Our Kashmir strategy

Pakistan has tried to adopt almost all globally recognized conflict resolution approaches

By Dr Khurram Abbas
June 10, 2024
A protester waves the Kashmiri flag in Karachi during a demonstration against India. — AFP/File

Since October 27, 1947, Occupied Kashmir has been the primary issue between Pakistan and India. Pakistan has a consistent stance that the dispute should be resolved according to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. While maintaining its principled stance, Islamabad has tried various approaches to convince New Delhi of a peaceful resolution to the dispute.


Pakistan has tried to adopt almost all globally recognized conflict resolution approaches. Pakistan tried several diplomatic means such as a bilateral approach through the Simla agreement. Similarly, Pakistan tried to use a third country as a mediator but in vain. During the Ziaul Haq and Rajiv Gandhi’s tenures, Islamabad tried to adopt the ‘bottom-up approach’ where the less complex political issues such as Siachen, Sir Creek, issues related to visa regimes and improvement of people-to-people connectivity were discussed, hoping that a conducive environment for dialogue might compel India to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

From I K Gujral to Manmohan Singh during the 1990s and 2000s, Pakistan’s top civil and military leadership tried to use Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) and composite dialogue as a strategy to change India’s clogged mindset on Kashmir. During the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule in India, layers of further complexities were added to the dispute. As a result, hostilities between the two nations have exacerbated since 2019.

There has been an ongoing discussion in Islamabad recently on two issues – Occupied Kashmir and the future of Pakistan-India ties. This was mainly because there were hopes that the electoral process in New Delhi might change political and strategic dynamics and make them favourable to resumption of bilateral trade and improvement in the diplomatic relationship. Such discussions are significant to understand the various aspects of the Pakistan-India relationship and the Kashmir dispute. However, a long-term, vibrant and strong strategy is required on Kashmir.

Pakistan’s strategy regarding Occupied Kashmir should be based on four principles during this economically and politically difficult time – internal consolidation, strategic patience, cultivate global partnerships, and develop an ‘integrated Kashmir strategy’.

Pakistani civil and military leadership needs to outline a clear roadmap for ‘internal consolidation’ to politically stabilize and economically revive this nation. Pakistan has all the ingredients that can transform a struggling nation into a politically and strategically influential state in the world.

With an important geo-strategic location, influential ports, strong armed forces, vibrant youth, rich heritage and culture, soft power and vibrant civil society, Pakistan has the potential to rejoin the race of progressive nations of the world.

However, a clear roadmap of 10-15 years of internal consolidation is required where Pakistan needs to come out of several vicious cycles – the balance of payment crisis, national debt, trade deficit and circular debt in the energy sector. Economic revival is possible through improved export capacity, successful completion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).

Second, strategic patience is required at the state institutions and public levels regarding Occupied Kashmir. The mentality of quick fixes needs to be discouraged at national level. Naturally, during the period of internal consolidation, a painful process of structural reforms might discourage people. It is the duty of the political leadership to keep the public united and in high spirits during the time of internal consolidation. Similarly, state institutions – civil and military - should also avoid offers regarding unilateral concessions to New Delhi. In fact, New Delhi gets emboldened with Islamabad’s positive gestures and misinterprets Pakistan’s approach to Kashmir.

Third, cultivating partnerships with the international community seems to be a pragmatic option. From smaller South Asian states to important capitals of the world, Pakistan has to develop strong cooperative and vibrant relationships to stay strategically relevant in international politics. Cultivation of relations with smaller South Asian states such as Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Nepal should be prioritized. Defence cooperation, people to people connectivity and enhancing bilateral trade should be primary features of Pakistan’s foreign policy towards smaller South Asian states.

Similarly, strengthening bilateral relations with the Gulf countries and P5 states should also be a priority. This will not only help Pakistan to garner support for the Kashmir issue but will also defeat India’s strategy of isolating Pakistan.

Lastly, a long-term ‘integrated Kashmir strategy’ (IKS) is required at the national level. Without being apologetic, Pakistan should defend its stance at the international level through academia, diplomatic channels and using the media as a tool for international awareness.

Likewise, Islamabad needs to develop a comprehensive strategy comprising all state institutions – civil and military – to respond to Indian diplomatic and military actions in Occupied Kashmir. Veiled and direct threats by Indian leadership regarding Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) should be considered seriously and reciprocated with an equally aggressive tone at the political and strategy levels.

To conclude, Islamabad needs to alter its approach from ‘threat-based’ to ‘capacity-based’ policies, where Pakistan’s economic influence, strategic relevance, diplomatic acceptability and unified stance can lend weight to its principled stance on Kashmir.

The writer is director at the India Study Centre, Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He tweets/posts itskhurramabbas and can be reached at: directoriscissi.org.pk