Pakistan’s Kashmir policy can be summarized in one sentence: diplomatic, moral and political support to the freedom struggle in Indian-held Kashmir , for a plebiscite, as enunciated in UNSC...
Pakistan’s Kashmir policy can be summarized in one sentence: diplomatic, moral and political support to the freedom struggle in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK), for a plebiscite, as enunciated in UNSC resolutions.
The UNSC met on the matter, after 50 years, for a 90-minute session on August 16, but failed to issue a statement. However, China’s UN envoy stated afterwards that the ‘UNSC members had serious concerns about the situation, including the human rights situation and that it was the general view of members that parties concerned should refrain from taking any unilateral action that might further aggravate the tension there’. Thus, while this meeting per se, was significant at this time, it might take the Council many more years to meet again, unless our policy on the subject is reappraised.
Except for some clichés of concern and advice to exercise restraint, most Muslim countries and the rest of the world, except China, chose to overlook the Indian actions to annex Kashmir.
There are seven explanations why our policy may have been unviable. First, our insistence on a dialogue with India on Kashmir was construed by everyone as weakness. Such policies are always futile. But the foremost reason is the lack of a coherent strategy to implement this policy. The third factor is the passive stance of Pakistan in the past, particularly with the OIC countries. The fourth reason is the Indian manipulation of the post-9/11 environment, to demonize the perception of the world about Kashmiris as terrorists, and our inability to kill this perfidious narrative. Blame can also be apportioned to the government for failing to optimize the role of the Ministry of Kashmir and GB (MoK&GB), which is mandated only to assist the governments of AJ&K and GB, with no obligation towards IHK. The ‘AJK Council and Secretariat,’ at Islamabad also deals only with mundane chores. Lastly, the parliamentary committee on Kashmir’s efforts have not been far-reaching. On August 7, Prime Minister Imran Khan formed a special, seven members plus, Kashmir Team to formulate legal, political and diplomatic responses on the latest Indian actions as well. This is a step in the right direction; however, this new team will also need resources.
So here are the contours of a revised Kashmir policy. First, a domestic and international Kashmir Fund needs to be constituted, which could be crowd sourced, like the CJP and PM’s dam fund. The government should provide tax incentives for donations to this fund. As the federal government cannot support this effort, due to its meagre resources, post the 18th Amendment, it must encourage the provinces to allocate at least one percent of their NFC shares and earnings for the purpose. This fund needs to be controlled directly by the PM, through the new team, with oversight by the Ministry of Finance. Among other purposes, the fund must be used for preventing human rights violations in IHK, informing the Indian masses and liberal intelligentsia about the colossal cost in terms of treasure and blood, of enslaving nine million Kashmiris for over 70 years, and exposing the lies of the Indian government on the matter.
The Kashmiri diaspora, both from AJK and IHK need to be integrated in the planning and implementation of the policy, through our diplomatic missions, all over the world, particularly in the P5 countries. If needed, the Foreign Office must hire lobbyists specifically for the Kashmir cause in capitals of chosen countries. Our relationship with the big powers, particularly the OIC, must be based on their stance about the Kashmir issue and this must be unambiguously communicated to all. A special OIC summit must be convened at Islamabad to apprise the members about the plight of the 210 million Kashmiris and Indian Muslims for a united response. As India’s action has also challenged China’s sovereign interests, our policy must be closely coordinated with it.
Pemra must instruct all private media to allocate daily time and space to this matter. The Ministry of Information must buy airtime on foreign media to correct the international perceptions about Kashmir, for which India has itself created the conditions. Pakistan must initiate legal efforts at the ICC, ICJ, and UN to dissuade India from breach of the Geneva Conventions, Hague Regulations; ethnic cleansing, genocide or demographic alterations in IHK. The MoK&GB must be mandated to coordinate all affairs related to IHK as well as contingency planning to deliver international humanitarian aid or providing shelter to Kashmiri refugees, whenever needed. Finally, India must be warned that violation of the Indus Waters Treaty will be treated as aggression and responded to accordingly.
The Kashmir situation is fraught with many perils that need adroit management through a bold, all-inclusive and adequately resourced policy; restructuring and accountability of concerned state institutions. Concomitantly, the big powers need persistent forewarnings that unless India is prevented from human rights violations in Kashmir, violence and its consequences could be unpredictable and unrestricted. This could be cataclysmic for South Asian peace.
The writer is the former president of the NDU.
The writer is the former president of the NDU.