No compromise on rights

August 20, 2019

On August 5, through a presidential decree, India scrapped Article 370 of its constitution which granted a special status to Jammu Kashmir.This should cause no surprise. In fact, this was the...

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On August 5, through a presidential decree, India scrapped Article 370 of its constitution which granted a special status to Jammu Kashmir.

This should cause no surprise. In fact, this was the mission statement of every Indian government since the Kashmiri state’s forcible occupation in 1947. Now, unless the Indian Supreme Court rules otherwise, Jammu and Kashmir will be a union territory with legislature while Ladakh will be a union territory without legislature. Though the Indian Supreme Court has stature, one never knows if it would succumb to expediency.

In any case this ‘special status’ did not prevent the murder of 75,000 Kashmiri Muslims and the rape and blinding of countless others over the decades – not forgetting the Jammu massacre of Muslims in 1947. The points to ponder are why the revocation was announced now and what their future strategy is.

Experienced diplomats and media anchors feel that the Indians most likely concluded that the time was opportune because of our severe political polarization, economic failings and the widespread security commitments. Moreover, they struck before Pakistan receives kudos for its efforts in Afghanistan. It also bolstered Modi’s macho image after the bloody nose he got in February this year. (Fellow Pakistanis, we need to raise private funds for treating victims of Indian pellet guns abroad. Let us open a bank account).

The Indians have memorized another lesson as well. The Americans under President Donald Trump have shown the world that if you are strong you can disregard international treaties conveniently if there are no repercussions. The Pacific Rim trade deal, the North America Trade Treaty, the Paris Climate Accord and the Iranian nuclear agreement were all scrapped because there was no fear of reprisals. Now India similarly feels that the fait accompli would be digested by the world in the years ahead and in the process it can crowd the Kashmir valley with non-Kashmiris economically, culturally and demographically.

Could the Indians through their recent action be sending some messages to Pakistan? Detaching Ladakh and placing it directly under the union may be a suggestion to Pakistan to similarly notify Gilgit-Baltistan as part of Pakistan to reduce the geographical size of the problem. The merger of Gilgit-Baltistan, whose people like those in Occupied Kashmir intensely loathe the Indians, should be avoided till the larger issue is resolved. Pakistan must not infringe any bilateral or multilateral commitment.

Secondly, the Indians would be hoping that Pakistan would, in retaliation, similarly pull out of the Simla declaration unilaterally. This again should be avoided as we would derive no benefits from it. Were Pakistan to unilaterally withdraw from the Simla accord tomorrow, the Indians may feel justified in tampering with the Indus Basin Treaty 1960. Prime Minister Modi and others have hinted at this repeatedly in the past. Pakistan’s position on the Indus Basin waters was strengthened by the Hague Arbitration Tribunal’s determination in 2011 in the Kishanganga-Neelum Jhelum dispute. It rejected India’s contention that Pakistan could not raise an issue lying within ‘Indian territory’.

Some people believe that India may be creating ground conditions for a Musharraf-style solution confined to the Kashmir valley only to pacify the indomitable Kashmiris. Skirting the sovereignty issue, they may focus on mutual troop withdrawal from the Kashmir Valley and Azad Kashmir’s adjoining areas and allow free trade and travel of people from both sides of the Line of Control.

It would appear that Prime Minister Modi, despite his aggressive rhetoric, would not want war with Pakistan let alone with China. Only recently he got an overwhelming mandate from the people despite a lacklustre first term. For over two decades now, India’s economy has been booming at nearly eight percent growth so why would any leader jeopardize a promising future. Moreover, India has now embarked on a slew of major infrastructural programmes in different fields meant to raise the people out of poverty. A war would ruin his ambitions. His generals and air marshals must also have warned him that war cannot be an option with nuclear armed countries. Prime Minister, Imran Khan is right when he says that no one knows how and where a war between India and Pakistan would end.

There appears to be a desire, embedded deep down in Modi’s heart, to be counted among the greatest Hindu heroes of India like Ashoka and Shivaji. Fellow Gujrati Mahatama Gandhi, however, has no place in his pantheon. He remains disdainful of Pundit Nehru and family (and here I agree with him). After all it was Nehru, the fork-tongued intellectual with a liberal veneer who created the Kashmir problem in the first place. Sadly, for them for over seventy years Kashmir has remained stuck like a hot potato in India’s throat. Prime Minister Modi’s removal of Article 370 cannot remove this hot potato.

Everyone understands that a compromise is essential in settling disputes (perhaps President Trump was attempting one recently) but there cannot be a compromise on the Kashmiris’ basic rights or of Pakistan’s water entitlements. Both are protected and sanctified by international law and treaties. Any attempted abrogation of Kashmiris’ freedom would face continued fierce resistance, while in Pakistan’s case any diversion or misuse of water under the Indus Basin Treaty obligations would mean war.

India should never ever think of ‘pani pat’; (pat in Pushto, with a different pronunciation, means to hide or steal). Those Indians forgetful of history may search Google for the other Panipat or for Ahmad Shah Durrani, 1761. The search results would be chastening.

The writer has served as the chief secretary of GB, AJK, KP and Sindh and was the chairman of Wapda and the Pakistan Railways.


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