The Kashmir Conundrum

Rapid Action Force personnel stand guard in front of closed shops ahead of Eid al-Adha prayers in Jammu on August 12, 2019. - Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid al-Adha (the feast of sacrifice), the second of two Islamic holidays celebrated worldwide marking the end of the annual pilgrimage or Hajj to the Saudi holy city of Mecca. (Photo by Rakesh BAKSHI / AFP) (Photo credit should read RAKESH BAKSHI/AFP/Getty Images)

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to polls to seek a second term in office, Prime Minister Imran Khan with his first stint as chief executive in Pakistan had all the hopes of doing business successfully with him. IK was so confident of his assessment of Modi Sarkar that he took it for granted that once Modi was re-elected he and him would sit face to face to untangle the complicated Kashmir issue and rebuild long over due peaceful relations between the two countries. It was beyond his wildest cricketing imagination that Prime Minister Modi would show his true colours sooner than later as hardcore Hinduvta fundamentalist who would change India’s trianga to saffron.

Hardly IK had woken up from his hush-hash dream of doing business with Modi that Modi served him with his bolt from the blue that he had been preparing for more than an year. He shocked Imran Khan and his same page military associates with his unilateral decision to change the status quo of the Indian occupied Kashmir by abrogating Article 370 and 35a thereby drastically altering the balance of power in South Asia and destabilizing the region already on tenterhooks.

Imran Khan himself acknowledged it as a victory for Modi when he found Pakistan to be in the hands of most incapable and anorchous civil and military leadership orchestrating the same page mantra. No doubt IK and his associates have placed Pakistan in a Catch-22 situation  vis-à-vis India, one if confident that once this bad patch of a government is eased out, Pakistan won’t hesitate in striking back to reclaim its lost ground and repair damage done to national interest by IK and Co.

Although one cannot find any reference to context in his speeches or elsewhere, when Pakistan’s founder Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had described Kashmir as Pakistan’s jugular artery though he reiterated time and again that the idea of Pakistan was incomplete without Kashmir.  Of course our water life line emanates from there. And we have fought two full fledged wars followed by intermittent skirmishes –two of which Siachin in 1984 and Kargil in 1999— almost imploded into major conflicts pushing us at least in 1999– to a point where a nuclear conflagration looked almost threatening the peace in the region but for the timely intervention of American President Clinton who pulled the two nations back from the edge of precipice.

During these 72 years of conflict, mayhem and massacres, worst ever human rights violations, repeated genocides with the sole objective of ethnic cleansing and demographic changes—even going to war did not do good for the region. Only once bilateralism played a positive role after Pakistan was treacherously humbled by India in 1971. it was post-1971 civilian leadership in the two countries that took up cudgels for negotiating with each other bilaterally at Simla in July 1972. That agreement considered to be masterpiece of statesmanship and diplomacy between the two great leaders of the sub-continent ushered in 47 years of peace in the region.

It was an accord signed between Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi and Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in June/July 1972 known as Simla Peace Accord stamped as an outstanding piece of negotiations without any outside interference between two giant statespersons. Despite Pakistan being a vanquished nation with 93,000 prisoners of war in Indian PoW camps and 12000 KM of precious West Pakistani territory under the heels of Indian troops, Simla accord did no where gave the impression that it was an agreement signed between a victor and a vanquished. Bhutto sought peace with honour and it was all there in Simla agreement. No doubt the crux of the Simla Agreement was application of bilateralism, no where did it abdicate right of self determination given to the people of J & K by the United Nations Security Council Resolutions. In case of failed bilateral approach, UN resolutions for Right of Self-determination could always be used to get out of the stalemate.

Over the years various attempts have been made to resolve the Kashmir issue. In the UN Mortuary lying buried under heaps of dust are many reports and recommendations. However some of the later ones that brightened up chances of possible break through included accord between Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi over demilitarisation of Siachin Glacier in 1989, Lahore Declaration  between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajapayee and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999 and lastly General Pervez Musharraf’s four-point solution in which he abdicated Pakistan’s traditional position on Right of Self Determination accepting Line of Control (LoC) as full and final settlement with minor adjustment here and there . Now Prime Minister Modi’s abrogation of Article 370 and 35a has definitely crossed all barriers and broken the lock jam of the perennial stalemate.

What are Pakistan’s options?  One will have to search for a black cat in a dark room with doors wide open and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi running after it blindfolded. Not many and if any, they are impossible. Our poker faced Foreign Minister with minimal diplomatic skills has been doing the usual rounds to foreign capital to convey to our friendly countries our concerns over forced integration of Kashmir in the Indian Union. So far the response in our favourite friendly capitals is not very warm. Foreign Ministry’s wizards have concluded that Chinese move for the SC meeting, its fervent knocking at the UN Security Council doors would most likely end up in an exercise in futility. More than one permanent member is likely to veto it.

From here where to then?—is the million dollar question.

Pakistan is a hard country with an emotional populace and stubborn too, never learning lessons from history.  Experts say that the present team of civil and military leadership is directly involved in creating a dangerous situation in Kashmir that has seriously undermined our national interests. They have blundered one after another, one error of judgement followed by another with letting out clear signals of weakness to the Hinduvta Modi sarkar that has so far showed total disrespect to world public opinion, international law and the United Nations Charter or its Resolutions. Our foreign policy is a complete failure as reflected in our mishandling of the fait accompli in Kashmir. Unfortunately prevailing view is right that as things are moving in Afghanistan towards seemingly a final settlement, Pakistan is likely to be left with spilt milk or egg on its face. No doubt Islamabad fallaciously feels that by keeping its cards to its chest, it has displaced India out of Afghanistan which probably would be proven wrong in the long run when no settlement would be possible without Northern Alliance on board. There is some meat in the allegations that IK and his team have allegedly sold Pakistan’s interests for peanuts to the Americans. We also don’t know what commitments both Imran Khan and General Bajwa have made to UAE, Saudi Arabia and the USA for their assistance. The whole deal smells a big stinking rat.

The most criminal aspect of the whole despicable scenario is the failure of the intelligence apparatus to keep the nation aware of the various moves that Modi Sarkar has been making over a year towards abrogating Article 370. One was shocked to hear Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi say that they had come to know of Modi’s decision to undo 370 but did not expect him to do it so soon so he was taken unaware. Surely both Imran Khan and Gen Bajwa will have to be answerable to the nation with something solid to claim that they had done everything possible in their power to prevent the change of the status quo in Kashmir.

According to PTI friends both civil and military leaders were advised not to send appeasing letters to Modi S Sarkar  unless there was some solid guarantee of back-channel reciprocity. They did not refrain from their wild goose chase, and after each set back, they doubled down their efforts to appease him not to the extent that Hitler-like Modi even refused to take phone calls from IK during escalation after Pulwama and shake hands with Pakistani PM during SCO summit. Not just that, Pakistan handed over Indian pilot in haste to please the Americans without gaining any diplomatic advantage. To futher please India Pakistan even voted for Delhi to be elected to non-permanent member seat without negotiating with India for it. Indeed, IK was all set, hands folded, back bended to win Modi’s pleasures. One would not disagree with the view that IK was so eager to pamper him that he went out of his way to issue an endorsement that Modi’s re-election will be best to solve the Kashmir issue. Was this premise that Modi would be the best bet—was it based on intelligence provided to him by his super spooks or was it due to the feed back received from the Jewish lobby and its influence on him in the United States?

Among other things, failure of OIC to take a clear stand against India on Kashmir is a slap on the face of only nuclear OIC member in its fold. Earlier, to add insult to our injury, Indian FM was invited as Chief Guest to OIC summit by the so-called brotherly UAE ignoring the fact that Indian state was committing gross human rights violation in Kashmir. Pakistan celebrated as its big achievement the adoption of private member resolution in OIC while there was no mention of Kashmir in the final communiqué issued after the summit. No doubt it is matter of utmost shame that OIC did not pay heed to Qureshi’s pleadings for a strong worded statement condemning Indian human rights violations in Kashmir.

One would not agree with the sarcastic view that we went to the White House for photo-session with the President and his pretty daughter and were dancing with joy and in hip beating frenzy that President Trump was allegedly asked by Modi to mediate over Kashmir with Pakistan. indeed, one did not understood what did that mediation offer meant but the finger-twisting Imran Khan sandwiched between Trump and his young, vivacious daughter–was so happy that he declared his experience between father and daughter as a major win for him once again after the 1992 cricket World Cup. IK’s was too gullible to note that how could one expect  as a mediator as strategic ally of India in Indo-Pakistan conflict ? IK definitely needs to answer as to who America would tilt towards in mediation when on one side is the strategic partner and on the other a country Americans know too well has always been running with Taliban hares and hunting with the American hounds? Indeed, it seems immaturity or more so naivety, is the hallmark of the present team of civil-military leadership.

In desperation some of the well-meaning PTI insiders were of the view that Shah Mehmood Qureshi was not a good choice for FM as he like his leaders, has no grasp of history and geopolitics. Foreign Ministry should go to heavy weight Dr Shireen Mazari who perhaps knows more of foreign policy than the sum total of entire PTI leadership and their non-civilian partners in the state management.

That being that, no respite on Kashmir from any where one should listen to former Army Chief General Aslam Beg who wants the nation to get ready for war. Is it an option between two nuclear nations? Most certainly not! Why not as a last resort try to seek solution in General Pervez Musharraf’s formula of accepting LoC as final border with some territorial adjustment including demilitarisation of Siachin and Kargil to bring an end reign of terror in the occupied state. Massive mobilisation of Diaspora in western capitals is heartening but does not mean Kashmir battle has been won. More later.

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