WHAT is a Kashmir settlement? It should mean the implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir, including the exercise of the right of self-determination. Or, given current realities, something as close to it as possible.
What would this take? It would take a sea change in India’s Kashmir policy and in international attitudes towards the fatal prospect of genocide in India-held Kashmir and conflict between the two nuclear armed parties to the Kashmir dispute.
It would also entail recognising that for Pakistan’s diplomacy to be effective against India’s greater strategic and economic weight, and overcome the status quo inertia of the international community, it is not enough just to have a superior diplomatic and legal narrative on Kashmir.
Pakistan would need to project a political, economic, human rights, and national development image that reinforces its democratic credentials and its narrative on Jammu and Kashmir.
This is especially important in light of India’s attempts to undermine Pakistan’s arguments and image through allegations of support for terrorism in Kashmir, India and Afghanistan. India’s attempt to have Pakistan blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force is just one example.
There are no risk-free or cost-free policy options for Pakistan on Kashmir.
India’s attempt is reinforced by international perceptions of structurally undemocratic, corrupt, and dysfunctional governance in Pakistan. Accordingly, Pakistan’s Kashmir policy needs to be embedded in a national transformation imperative. The entrenched status quo structure in Pakistan, however, is a major obstacle.
So, what are the current prospects for peace in Kashmir? Exceedingly dim! But they can brighten very considerably if Pakistan can seriously begin to tackle its vast range of mutually reinforcing domestic challenges and implement a multi-track Kashmir policy.
What is the situation in IHK a year after Aug 5, 2019? India is getting away with murder! The forever disgraced Kashmiri Quislings, Mir Jafars and Mir Sadiqs who ruled IHK for decades on behalf of India, but publicly repented their actions after Aug 5, 2019, are now crawling back to their Indian masters with pleas for the restoration of Articles 370 and 35A. They are seeking to deceive the Kashmiri people again that they are “champions of Kashmiri autonomy”.
Modi, however, is committed to eliminating Kashmir’s political identity altogether through administrative, demographic, economic, political and security policies or, if all else fails, through genocide.
India is certainly internationally isolated over its Kashmir policy. It is angry and embarrassed over the international condemnation of its Kashmir policy, especially since Aug 5, 2019.
But India will pursue its Kashmir policy to the bitter end because (a) it would be suicidal for any Indian government not to; (b) there is no country willing to compel it to reverse its policy; and (c) even if that happened it would only restore the status quo ante, along with massive pressure on Pakistan to accept the LoC as the international border.
India and Pakistan would then be expected to quell any Kashmiri dissent on their respective sides of the LoC! India would happily do so. Pakistan would commit national suicide if it did so.
What is to be done? It is necessary to avoid both genocide in IHK and war with India. But limiting Pakistan’s Kashmir policy to ultimately unavailing diplomacy and ‘lawfare’, is equivalent to a progressive surrender to India-created facts in IHK.
There are no risk-free or cost-free policy options for Pakistan on Kashmir. A de facto surrender would entail an existential cost for Pakistan. This situation has been brought about by India’s blind arrogance and obduracy, and Pakistan’s accumulated short-term and short-sighted policies.
It is tempting to say that Pakistan is in no position to take up such a challenge given its parlous state today. However, an integrated and mutually reinforcing six-track Kashmir policy could render the seemingly impossible possible.
The first track would, within the framework of UN resolutions, seek to restore dialogue with India in pursuance of a negotiated and principled Kashmir settlement in regular consultation with the Kashmiri resistance leadership. A likely Indian refusal to respond would contrast with Pakistan’s constructive and peaceful approach.
The second track would seek to deter India from its current policies in IHK which include gross human rights violations, torture, and likely genocide according to the Genocide Convention of 1948 and the Genocide Alert issued by Genocide Watch on Aug 11, 2019, only six days after Aug 5.
The third track would be to ensure the survival of legitimate Kashmiri resistance, including armed resistance, to Indian annexation, black laws, atrocities and genocide. This is entirely legitimate according to international law, including UN resolutions. However, to remain legitimate such resistance must forbid all acts of terror against unarmed civilians.
A fourth track would need to address any division of Kashmiri opinion between the Pakistan and azadi options on the basis of a proper understanding of Article 257 of the Pakistan Constitution. This reconciles the two options within the Pakistan option and denies India an opportunity to divide Kashmiri opinion. But it would require Kashmiri trust in Pakistan’s fidelity to its own constitutional obligation to the Kashmiri people.
A fifth track would involve an intensification of Pakistan’s diplomacy on behalf of (i) a principled and negotiated Kashmir settlement verifiably acceptable to Kashmiri opinion, especially in the Valley; (ii) Kashmiri political and human rights protections in order to avoid unthinkable outcomes which the current situation is rapidly sliding towards; and (iii) making the international community aware of its existential stake in restraining India.
The sixth track would integrate the five tracks into a comprehensive national transformation policy. This would transform Pakistan’s image, maximise its policy options, and render its voice far more resonant in the capitals of the world.
This is indeed a humongous task. But Kashmir has become an existential challenge for Pakistan along with climate change, nuclear conflict, dysfunctional governance, food and water insecurity, pandemics, etc. This task can never be cost and risk-free. But avoiding it risks Pakistan’s existence.
Such a policy recommendation will have to be fleshed out in detail to build an informed and rational consensus on the way forward. Existential challenges can be unique opportunities.
The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2020