Any Plan B For Kashmir, Afghanistan?
Many years ago, in my school days in the late ’90s, I saw a sign at a local grocery shop in Rawalpindi, Pakistan saying “No one can borrow anything until the freedom of Kashmir”. I was confused as to what this meant but did not further inquire about the reasoning as I thought it might be an intellectual saying and I did not want to embarrass myself. Though I did not want to embarrass myself, the sign kept nagging me and so one day I asked my schoolteacher to explain it to me. Rather than explaining it, he asked where I saw the sign. I responded by saying “the grocery shop in my neighborhood.” My teacher went to the shop and told the owner “it is just because of you people that Kashmiris are not getting freedom;” his actions confused me. Several days later, I found out that my teacher was Kashmiri, and I later came to know the meaning of the sign, which I predict is still there if the shop still exists.
This story is an example of the mindset of a local shopkeeper almost twenty-five years ago and, sadly, the only change has been for the worst. The demographic of Jammu and Kashmir is already changing while more and more Indian soldiers are being stationed in the occupied valley since the Indian government revoked the special status of Kashmir in August 2019. Since then, Kashmiris have lived in a lockdown with phone lines and internet services cut off. Basic mobile phone connectivity has taken months to be restored and the ban on high-speed internet continues to date. While at the international level there was much outcry, nothing has changed. Fake promises and tall claims were made by many prominent personalities, but all in vain. For the last few, Pakistani and Kashmiri leaders have been calling upon other world leaders and organizations to resolve one of the oldest, unresolved international disputes affecting the peace and stability of the region, and with threats of nuclear war between India and Pakistan, the entire world may be affected.
Now, one thing that is for sure is that India will never give the right of self-determination to Kashmiris as India considers Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India. On the other hand, Kashmiris will also never give up their struggle for freedom. The question then becomes, “Is there a Plan B”?
The same situation is being witnessed in Afghanistan. World leaders and analysts say that the instability of Afghanistan is a threat to the peace of the region, but what is the solution? Is there any guarantee that pulling out Western forces from Afghanistan can bring peace to the country?
Since 9/11, the Taliban have been fighting with western forces and running their own Sharia “Islamic” laws in their controlled territories. Expecting to gel in with the modern Kabul government is like living in a fool’s paradise. So, the question again “Is there a Plan B”?
Both of these international issues need realistic and sincere efforts. There is a need to understand that it is not about the interest of the neighboring countries or any other, rather it is about the people living in these conflict zones who have suffered for decades. Generations have lost but no one is feeling the pain except the innocent. Their dreams have been shattered. Women, men, children, and the elderly struggle to live every single day. There is no trust in their leaders. They are not only helpless but hopeless. In such a situation, a person can also lose faith in God as well. They search for the leaders and the religion that can take them out of their misery.
Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United States, India, NATO, and many other countries and groups have tried to bring peace to the region to no avail. Biden’s peace plan has no guarantee of peace in Afghanistan while India’s so-called peace plan has no guarantee of working in Kashmir.
There is a motto “God only helps those who help themselves”. If this is true then one thing is for sure, Kashmiris and Afghans now need to help themselves. World leaders and mediators must not look at their interests but rather they need to tell Kashmiris and Afghans that peace in these conflict zones is vital for the future of the people. Afghans should sit together to end the long-fought war against each other, and Kashmiris need to sit with the Indian government to discuss potential solutions to the problem. Kashmiri leaders should go for out of the box options and so should Indian authorities.
This analysis might make some people angry, but the truth is always bitter. We need to accept the reality of these conflict zones with realism no matter how hard it might sound. Sadly, if this does not happen, both Kashmiris and Afghans will become like Palestinians, throwing stones and pebbles on forces equipped with advanced military gear.
Kashmiris and Afghans need to understand that world leaders and powers are meditating on these issues for their own interests and they have no “Plan B”. It is time for both regions to stand up and fix the problems themselves through dialogue, deliberation and adopting flexibility in their agendas.
Jahanzaib Ali is a journalist, author, based in Washington D.C. He has been working in the field for 15 years and now focusing on Foreign Policy.