KARACHI: There has been no fundamental change in India’s attitude towards Pakistan. It has never seriously engaged with Pakistan on conflict resolution.

This was one of the points made by Riaz Khokhar, former foreign secretary of Pakistan, on Wednesday in his keynote address in the inaugural session of a two-day conference on ‘Kashmir, the Way Forward’, organised by the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA).

Mr Khokhar started his speech by saying that the subject could not be looked at in isolation because it involved a number of factors: the situation in South Asia in the geopolitical and economic context, the world order was in flux, the rise of China, Russia reasserting itself, the US still believing in its superiority as an exceptional power, the US-India strategic partnership and flashpoints such as Afghanistan and the Middle East.

He rejected the notion that the Pakistan government was caught napping when Modi made his move [in Kashmir]. “We were following his election very carefully, and there was a genuine understanding that if he was to return with a massive majority then we should expect him to do things. The Pakistani government did handle the first phase of the problem coolly.”

AJK president reminds world of atrocities being perpetrated in India-held Kashmir

Mr Khokhar said in order to analyse the situation we needed to see what Modi did: he basically abolished articles 370 and 35(A). And why at this time? There were several reasons, he argued. First, as the leader of the BJP and a deeply committed RSS man, he was committed to the concept of Hindutva. Secondly, he was convinced that if he did that, it would be a popular move [among Hindus]. Thirdly, he was convinced that the international community was not with Pakistan. Fourth, after the February 2019 skirmish he was convinced that Pakistan was not entirely strong –– he saw it politically fractured, economically weak, but militarily strong. He also realised that Pakistan was financially in a difficult situation; if there was a war Pakistan would have difficulty in financing it.

Mr Khokhar said there’s no change in India’s fundamental attitude towards Pakistan. We’d had wars, conflicts, confrontations and rounds of talks, but what’s the end result: when it came to crucial issues, it’s zero. India had just used its weight and had never seriously engaged with Pakistan in conflict resolution. “India has been taking Pakistan for a ride for a long time.”

Mr Khokhar said Modi’s decision was a shock not just to the Hurriyat but also to the pro-India Kashmiri leaders such as Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. The question was: could these people work together. “It seems not,” he said. The pro-India leaders couldn’t be trusted, and on the other side the Hurriyat leader, Ali Shah Geelani, was quite old (95 years of age), and Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were committed.

“My own feeling is that the movement has moved on, it is no longer in their hands. The real problem is we don’t know who the new, upcoming leaders are. You can see they have challenged India’s crackdown. This is the great strategic mistake that Modi has made in Kashmir. A man who is so ruthless, he will go to any length to ensure that his clampdown works.

“The movement that you see now in India has nothing to do with Kashmir. The CAA and the NRC is a completely different thing. It’s nice to see that there’s a certain attack on Modi’s overall political confidence. I can’t say he’s shaken, but he’s certainly worried because the movement has gathered momentum. The international media has given it wide coverage and India’s secularism is questioned.”

Options for Pakistan

After that Mr Khokhar talked about the options for Pakistan on the issue in which he touched upon the diplomatic options, going to the ICJ, ICC, OIC, media strategy etc.

Earlier, Justice S.A. Sarwana inaugurated the conference. President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Masood Khan was supposed to do that but he fell sick and couldn’t make it to the moot. PIIA chairperson Masuma Hasan read out Mr Khan’s message.

In his message he said the occupied Jammu and Kashmir had been under lockdown and communication blockade for the past 179 days. Some 900,000 Indian forces invaded and laid siege to the territory on Aug 5, 2019 and have been brutalising its people with impunity ever since.

Mr Khan said the entire pro-freedom movement leadership was under detention. Thousands of young boys have been abducted by the occupation forces and according to Indian CDS Bipin Rawat, they are being kept in concentration camps, reminiscent of the concentration camps that were set up by Adolf Hitler.

Armed death squads of the Sangh Parivar and Bajrang Dal were prowling in Jammu, threatening Muslims. Young men are being killed every day in cordon and search operations.

Mr Khan said we are witnessing in the state the most serious human rights and humanitarian crisis in the world. The Genocide Watch has issued an alert warning that the IOK had entered the eighth (out of 10) stage of genocide. The next two stages are annihilation and denial.

Mr Khan said the world reaction to India’s illegal steps was mixed. Most recently, however, the European Parliament had moved six resolutions in which its members, recalling the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir, had called for their implementation by holding a referendum to determine the will of the Kashmiri people. He also gave suggestions some of which are:

The doors that have opened in the international forums should not be closed; the international media has crafted a true and authentic narrative on Kashmir –– Kashmiri and Pakistani media persons should interface with the international media to shine a light on Indian atrocities; make appeals to the world to stress that the most urgent task is to stop impending carnage and genocide in IOK; if President Trump wants to help, then the first priority is to save the Kashmiris from mass killings and land grab; do not entertain offers of bilateral talks or backdoor diplomacy unless India first restores the disputed status of the state; India is threatening to use force against Pakistan and Azad Kashmir –– we too should ensure full military preparedness; make Pakistan a strong nation economically; and focus on youth.

Masuma Hasan spoke on the objectives of the conference. Dr Tanweer Khalid delivered the vote of thanks.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2020