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August 31, 2019

Sustainable diplomacy


August 31, 2019

The highly controversial annexation of Indian-Occupied Jammu & Kashmir by the Modi government, in gross violation of UN resolutions and bilateral agreements, has finally triggered the ‘international attention’ that was always needed to effectively project the Kashmir issue.

Today, in addition to resonating in the United Nations Security Council, the Kashmir issue is also generating international headlines in print and digital media around the world. The international media has been unanimous in condemning the brutal crackdown by the Hindu nationalist BJP government against the Muslims of Kashmir who make the majority of the population.

We also saw global protests in major world capitals that denounced the BJP government for converting the entire state of Kashmir into a militarized prison, imposing an indefinite curfew, restricting people’s movement and communication, shutting educational institutions and putting thousands in detention including former chief ministers of the state

In view of this growing pressure, the United Nations Security Council also held a landmark discussion on Kashmir after 50 years on August 16, 2019 – further highlighting the international nature of the Kashmir dispute, and reaffirming its commitment to the rights of the Kashmiri people that are enshrined in UN resolutions.

Those familiar with the intricacies of international diplomacy regard this momentous Security Council meeting as a major diplomatic blow to India, because the highest institution of international diplomacy has completely repudiated and negated India’s “internal matter narrative” on Kashmir, and reaffirmed Kashmir’s status as an “international dispute” which is subject to UN resolutions and international law.

Many South Asian observers believe that Modi’s recent misadventure in Kashmir has fatally exposed India’s fallacious ‘internal matter narrative’ on Kashmir, which always lacked any legal or factual basis. His government cannot indefinitely violate international laws, show blatant disregard to UN resolutions, and deprive the people of Kashmir of their basic democratic rights, especially in view of the unprecedented and growing international attention that Kashmir has been receiving.

In fact, this global attention has opened a window of opportunity that may ultimately lead to the solution of the Kashmir dispute which has eluded peace-loving people in both India and Pakistan for decades,

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in his recent press briefing spoke of Pakistan’s continued diplomatic and political support for the people of Kashmir, and announced starting ‘Kashmir desks’ at Pakistan missions. While this may have some symbolic value, more ‘substantive’ policies would be needed if Pakistan truly intends to convert the prevailing favourable international momentum into a tangible outcome for the people of Kashmir.

The foreign minister may wish to personally lead this initiative instead of leaving it to Kashmir desks. More robust engagement with the P-5, EU, OIC, Saarc and the larger Muslim world seeking their renewed support is also desirable.

Similarly, the role of public diplomacy and influential overseas Pakistanis may also kept in mind. Policymakers at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs may also wish to reflect on the level of diplomatic support that they received (or did not receive) from some of their friends and allies on the issue of Kashmir, and the reasons thereof. They would probably agree that the nature of modern diplomacy has now changed and states are increasingly choosing their friends and allies based on trade and economic interests.

The situation thus calls for a sustainable and proactive Kashmir policy which must be prepared in consultation with all stakeholders including all political parties represented in parliament.

The writer is a former ambassador.

Twitter: @JavedMalik

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