THE effectiveness of a policy must be judged by its results. Looked at from this perspective, our Kashmir policy, which is closely related to our India policy, cannot be considered a success. In every way, our position on Kashmir vis-à-vis India is worse than what it was in the early stages of Pakistan’s history. In the 1940s and 1950s, we could get the UN Security Council to pass resolutions on Kashmir to our satisfaction. Gradually, it became more and more difficult to get such results.
The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that after India’s aggressive actions of Aug 5, 2019, the UN Security Council, subsequent to informal consultations, declined to hold a formal meeting to consider our complaints against India on the Kashmir issue. It also did not bother to issue even a presidential statement let alone adopt a resolution.
India’s recent election to the Human Rights Council with the support of the overwhelming majority of the UN membership is the latest example of the international community’s disregard of India’s massive violations of human rights in occupied Kashmir. We seem to be losing ground to India even within the OIC, which refused to convene an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers to consider India’s aggressive steps of Aug 5, 2019, in occupied Kashmir.
Pakistan’s position must be grounded in realpolitik.
Excessive reliance on moral and legal arguments of our Kashmir case to the neglect of the demands of realpolitik, which governs international politics especially in dealing with major issues of peace and security, has been the main factor which has led to the gradual weakening of our position on the Kashmir dispute. It is imperative for our legal and moral arguments to be supported by sufficient national power so as to persuade India to reconsider its intransigence on Kashmir.
Read: Why Kashmir matters
In reality the reverse has happened. At the national level, with the passage of time, the economic and military balance between Pakistan and India has turned to our disadvantage. For instance, India’s GDP is now estimated to be $3.05 trillion as against Pakistan’s $286 billion. Consequently, our well-reasoned moral and legal arguments are falling on deaf ears in the international community. Our position vis-à-vis India has also been weakened because of the absence of clarity and consistency about our strategic goals and policies in dealing with India and Kashmir.
At the international level, the defining feature is the growing US-China rivalry which is deepening the Indo-US strategic partnership while pushing Pakistan and China closer to each other. This development poses its own strategic challenges for Pakistan in the form of the evolving realignment of forces and alliances at regional and international levels. At the regional level, even if one ignores the challenges posed by the Afghan Taliban’s victory next door, Pakistan is faced with an enduring threat emanating from India because of its hegemonic designs, the growing sway of Hindutva despite some liberal voices here and there in that country, and outstanding disputes particularly Kashmir. It is doubtful that any of these factors or India’s intransigence on Kashmir will change to our advantage in the foreseeable future.
At the civilisational level, Kashmir is located along the fault lines of the Islamic and Hindu civilisations. As the issue of Palestine clearly demonstrates, such civilisational disputes take decades if not centuries to resolve, if at all. This factor further underscores the need for us to rely on a long-term strategy grounded in power realities rather than a short-term approach for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
The moral is that Pakistan must build up more rapidly than India its national power defined comprehensively in political, economic and military terms, backed by a proactive foreign policy for it to have any chance of success in dealing with the Kashmir dispute. In the interest of political stability, democratic norms must be strengthened and state institutions must operate within their well-defined constitutional roles in Pakistan unlike what has happened in the past.
On the economic side, we need to bring about far-reaching structural reforms to accelerate GDP growth rate, promote scientific and technological advancement, and implement policies of austerity and self-reliance while maintaining a credible security deterrent. Our tactical policy adjustments must be within the framework of long-term India and Kashmir strategies with realistic goals and well-thought-out plans of action grounded in power realities. Our inability to do so will worsen our position on Kashmir vis-à-vis India.
The writer is a retired ambassador, an author and the president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs.
Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2021