A tepid response

Updated August 09, 2019

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THE crisis in India-held Kashmir could trigger global consequences, yet the world has not responded to Pakistan’s urgent exhortations with the level of robustness the situation warrants. Instead of full-throated condemnation, there is language of equivocation.

Indeed, some countries, most notably the US and UAE, have even gone along with India’s brazenly false assertion that stripping Kashmir, an internationally recognised disputed territory, of its special status is an “internal matter”. Saudi Arabia’s bland reaction thus far avoids expressing any opinion whatsoever. China, Pakistan’s all-weather friend, issued a forceful statement, but one that pertained solely to Ladakh where it has a territorial dispute with India. Turkey expressed “concerns” over the situation and undefined “steadfast support” to Pakistan.

Read: India calls actions in Kashmir internal matter: US

New Delhi’s depredations in India-held Kashmir, particularly egregious under the Modi government, have been exposed for the world to see in more than one UN report, the most recent just a month ago.

Indeed, on Thursday, UN chief Antonio Guterres called upon India “to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir”, recalling the Shimla Agreement.

Read: UN chief calls for 'maximum restraint' in occupied Kashmir

Despite this, the fact that the latest act of naked aggression by India against the hapless Kashmiris has met with such a tepid response speaks to a failure of Pakistan’s diplomacy, not only in the recent past, not only during Mr Modi’s premiership, but over decades. Seasoned diplomats were sidelined and input by pragmatic politicians and opinion makers was ignored in favour of ruinous policies that garnered ill-will in the international arena and allowed hostile powers to discredit the Kashmiri cause.

Moreover, in the present context, why did Pakistan appear to have been taken by surprise when the Indian government scrapped Article 370? After all, one of the main planks of Mr Modi’s hyper-nationalistic re-election campaign was the promise to do away with Kashmir’s special status.

Yet there was no effort by the Pakistan government to lobby foreign governments to push back against any such attempt. A fait accompli is far more difficult to counter than an action still in its incipient stage. Even during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit, an unexpected offer by President Trump — entirely of his own volition rather than due to any effort by the Pakistani delegation — to mediate on Kashmir, sent a wave of elation in government circles.

Given what has transpired in the few weeks since then, it was clearly a premature reaction, shorn of context and without considering the limited scope of what the world wants at present from Pakistan.

There is, however, little doubt about what this country must do for itself. Much introspection is in order, an assessment of how we have arrived at a point where we appear to be isolated and lack for staunch allies, that too for a cause that is undeniably just. Now that Pakistan is decisively acting against the militant groups that have hobbled its foreign policy and compromised its standing in the world, it should develop a far more effective diplomatic strategy, executed by those best suited to the task.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2019