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August 11, 2019

What Pakistan can do?


August 11, 2019

What appears to be Pakistan’s biggest diplomatic challenge to undo India’s unilateral action over disputed territory of Held Kashmir; the civil and military leadership have a task ahead in the presence of the ongoing economic and political challenges.

All this required complete ‘unity and unanimity’ among all segment of society as never before such a stability was required as of today. Pakistan has got some encouraging response from the UN, UK and China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and even the United States through back-to-back statements indicate that the world is concerned over escalation of conflict after India’s expected decision. But can this be able to turn the table in our favour is a big question mark.

India facing growing pressure not only from its own opposition but the international concern over its decision and the most serious violation of human rights, complete media blackout for the last five days. The Indian action has come within weeks after Prime Minister Imran Khan and his team celebrated the US visit and raised hope in resolving long- standing dispute of Kashmir with India.

When the US President Donald Trump hinted towards Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s desire for the US mediation on Kashmir, it created havoc in New Delhi while in Pakistan most people welcomed the statement but some experts did express doubts India would welcome mediation in view of its past position, where it called for solution under Simla Agreement through bilateral dialogue. Pakistan and India had fought three wars, worst was 1971, and a mini-conflict of Kargil. Relationship between the two countries by and large remained tense and uneasy due to constant lack of trust.

However, at times efforts were made to reach some kind of settlement and both sides admitted Kashmir as unresolved dispute. The last serious effort from Pakistan was at Agra, when the then president Pervez Musharraf came close to accord on seven points. India backed out at the last minute due to internal pressure pushed the situation back to square one. There is no doubt that India’s latest action to revoke the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir would have far reaching consequences in future relationship between the two countries in the region and if situation escalates, things can go out of control and would be a threat to the world.

Relationship between the two countries further deteriorated with the massive election victory of the BJP and more importantly of hardliner Narendra Modi. The rising extremism in India at the electoral level did not go well either for India’s secularism and democracy but also for Kashmiris, who have been fighting for the right of self-determination for over seven decades and thousands of people had been martyred.

In this backdrop, Trump’s remark was a ‘welcome shock’ for Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was given rousing reception back home. He was so happy that he remarked “the welcome I got reminds me of returning home after winning the World Cup in 1992”. What he could have done after that is very important to look into it. Had he been briefed about the possible Indian intention in view of what the BJP had promised in the elections regarding changing the status of Jammu and Kashmir, he would have alerted the US even if they knew it, which the State Department has now denied the Indian claim. Thus instead of celebrating the visit, the premier should have discussed with his aides and military leadership about the possible motives behind it, even if Modi has said something of that sort for mediation.

India immediately rejected Trump’s remarks and Indian Prime Minister Modi remained silent while the US president till this day stands by his statement. On the diplomatic front the statement of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that Held Kashmir is a disputed territory recognised by the UN, could be the launching pad for Pakistan’s most challenging diplomatic offensive to draw world’s attention towards growing tension between the two nuclear states, which had fought three wars. The recent unilateral dissolution of special status of Jammu and Kashmir amid strong protest not only from Pakistan but also within India, where Congress and other Opposition parties called it ‘murder of democracy’ has once again brought both countries at the brink of war, which God forbids begin could threaten not only the region but the world. Pakistan has rightly welcomed the statement and UN position on the issue. Security Council has also expressed its deep concern over the continuing violation of human rights, something which Pakistan can take up at all forums before the UN General Assembly annual session in September.

Pakistan’s diplomatic initiative need to take some pace as in the recent past we had failed in drawing world’s attention to the BJP’s game plan after Indian election. Prime Minister Imran Khan during his recent visit to the US also missed an opportunity by not discussing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intention to change the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. Had he alerted the US president and the American media, Pakistan’s position would have been much stronger. Pakistan on its part has taken few steps as mark of protest including de-grading the status of high commissioner, suspension of whatever trade ties exist and the latest is the stopping of Samjhauta Express. Pakistan has also put its armed forces on high alert since Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is now in China, which has already rejected India’s action while PM Imran has personally contacted the heads of different states including Turkey, the UK and Saudi Arabia and is expected to talk to Russian President Putin and Iran. It would have been even better if he could have taken the world tour along with the foreign minister. What else Pakistan can do to make India reverse its decision. Human Rights violation and lockdown of media to kill the stories of killing and atrocities in the Indian Held Kashmir, has already drawn attention of UN Human Rights groups, Amnesty International, and Pakistan needs to have proactive approach in this connection.

It is important for Pakistan to see that India should be forced by international community to give free access to international media in IHK, Hurriyat and other leaders should be released and curfew lifted. How effectively we can do it will be the real test as in the past we had failed in drawing world’s attention on this point.

Indian action has come at a time when talks between the US and Afghan Taliban are in the final stages and even the US president has recognised Pakistan’s positive role. India, perhaps, felt that it has been ‘left out’. Lastly, Pakistan also needs to keep its own house in order. Rising political and economic instability will not help. Government should do everything to ease political tension without compromising its principle position, certainly not the way it is doing at the moment.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO