INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Modi says his actions in India-held Kashmir will end “terrorism and separatism”. Pakistan’s prime minister calls this “changing the demographics”. This is ethnic cleansing, which if applied to the majority of a population is tantamount to genocide. The Supreme Court of India can nullify the Indian president’s proclamation removing Article 370 from the Indian constitution. If it does, how will Modi react? If it does not, what will be the reaction in IHK? The UN secretary general has called for the restoration of the special status of IHK pending a final settlement according to the UN Charter. UN resolutions zindabad!
Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned the world the Kashmir crisis could lead to conventional war which could escalate to a level of conflict which “no one would win”. He said in such a situation he would respond like Tipu Sultan not Bahadur Shah Zafar! Accordingly, Pakistan will “hope for the best and prepare for the worst”. The Pakistan Army said “it will go to any length in support of the Kashmir freedom struggle”. The National Security Council has taken a set of initial measures downgrading diplomatic relations.
The Indian foreign minister has asked Pakistan to reconsider its decision to downgrade and limit relations with India. The Pakistani foreign minister has said Pakistan is willing to review its decision if India reconsiders changing the status of IHK. Straws in the wind? Is the crisis moving towards escalation or de-escalation? The next few days are critical.
Is the crisis moving towards escalation or de-escalation? The next few days are critical.
According to the renowned author and human rights activist, Arundhati Roy, removal of Article 370 and the division of IHK violates the Indian constitution, UNSC Resolution 122 which rejected the alleged accession of Kashmir to India, the UN Charter and UN resolutions, the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration, and thereby eliminates the LoC as a legal entity.
Experts estimate a nuclear war between India and Pakistan could eventually lead to the death of nearly a quarter of the world’s population. The major powers will never permit such a possibility. Neither India nor Pakistan has a first-strike nuclear capability against each other. Whoever strikes first will not escape an equally deadly retaliatory nuclear response.
The prime minister has to credibly convey his message to the world: he will bend every effort to defuse the situation including attempting to engage with Modi to avert the prospect of genocide in IHK. However, if the Indian prime minister rebuffs him and remains implacably determined to physically eliminate Kashmiri resistance and ‘separatism’, he will find Pakistan equally implacable in its resolve to stop him. Accordingly, the international community needs to play its role.
This message would seek to counter Modi’s message to the people of the Valley that beyond futile gestures, empty rhetoric and theatrical diplomacy, Pakistan will inevitably abandon them to their fate once again, as it has for more than 70 years.
Many Pakistanis do in fact strongly believe that Pakistan must do all it can but it cannot risk its own existence for Kashmiris even if they are threatened with ethnic cleansing, mass murder and genocide. They insist Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence capability must be exclusively aimed at deterring Indian aggression against Pakistan, not possible or even likely Indian genocide against the people of IHK.
They hope the display of aggressive, hectic and high-profile diplomacy, vociferous public protests, high-level statements of extreme resolve, the ratcheting up of reversible tensions on the ground, international leaders urging or even demanding a review of Indian policies, and a possible UNSG reference to the UNSC under Article 99 of the UN Charter will suffice. They may well be right. All these avenues must be systematically and thoroughly explored.
But given the resolve and resilience of the Kashmiri resistance which has lost all fear of punishment, torture and death; the immediate and massive change of attitude of erstwhile pro-India ministers and officials in the Valley; and the insane historical hatred and political vengeance of Hindutva Nazis, ironically aided by Israel, Modi may well have irreversibly embarked on a path towards a ‘final solution’. A former Indian foreign secretary once told me “great powers cannot be bound by laws and principles that apply to lesser nations” and “Kashmir is a test case of India’s great power aspirations”.
A US delegation was recently in Islamabad to ensure Pakistan’s cooperation regarding Afghanistan and to warn it that actions against banned outfits on Pakistan or AJK are “key to exiting the FATF list”. The timing is brilliant. The message is loud and clear: do not harbour illusions about the US supporting Pakistan even in the event India perpetrates massive pogroms in Kashmir. Stuff happens! The US may, however, try to calm India if Pakistan obliges it in Afghanistan.
FATF is determined not just to keep Pakistan on the grey list but to respond to any attempt to stop Indian atrocities in Kashmir with an immediate threat of placing it on the black list with all its economic and stability consequences. The IMF has said if Pakistan cannot get off the FATF grey list the flow of monies to Pakistan will be affected.
In these wretched circumstances, the prime minister must do whatever it takes to get off the FATF grey list as soon as possible without undermining the credibility of his response to the situation in IHK. If Pakistan cannot deliver on its several commitments to FATF it can have no national, foreign or even Kashmir policy. Pakistan has to bat out the day on a very sticky wicket!
After all the ‘aggressive diplomacy’, inescapable questions remain: can Pakistan stop potential genocide in IHK without the full backing of the international community? Is such support likely? Is Pakistan ready to shoulder the inevitable costs and sacrifices of credibly supporting the Kashmiri freedom struggle which may become an existential struggle? Can a ‘soft state’ choose ‘hard options’ to avoid calamitous outcomes? Can Pakistan tell the US there is no deal on Afghanistan if it does not restrain India in Kashmir? Can our governing elites give public and honest answers?
Hopefully, Modi has bitten off more than he can chew.
The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.
Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2019