IMRAN Khan will head to New York next week to argue the case of India-held Kashmir before world leaders at the annual UN General Assembly. It will be his first interaction with the most powerful international forum that will provide him an opportunity to highlight the plight of a subjugated people.
Most important, however, is how effectively the prime minister conveys the message, even though one doesn’t expect the UN to deliver justice. Nevertheless, international opinion matters. It is true that the recent, unprecedented international media reports have exposed the horrifying human rights situation and use of brute force by the Indian forces in the occupied territory. Yet it requires effective diplomacy to push the international community into action.
Unfortunately, we are miserably lacking in skills that require maturity and clarity of purpose. What we have witnessed so far is sheer verbosity that our foreign minister is so fond of indulging in — mainly for domestic consumption. Commenting on everything and hurling war threats is not a sign of maturity that one expects from the country’s foreign policy czar.
Should the foreign minister be declaring the Indian chief justice’s ruling on relaxing the lockdown in the occupied state as Pakistan’s victory? Such pronouncements make light of an extremely serious problem. He should have been spending more time travelling to other countries to apprise them of the situation in Kashmir, rather than making frivolous statements every five minutes just to stay in the political limelight at home. There have been hardly any outings apart from a visit to Geneva for a UN Human Rights Council session. Surely members of the council did express concern over the appalling human rights situation in occupied Kashmir, but the outcome appears to have been exaggerated.
The UNGA provides an excellent forum for PM Khan to present a strong case for the people of IHK.
We were never told, for instance, which 58 countries signed the joint resolution and if there was any public statement issued by the council condemning the Indian action as being inferred by the government. It needed the support of only 16 members to call a special session of the council on Kashmir. That never happened.
Talking of the nuclear war threat is highly irresponsible. We cannot scare the international community into intervening in the matter. The chaotic state the government is in is also reflected in the bombast of some other cabinet ministers.
The most prominent jewel in the crown is our railways minister who appears very keen to start a nuclear war. Instead of taking care of his own department that is in a shambles given the increasing number of train accidents, he is now preoccupied with national security and foreign policy issues.
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He recently predicted a nuclear war between Pakistan and India before the end of the year. He has also claimed that Pakistan has tiny nuclear devices that could be used against the enemy forces. Such utterly nonsensical remarks on sensitive issues come in handy for those who look for any opportunity to prove us an irresponsible state. It also greatly harms our cause of fighting Kashmir’s case at international forums.
More importantly, the government must not reduce the Kashmir situation to a Pakistan-India one. The very slogan ‘Kashmir will become Pakistan’ could limit our options. It is also against the UN resolution that had called for plebiscite to allow Kashmiris to decide their own future.
While fighting Kashmir’s case, we must entirely focus on the right of self-determination for Kashmiris and their human rights. The issue should not be made into a dispute that alienates the people of Kashmir. Leave it to the Kashmiri people to decide what they want.
More than anything else, the Indian action of annexing the occupied territory and the use of brute military force to silence eight million people has brought the Kashmir issue onto the international stage. It has alienated the entire Kashmiri population. Even strict censorship and a complete lockdown have failed to stop the flow of news regarding Indian state terrorism in occupied Kashmir.
That has certainly moved the public conscience, but not necessarily helped change the policy of states dictated by their economic and geopolitical considerations. It’s also a fact that over the years, our international clout has diminished largely because of our political and economic instability. An unimaginative foreign policy has also added to our predicament. In fact, it’s a policy adrift. Nothing would please the Indian leadership more than our state of disarray.
The domination of security agencies in determining the policy direction has also been responsible for limiting our options. Even the cell formed by the government to formulate strategy on Kashmir may find a diplomatic and political approach constricted by the presence of members of the security establishment. A bipartisan parliamentary committee would have been more effective in fighting this battle on both the diplomatic and political fronts. Domestic public mobilisation is, indeed, important, but it is active international diplomacy that matters more.
It is a great opportunity for the prime minister to reach out to world leaders during the UN session and fight the case of the Kashmiri people. Imran Khan calls himself the ambassador of the Kashmir cause and that is what he needs to prove in New York. His speech at the General Assembly should be focused and powerful in substance. For the limited time allocated to the speakers one needs to be structured and precise.
The world leaders gathered at the UNGA have little patience for rambling discourses. Given his penchant for speaking extempore (at which the prime minister is not very good) even at international forums, one has doubts about the impact he would make. The prime minister will be speaking after Narendra Modi and one hopes that he doesn’t resort to polemics. Pakistan has a strong case to fight and the UNGA provides a great forum to make Kashmir’s case forcefully.
Imran Khan is also planning to speak at a public rally in New York meant to draw international attention to Indian atrocities in held Kashmir. But one hopes that he does not bring Pakistan’s internal political matters into his address as he did during his official visit to Washington earlier this year.
The writer is an author and journalist.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2019