Saturday January 29, 2022

A year later

August 11, 2020

India’s crime of genocide in Kashmir did not begin on August 5, 2019. It began 73 years ago when planned and abetted mass slaughter and expulsions of Muslims, and the settlement of Hindus from outside Kashmir, reduced the Muslim majority in Jammu to a minority.

August 5, 2019 was Modi’s “final solution” – eliminating Kashmir as a political entity, and escalating the process of population change in the Valley. The genocide begun in Jammu is being completed in the Valley.

Pakistan’s response has been diplomatic, symbolic, and two-faced. The counting boards in Pakistan show 370 days today (August 10) since August 5, 2019. A year from today they will show 733 days.

Or will the counting stop? If so, will it be because Pakistan shall have defeated India’s occupation and genocide in IOK? Or will it be because Pakistan, despite its verbal bombast and empty symbolic gestures, shall have resigned itself to the fate of its Kashmiri brethren? According to Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan, “the answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind.”

The anniversary of August 5, 2019 was called Yaum-e-Istehsaal (the day of exploitation) and marked by speeches, rallies, resolutions, marches, songs, prayers, renaming the Kashmir highway as the Srinagar highway and issuing 70 year old Survey of Pakistan maps as “new maps,” etc.

The prime minister said “the world is watching India” and “if India goes too far in crushing the Kashmiris the world will react.” There have been unprecedented rallies against Indian repression in foreign capitals. The foreign media has also been critical. There have been resolutions and statements critical of India in the parliaments of several countries.

And yet, our foreign minister admits the world has been largely silent on Kashmir. He also expressed justified exasperation over the lack of Arab support. Apologetic explanations may or may not have quickly and quietly followed.

Regarding the so-called new map of Pakistan, the prime minister explained “it was essential as a reaction to Indian designs as it had also unveiled a map showing AJK as its part. However, Pakistan was clear that the matter must be resolved as per UN resolutions which had been depicted on the map.”

So is Pakistan just mirroring Indian policy? The difference, of course, is that India’s false maps are consistent with its illegal but formal international position that it has no dispute with Pakistan regarding Kashmir, except Pakistan’s alleged terrorism and occupation of its territory (AJK.) India resiled from the UN resolutions on Kashmir more than 60 years ago. There are no explanatory stamps on India’s maps.

Pakistan’s international position, in accordance with UN resolutions, is that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir is disputed until its people exercise their right of self-determination, and choose Pakistan. To re-issue standard Survey of Pakistan maps with great fanfare as part of a new so-called “aggressive diplomacy” could further dilute UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir which favour Pakistan.

This seriously damages Pakistan’s diplomacy on Kashmir – despite the explanatory stamp on the so-called new maps. These maps represent the legitimate aspiration and political commitment of the people of Kashmir and Pakistan. But to deliberately or inadvertently suggest the re-issue of old and still current Survey of Pakistan maps of Pakistan represents a toughening of Pakistan's Kashmir policy could play straight into India’s real strategy which is to convert the LOC into an international border and permanently separate AJK from IOK. It was strange to see the AJK leadership participate in this exercise.

Playing symbolic games might temporarily excite and deceive domestic audiences, but it makes no impression on the international community. Moreover, it raises questions about Pakistan’s Kashmir policy.

The prime minister has correctly ruled out back-channel diplomacy. Back-channels are for trouble-shooting when diplomacy hits snags. They cannot replace conventional diplomatic dialogue and negotiations.

Moreover, there will never be a zero-sum settlement of Kashmir in which Pakistan wins and India loses, or the converse. There will either be a principled compromise win-win settlement acceptable, if not completely satisfactory, to all the three parties involved – primarily the people of Jammu and Kashmir–- or there will be no settlement, no status quo, and no peace.

What is to be done? Broadly speaking, Pakistan should have a two-track Kashmir policy. In the first track – despite Indian hegemonism, its refusal to talk to Pakistan, and its developing genocide in IOK – Pakistan should explore every opportunity to initiate a dialogue and confidence building process with it in order to: (a) bring about progress towards a principled compromise Kashmir settlement; and (b) bring about an immediate end to Indian genocidal policies and a significant and verifiable improvement in the human and political rights of the people of IOK.

In the second track, Pakistan should simultaneously convey to the UN Security Council, the UN secretary general, the international community, and the people of Pakistan and Kashmir that if its first track efforts fail because of India’s insane obduracy, it will be compelled to use its full potential to stop India’s genocide in Kashmir because that would also pose a mortal threat to Pakistan’s existence.

This is the only, repeat only, way to prevent both war and genocide by awakening the international community to the extreme urgency of exercising maximum pressure on India to desist from its criminal and genocidal policies in Kashmir which are leading to global catastrophe. Those who reject this argument are no friends of the Kashmiri people. The two-track policy will, of course, require consensus political support in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the international community sees Pakistan as a soft and fractured state with a verbose but risk-adverse leadership which will do essentially nothing. It expects Pakistan to let off steam from time to time, make empty symbolic gestures, and resign itself to the inevitable in return for the charade of talks with India, and controlling Kashmiri and Pakistani outrage when betrayal becomes too obvious to disguise with fake fanfare.

If, against all expectations, the Pakistan government can summon the courage of its over-stated convictions, it might yet realize the dwindling prospects for a more peaceful and cooperative Subcontinent that is able to confront the death sentences of climate catastrophe, nuclear annihilation and endless pandemics. As of now, this is a completely forlorn hope.

Istehsaal is a totally inadequate description of genocide, including a full year of a draconian double lockdown against a whole people, and a domicile policy calculated to eliminate their majority in the Valley. August 5, 2019 is actually Yaum-e-Zulm-o-Istibdad-o-Nasl Kushi (Day of injustice, repression and genocide.)

Pakistan faces a very dire set of domestic, external and global challenges. They can only be tackled through an urgent and wholesale transformation of governance and political institutions. This appears impossible. But it has to be made possible through sustained political movements and agitation. Military rule and political populism provide no answers. The irony is that two years ago the prime minister might have concurred.

The writer is a formerambassador to the US, India and China and head of UNmissions in Iraq and Sudan.