THE Indian-authored narrative that the recent moves by Delhi in India-held Kashmir are an ‘internal matter’ is a blatant falsehood, and it was only a matter of time before Pakistan reacted to this ill-advised action with steps of its own.

While a joint session of parliament, addressed by the prime minister and opposition leaders, was held on Tuesday, a clearer, firmer policy emerged yesterday as Pakistan’s response to the new crisis manufactured by the Indian establishment.

In a meeting of the National Security Committee chaired by the prime minister and attended by the military top brass, it was decided that Pakistan would downgrade diplomatic relations with India, suspend bilateral trade and take the matter to the UN, among other steps.

These are necessary moves that send a strong message across the border that Pakistan does not take India’s shenanigans in the occupied territory lightly.

From here on, Pakistan should mount a strong diplomatic offensive and take its message to world capitals.

Kashmir is internationally recognised as a disputed territory, so India’s chicanery — by attempting to ‘localise’ the issue through amending its constitution — should fool no one.

However, where strong diplomatic efforts are essential, Pakistan should not fall into the trap of exchanging bellicose rhetoric with India.

Prime Minister Imran Khan brought up the possibility of war during Tuesday’s parliament session; while there is justifiable anger in Pakistan over the Indian subterfuge in Kashmir, the leadership must carefully choose its words to respond to Delhi’s provocations, lest its statements be misconstrued.

The atmosphere in South Asia at the moment is highly tense and volatile.

Therefore, the Kashmir crisis needs to be handled with sagacity, firmness and far-sightedness.

Warmongers in India would love to trap Pakistan in a heated exchange of rhetoric that can spiral into actual hostilities.

Pakistan’s leadership must resist this ruse and handle the situation with utmost care.

The battle for the rights of Kashmir must be fought primarily on the diplomatic front.

While the prime minister has constituted a team to look at legal, political and diplomatic ways of handling the situation, the effort would be best left to the Foreign Office that has the challenge of steering the issue before it.

There are experienced hands at the FO with deep knowledge of the region and decades of diplomatic experience; their combined wisdom should be used to counter Indian propaganda and express Pakistan’s narrative on Kashmir on the world stage.

The OIC must be convinced to move beyond insipid statements of support for Kashmir towards more concrete action, while some of our Arab brothers, who have supported India’s move, must be asked to consider Pakistan’s stand on the crisis.

The bottom line is that the international community cannot sit and watch silently as India attempts to devour occupied Kashmir and crush its inhabitants.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2019

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