Saturday, 7 February 2015

Kashmir factor, editorial Daily Times, February 06, 2015

Kashmir factor, editorial Daily Times, February 06, 2015

Kashmir Day has become established every February 5 to demonstrate our solidarity with and support for the long struggle of the people of Kashmir for the exercise of their right of self-determination. In Pakistan we tend to interpret that right according to the provisions of the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions of almost 67 years ago that accorded that right through a plebiscite but confined the choices available to the people of Kashmir to join either Pakistan or India.

Since these resolutions were framed within the context of the conflict that broke out in Kashmir soon after independence and were rooted in the climate of partition, the third principle of self-determination, i.e. the choice to opt for independence, was never on the table. While the (circumscribed) right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir remains the fulcrum on which Pakistan argues its case, this too is not a consistent position in the almost seven decades of war and diplomacy that Pakistan and India have gone through on this vexed issue. Whenever it appeared in the past in this long saga that India was prepared to at least talk about a peaceful political solution, Pakistan too showed flexibility. However, when India assumes an intransigent attitude as the status quo power in Indian-Held Kashmir (IHK), Pakistan too reverts to its ‘principled’ position of relying on the UNSC resolutions to press its case.

While this happened in a milder version during the last Indian government’s tenure, it has come back to haunt us with a vengeance this Kashmir Day since the new Modi government in New Delhi has taken what can only be described as an extraordinarily belligerent attitude and followed it up with raising the ante on the Line of Control (LoC) by aggressive military steps.

It should then come as no surprise that this Kashmir Day we hear the prime minister, Senate and National Assembly issuing the same formulations regarding the UNSC resolutions as the ‘only’ solution to the Kashmir imbroglio. The Day has fallen over time into a ritualistic series of seminars, rallies and other manifestations such as a human chain, etc, to express our sentiments. These manifestations include the ritual appeals to the UN and the international community to intervene and have the resolutions implemented.

The only problem with this ‘principled’ reiteration of our deepest hopes and desires is that no one out there is listening any more. The world as a whole has tired of hearing our repeated pleas for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute, not the least because over time, other, more urgent problems have overtaken all this, but also because unfortunately Pakistan does not pull the same weight as India any more, our protestations and ambitions in this regard notwithstanding.

While we remain strong on rhetoric but with an empty closet on practicable solutions to the conflict in today’s world, India has decided as long ago as when the 1989 armed struggle against Indian occupation began, to adopt a three-pronged approach: extreme repression, ignoring the oppressed and alienated people of Kashmir, and the repeated farce of elections under the shadow of the gun, participated in by parties and individuals considered little more than collaborators of New Delhi in Kashmir.
To this long standing mix, India has now added under Modi the doctrine of raising the threshold of pain on the LoC to discourage any idea of infiltration of fighters into IHK to continue their increasingly difficult struggle. New Delhi has made little if any effort to alter this policy dynamic over the years, for example by engaging the genuine leaders of the alienated people of Kashmir. Modi’s government is now taking things one step further by importing the BJP’s Hindutva philosophy into the coalition government it is becoming part of in Srinagar. That could raise the level of internal conflict in IHK up another notch.

Since our leadership has now come out (in retaliation to Mr Modi’s hard line stance, as argued above) with the ‘no Kashmir in agenda, no talks’ mantra again, the prospects of a rational, negotiated solution to the Kashmir conflict have receded over the horizon even further.

The people of Pakistan and India, the region and the world have every reason to be apprehensive of this development, given the nuclear-armed status of both countries. This nuclear weaponisation is currently conflating from ballistic missiles and aerial platforms to deliver nuclear weapons, to tactical battlefield ones, which clearly lowers the barrier to their potential use as the result even of a conventional armed conflict.

In the obtaining circumstances, and amid Islamabad’s hopes that US nudging may bring India back to the table, perhaps the only realistic option is that if both countries cannot achieve normalisation and peace, at least they should learn to manage their mutual mistrust to avoid war. *

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