Pakistan Being Isolated On Kashmir Is A Myth
Instead of backstabbing Kashmiris by saying that we stand isolated over the Kashmir issue, the Pakistan government should make diplomatic efforts and convince its allies to play their role in resolving the crisis, writes Ejaz Hussain.
A nation-state such as Pakistan is pretty much concerned about its foreign relations with other states regionally and internationally. If a state has cordial ties with its immediate neighbours along with solid partnership with major power(s), it is considered success of its foreign policy and diplomatic team.
But what happens when a country’s bilateral relations are confrontational with its neighbours and it maintains a purely short-term transactional ties with major powers amid contextual strategic complexity? It means the country is under performing in terms of established principles of international politics as well as practice of candid and dynamic diplomacy.
Pakistan falls in the second category where, over the decades, its foreign policy lacked institutional and structural foundation. Instead, it is predicated on ad hocism where intra-institutional imbalance fractured not just the fabric of foreign policy but also the demeanor of diplomacy. Litter wonder, Pakistan could not maintain a unified long-term policy on either Afghanistan – where post-9/11 the Musharraf regime took a U-turn- or Kashmir where initially the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions were intensively highlighted (extra) regionally.
Later, during the 1980s till mid-2000s, jihadi policy was pursued where certain militant organisations were used as force multiplier.
Under Musharraf, paradoxically, Pakistan even vowed to bypass the UNSC resolutions and sought to seek a bilateral settlement of the lingering Jammu & Kashmir dispute. Owing to mutual mistrust, this, however, could not materialise. In the post-Musharraf period, the Zardari/Gillani government, initially, tried to appease India; so, did Nawaz Sharif as third-time prime minister. Nonetheless, since the civil governments lacked the confidence of the military establishment, their efforts ended in vain.
Interestingly, the Khan government seems to be on the same page with the military as far as Pakistan’s (foreign) policy on Kashmir is concerned. Since the assumption of office, Imran Khan repeatedly urged Modi-led India to talk on outstanding issues particularly Kashmir. Even during his recent visit to the United States, Khan seemed satisfied with President Trump’s public statement on being a possible ‘mediator’ on Kashmir.
However, on August 5, the Indian government shocked not just Khan and his domestic supports but also rest of the world by unilaterally changing the institutional and legal arrangements that India has had with the state of Jammu and Kashmir since 1949. Thus, in the absence of Article 370 and 35 A, legally the question of Kashmir has reverted to its origins grounded in the Partition of British India in mid-August 1947.
However, having arbitrarily and controversially revoked the said articles, India claims to have integrated Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh with the Indian Union. In other words, from a diehard Hindu nationalist perspective, there is no dispute over the status of the valley.
Nonetheless, the dispute still exits legally in terms of the UNSC resolutions. Moreover, the grave violation by India of the 1972 Simla Accord has also assumed legal significance under the international law as India unilaterally cannot decide to change the status quo within the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Also, there is a moral dimension of the dispute owing to the fact that thousands of innocent and unarmed Kashmiris have been brutally killed by the Indian armed forces in the past three decades. Scores of them lost eyesight due to massive use of pellet guns.
In view of the foregoing, Pakistan, being a party to the dispute, has a tremendous responsibility both legally and morally. Legally, Pakistan is supposed to highlight the UNSC resolutions and the way they have been violated by India at all fora especially the Security Council. Morally, it is highly urgent to amass diplomatic and moral support of particularly the Muslim world. Importantly, the Khan government was supposed to urgently send its emissaries to the US, Russia and China in order to carry home the drastic implications of Indian unilateralism.
Practically, however, Pakistani government acted in an ad hoc manner. It seemed the government failed to anticipate what the Modi Sarkar was planning regarding Kashmir. And one got the impression that Pakistan had not done its homework in terms of diplomatic efforts. For instance, there was no clearly stipulated official stance on the Indian action for a couple of days.
The prime minister could not utter a single word on the matter which required urgency of intent, interest and intelligence. In addition, our foreign minister was sent to China and not the US. It was the latter whose president showed interests in the (resolution) of the dispute.
Foreign Minister’s visit was not enough. The PM should have gone to the US again to convince the American government to play a pivotal role in de-escalating the crisis. The US could have urged India to put an end to unilateralism and instead get the matter discussed ideally in the UNSC or bilaterally with the US acting as mediator. Sadly, this did not happen because Pakistani officials did not visit the US.
Rather than visiting Russia or Turkey, our foreign minister preferred to visit Muzaffarabad and there too, he ended up stabbing the Kashmiris in the back. How disgusting and insulting it was to tell the Kashmiris face-to-face that there isn’t much Islamabad can do about the crisis and that the Muslim ‘ummah’ is more interested in India than Pakistan and Kashmir.
On the contrary, as a government representative, Mr Qureshi should have given added hope to the locals by reiterating Pakistan’s moral, diplomatic and legal support. And, the best forum to do so was the country’s parliament, not a mosque in Muzaffarabad.
In addition, at the state level, Pakistan also took a lukewarm view of the situation by downgrading relations with India and, paradoxically, allowing its airspace to Indian flights. This is a blatant manifestation of contextual contradiction in policy, if any. Rather, there was a dire need to deliberate and decide a nationally unanimous policy (dis)course on the matter of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan still has various diplomatic and legal fora to take up the Indian unilateral change in circumstances. To begin with, we need a debate at home – which should guide in the formulation on policy to be enacted skillfully and intelligently by the diplatic machinery which definitely require fresh blood.
Secondly, both the prime minster and the army chief should consider re-visiting the US in order to register Pakistani stance and sentiments while urging the American people and the press to take a legalist and moralist perspective on Jammu and Kashmir.
Given its deep interest in Afghanistan and broader strategic calculations for South Asia, the US is not likely to show total disinterest in the matter.
Moreover, there is an urgent need to apprise the top leadership of China, Russia, England, France and Germany for except the latter the others are permanent members of the UNSC. In addition, Pakistan needs to send top diplomats to major Muslin countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Iran, Malaysia and Indonesia. Also, multilateral organisations such as the African Union need to be contacted as well to raise the issue. The Kashmiri diaspora must be approached too – and its efforts and ideas should be taken into account.
Thus, it is a futile argument that Pakistan is a weaker country and it cannot do anything vis-à-vis the Indian unilateralism in Jammu & Kashmir. Of course, Pakistan did stick with the legal option in terms of the UNSC resolutions through diplomacy. The same can be, and ought to be, done once more till the matter reaches its logical conclusion.
Moreover, Pakistan’s strategic significance is very much relevant within the South Asian region. The US will find it hard to seek an amicable solution to its Afghanistan problem without Pakistani support. China, for its Belt & Road Initiate (BRI), is also reliant on Pakistan. Russia too is gradually opening up towards Islamabad. With England, the Pakistani military recently improved upon the trajectory of bilateral ties.
Therefore, Pakistan is not diplomatically isolated as one is made to believe in. Rather, the civil leadership seems to have generated a false impression that we lack in choices in diplomacy.
Such impression ought to be discouraged. Nevertheless, we should always distinguish between diplomatic engagement and state capability. Indubitably, Pakistan is not a major power. We have scores of problems ranging from weak economy to extremism. But despite that, Pakistan still is a middle-power regionally with respect to human resource, military capability, strategic significance and market-size.
The latter variables, if put forth intelligently in policy terms, can overcome the set of shortcomings. It is, thus, time to realize and internalize our potential as society and state and engage the world meaningfully and realistically. In this respect, our civil-military leadership, which by its own claims is on the same page, must put an end to any misgivings regarding Pakistan’s dwindling interest in Kashmir as well as poor show of (public) diplomacy.
For decades, Pakistani civil and military leadership stood with the cause of Kashmir; for decades, the UNSC resolutions were cited and referred to. We were also ready to make use of militancy to liberate the Kashmiris. If the Pakistani ruling elite stays silent today, it will only lose public faith and trust along with being termed traitor for betraying the Kashmiris when they needed us the most.
The writer has a PhD in civil-military relations from Heidelberg University. He is DAAD, FDDI and Fulbright fellow and taches at Iqra University, Islamabad. @ejazbhatty