President Obama’s unwarranted remarks on the international dispute of Kashmir are timed to blackmail Pakistan. What’s worse is that the American president appears to be signalling to hawkish elements in New Delhi to sabotage recent peace moves with Islamabad.
Saner quarters in India can see through the United States government’s desperation to use India to blackmail Pakistan. But the extremists in India are keen to exploit the American opportunity to pursue old agendas.
While the peace constituency in India is large, it can be easily sidelined by hawks who sit in powerful places in the Indian capital. We saw this happen in 2007, when a nexus of Indian intelligence officers and Indian extremists bombed and burned alive around 50 Pakistani peace visitors near New Delhi and blamed it on Pakistan’s ISI. That operation was carefully designed to scuttle the progress in resolving key territorial disputes between the two neighbours.
President Obama’s remarks should be seen within the context of renewed moves in Washington to aggravate ties with Islamabad. Pakistan reduced bilateral tensions with the United States by restoring the Pakistani facility for the US war supply transport to Afghanistan [Important to note that GLOCs largely supplied the US Army and intelligence units. Nato supplies were minimal.]
Without discussing the merits and demerits of that move, the Pakistani action took the wind clear out of the CIA and Pentagon’s feverish attempts to poison Pak-American relations, at least temporarily.
But these attempts are now back on track. While we don’t see yet orchestrated campaigns against Pakistan in the US media the way we did a few months ago, Pentagon and Langley’s fingerprints are quite visible in recent moves and statements in the US Congress on domestic Pakistani issues like Balochistan, the fate of a jailed Pakistani CIA agent who damaged a polio vaccination programme for children, and the release of nearly two billion dollars that the US government owes Pakistan for expenses incurred in support of US occupation of Afghanistan.
Of course, American politicians and officials wrongly refer to this amount as aid, a small indication of the larger war of perceptions going against Pakistani interests.
Pakistan need not worry too much about Obama’s statements. Kashmir is an international dispute. Its resolution is not dependent on President Obama’s intervention. Islamabad’s cool response to his statements is grounded in the belief that Kashmiris have taken their fate into their hands by taking to the streets in universal peaceful protest that preceded even what happened in Libya and Egypt.
In fact, Libyan and Egyptian activists in Geneva last year joined Kashmiri activists in promoting a common cause against tyranny.
The Kashmir dispute is protected by the peaceful civil rebellion of a majority of Kashmiris against foreign occupation, forcing India to commit the bulk of its military resources to that tiny territory contiguous to northern Pakistan.
The burden to resolve Kashmir’s international dispute rests on India and the international community by way of the pending UN Security Council resolutions and the dispute’s impact on regional security. All Islamabad has to do is to deny the hawks in New Delhi and their international supporters, like President Obama, the pleasure of forcing Pakistan to prematurely settle on Kashmir outside the UN framework.
This is what China did on Honk Kong by allowing time to take its course and resisting quiet settlements. The Indians know they will have to come around to a Kashmir solution that meets the demands of the Kashmiris and respect international law.
On dealing with Washington, Islamabad wasted the great opportunity that came with the blocking of the Pakistani war supply facility. Instead of prolonging the issue, Islamabad should have offered Washington without delay new terms of cooperation on Afghanistan to be signed on paper.
The Americans should have been told that delay in accepting legitimate Pakistani concerns could force Islamabad to consider ending its role in America’s Afghan war altogether and that cooperation after such a move would require entirely new sets of understandings.
To drive the point home, it would have helped if the Pakistani government commissioned a review that honestly discussed the benefit and damage to Pakistani interests resulting from supporting a decade-long US war in our neighbourhood. It is not too late to do that.