THE Indian lockdown of nine million Muslims in the Kashmir Valley is a third of a year old. Has India made a ‘major strategic blunder’ or has it pulled off a major fait accompli? In other words, is there a greater likelihood of India having to reverse its Aug 5 decision or is it effectively irreversible despite Pakistan’s vigorous diplomacy and the unprecedented international criticisms of India’s action?
This depends on (i) the durability of the Kashmiri resistance in India-held Kashmir under extreme Indian repression including the comprehensive and relentless targeting of the civilian population of the Valley; (ii) whether any significant political opposition to Modi’s Aug 5 decision develops in India; (iii) the response of the international community — particularly the major powers and especially the US — to the hideous human rights situation in the Valley which threatens to reach genocidal proportions as defined by the Genocide Convention of 1948; and (iv) the response of Pakistan to such a scenario which Genocide Watch says is already under way. Just read Arundhati Roy to know the monstrosity India is becoming under Modi!
The current assumptions and indications suggest:
the Kashmiri resistance cannot be eliminated short of genocidal measures against the people of the Valley who regard and support the resistance as their own;
(ii) there is no prospect of any politically significant opposition in India to Modi’s decision of Aug 5;
(iii) the international community may condemn, embarrass and annoy India because of its atrocities, but it will not halt and reverse the trend towards genocide because the major powers see Kashmir in the context of a much larger Eurasian struggle in which India strategically counts for more than Pakistan; and
(iv) apart from bellicose statements and some heating up of the Line of Control, Pakistan will by and large avoid military confrontation with India even if a full-blown genocide develops. Instead, it will intensify its diplomatic campaign in the hope of arousing the conscience of the international community sufficiently for it to take effective measures to restrain India.
Aug 5 has transformed Kashmir from a longer-term diplomatic challenge to an existential challenge for Pakistan.
Inside Pakistan, the government will be primarily concerned to pacify its own public opinion and counter charges of a dishonourable and shameful betrayal of the Kashmir cause which could seriously destabilise the country. It will be reduced to saving Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan itself from further Indian designs. India will massively interfere in AJK and GB to force a final settlement along or even beyond the LoC with the understanding if not approval of the US and the Western powers. China will provide diplomatic support to Pakistan while counselling ‘moderation’, the need to adopt a longer-term perspective on Kashmir, and ensuring continued territorial contiguity between Pakistan and China.
Inside IHK, India will seek to wipe out the entire Muslim leadership, or strike a deal with the previous puppet Muslim leadership, or craft a new puppet Muslim leadership, possibly with people like Muzzafar Baig and Altaf Bukhari, who may be persuaded to accept the fig leaf of a hollow restoration of Article 370 as a final settlement. The All Parties Hurriyat Conference will be targeted for liquidation. No matter how outrageous the human rights situation in Kashmir gets, the major powers, including China, will not tolerate the prospect of nuclear conflict.
Pakistan has described Kashmir as its ‘jugular vein’ without which it is incomplete and cannot survive. It has pledged its last breath and drop of blood in defence of the Kashmiri people. It has always said any stoppage of Pakistan’s waters would be a casus belli. Moreover, in the name of the freedom struggle or jihad for Kashmir the people of Pakistan have had to live in a security rather than development state. This has deprived them of the benefits of democracy, good governance, peace and development. The results of this political degeneration are today evident in the wretched daily news every day.
The honest choice before the prime minister of Pakistan is stark: either he tells the nation that the costs of stopping India from perpetrating genocide in the Valley are more than Pakistan can bear and, therefore, he has no option but to ‘accept the unacceptable’ for Pakistan to survive. Or he asserts that the costs of a disgraceful betrayal of the Kashmir cause, especially after the loss of the majority of Pakistan’s population in 1971, will render the country a failed state without meaning, purpose, a moral foundation and a future worth having. Accordingly, while he is ready to go the extra mile for peace with India and to negotiate an acceptable, just and principled Kashmir settlement, he will never countenance genocide in Kashmir no matter what the cost may be.
For such resolve to be credible it must also be part of a comprehensive national transformation of Pakistan from an elitist, corrupt and incoherent state that, despite its verbal jihad, is unwilling and unable to take any risks for any cause, to a functioning democratic, development and human rights state that is able to develop options and take risks to ensure freedom and justice for Kashmir and to chart a course for peaceful coexistence with India. Progress towards such a national transformation will itself generate the narratives and project the images required for the views of Pakistan, regarding the plight of the Kashmiris, to register internationally.
There are no risk-free options to stop genocide, save Kashmir, and avoid war with India. Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent is meant to deter war not pursue war. But if the people of the Valley are threatened with genocide, as indeed they are, Pakistan’s deterrent must cover them. If this is rejected as wishful thinking there will be both genocide in the Valley and a slide towards war between India and Pakistan.
Aug 5, 2019 has transformed Kashmir from a longer-term diplomatic challenge to an existential challenge for Pakistan. Modi’s ‘Anschluss’ does not allow for incremental strategies. The prime minister must now do whatever it takes to ensure Pakistan no longer remains an irresolute and self-imprisoned soft state that surrenders its raison d’être.
The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.
Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2019