Pakistan.)

Unfortunately, intimidated by the US and India, the succeeding PPP and PML-N governments shied away from actively supporting the Kashmir cause.

However, in a welcome signal, both the new prime minister and foreign minister have expressed support for the Kashmiri cause in their maiden statements to the media.

Indeed, the present moment, when regional power equations are in flux and the Kashmiris have launched a popular indigenous struggle for freedom, may be opportune for Pakistan to promote a coherent strategy designed to halt India’s oppression, reassert the legitimacy of the Kashmiri freedom struggle, and intensify international pressure on India to accommodate Kashmiri rights and aspirations.

Pakistan should firstly support several objectives which the Kashmiris themselves need to achieve: reunification and rejuvenation of the Hurriyat parties; selection of a deserving successor to the indomitable but aging Syed Geelani; delegitimising the puppet government in Srinagar; possible formation of a ‘shadow’ government; organisation of an ‘independent’ referendum (like the Iraqi Kurds) in Kashmir pending the UN plebiscite.

Second, to regain legitimacy, the composition and profile of the Kashmiri resistance has to change. Its leadership must come mainly from new and younger Kashmiris untainted by association with any proscribed terrorist group.

Third, the projection of the Kashmiri struggle and India’s oppression must be significantly improved in the mainstream and social media. This is vital to achieving the strategy’s objectives.

Pakistan should initiate an active and sustained diplomatic campaign to exert international pressure on India. This campaign could include:

One, formal submission of the proposal to send a UN commission to investigate human rights violations in IHK. If India blocks a visit, Pakistan can ask for an offsite report. Concurrently, Pakistan should seek endorsement for a UN resolution calling for an end to Indian firing on peaceful demonstrators; inhuman treatment of Kashmiri children and youth and women; curfews; media blackouts; emergency laws; and the arbitrary detention of Kashmiri leaders.

Two, a formal proposal in the UN Security Council and General Assembly to adopt measures to prevent another Pakistan-India war, including: formalisation of the 2003 LoC ceasefire; expansion of the UNMOGIP and its deployment on both sides for comprehensive monitoring of the ceasefire; withdrawal of heavy artillery from LoC positions; exchange of solemn mutual assurances by Pakistan and India not to resort to force and not to interfere and intervene against each other, including through the sponsorship of terrorism.

Three, a complaint to the International Court of Justice accusing India of violating the Genocide Convention.

Four, approach the UN Security Council to implement its resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir by appointing a special envoy to promote demilitarisation of both sides of Jammu and Kashmir and to review and update the modalities for the organisation of a UN-supervised plebiscite there.

Pakistan’s active promotion of the Kashmir cause will not provoke a war, and it need not divert Pakistan from economic development. Even if Pakistan’s proposals are not adopted in UN forums, their submission and discussion will exert diplomatic pressure on India and ease the suffering of the Kashmiri people. It may even convince India to seek a dialogue and a modicum of normalisation with Pakistan.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2017