Ambassador (R) Touquir HUSSAIN
Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) stands at an historical moment. Kashmiris have demonstrated without any doubt that they have rejected the Indian occupation. In the past Indian military presence in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) may have helped it to control the territory but had invalidated its claim to it. Now India is losing the control as well.
The atmosphere is tenser than ever. It is a product of years of repression and humiliation; invasive Public Safety Act; draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act; lack of acknowledgement of the Kashmir problem; and an attempt to undo Article 35A of Indian Constitution. These are the factors that have brought IOK to a historical standpoint.
A young, new leaderless movement in IOK has emerged out of India’s illegal occupation. Ironically what has led to the rise of this movement is that everyone except Pakistan has failed the Kashmiris in fight for the exercise of right of self-determination. In doing so Pakistan is faced with a daunting task as it has to fight on several fronts both internal and external.
India knows that the success of the Kashmir cause depends on two facts — the strength of Kashmiris’ freedom struggle coupled with Pakistan’s diplomatic, moral and political support to the Kashmir cause. Kashmiris would not have come thus far without Pakistan’s help. It is not just Kashmiris that stand in India’s way; Pakistan does too. So, the Indian strategy is twofold: on the one hand, unleash extreme repressive measures to bludge on the Kashmiris into suppression while on the other launch a campaign of isolating and defaming Pakistan and put it on the defensive and off balance on the dispute of Kashmir. The broader theme is to marginalize Pakistan to make it irrelevant in the dispute and then as a consequence, weaken the Kashmiris and impose India’s will on them.
INGREDIENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL PAKISTAN STRATEGY
In my view there are four ingredients of a successful Pakistan strategy of the Kashmir cause. First and foremost, the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir and their valiant and noble struggle. They hold the key. Second, the Kashmiri leadership. Third, Pakistan’s diplomacy and Fourth, the campaign by the Kashmiri Diaspora and overseas Pakistanis.
All of the ingredients need to put a coordinated pressure on India. And there are four instruments of putting that pressure. First instrument: International community, especially big powers particularly those having leverage with India. Second, the oil rich and influential Islamic countries. Third is the UN, especially international Human Rights organizations. Fourth, Pakistan – India relations. All these can act as levers.
Let us look at all the four ingredients before looking at the four instruments.
THE KASHMIRI RESISTANCE
Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) stands at a historical moment. IOK has been restless ever since the Indian occupation and has passed through periods of turmoil from time to time. But what we are witnessing now is unprecedented. It is not an uprising, insurgency or a revolt. It is indeed a revolution, pure and simple. Kashmiris in the Indian Occupied Kashmir have once again clearly demonstrated their rejection of the brutal Indian occupation. Now they are not seeking a redress of their grievances. They are seeking a change of destiny. Kashmiri resistance has never been stronger and more determined.
THE KASHMIRI LEADERSHIP
The youth that was once a follower is now a leader. Better educated, some educated abroad and attuned to contemporary modes of activism, especially adept at social media. They are now the driving force of the movement. The future of Indian Occupied Kashmir rests with them.
Kashmiris would not have come thus far without Pakistan’s help and as they move forward, Pakistan’s help would be even more critical. The plain truth is Pakistan’s moral responsibility to help Kashmiris in the Indian Occupied Kashmir is embedded in its history, identity and moral purpose. Though, under the changing geopolitical scenario, this responsibility has become daunting, yet the need of it remains pressing than ever before.
The task that lies before Pakistan’s diplomatic effort as concerns the Kashmir dispute requires a concerted international narrative-building exercise in favor of Kashmiri struggle in the Indian Occupied Kashmir for the exercise of their right of self-determination, coupled with diplomatic pressure on India. Needless to mention that in the prevalent power and economy-driven Westphalian global system, Pakistan would need to continue consolidating its own economic cavalry as an enabling factor to strengthen its hand vis a vis international community as well as India.
PAKISTANI AND KASHMIRI DIASPORA
There is a lot of room for improvement in the efforts of both Pakistani and Kashmiri diaspora to step up their campaign for Kashmir. Kashmiris need to learn from other diaspora groups how to create a better awareness here especially in the West and in the US.
Now the instruments for putting pressure.
The International community especially the big powers, have shown a callous disregard to the plight of Kashmiris in the Indian Occupied Kashmir or sensitivity towards their cause. This attitude especially by the so-called global flag bearers of human rights has to change. One must admire that relative to other world powers, the United States is the greatest champion of human rights, sometimes genuinely, sometimes for political reasons and sometimes just for propaganda or public relations purposes. But what has it done or said for Indian Occupied Kashmir for any of these purposes? Not even a lip service. Do Indian Occupied Kashmiris live on some other universe? Or they don’t qualify?
It may be mentioned here that the Indian Occupied Kashmir is replete with evidence of Indian brutalities and excesses. The scale and horror of violence committed by India has been well exposed by international and even Indian human rights organizations who have extensively documented the gross and systematic violation of human rights of the Kashmiri people by Indian military and para-military occupation forces including judicial killings, involuntary disappearances, arbitrary detentions, rapes and torture. Just to cite one instance, as per the latest report by Al Jazeera, the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), a human rights group in Indian Occupied Kashmir, told the state-run Human Rights Commission that there were 3,844 unmarked graves – in the IOK.
Big powers are never honest brokers. Their interests are global and to resolve a conflict invariably involves conflict of interest for them. They generally like to keep the status quo which usually favors a more powerful country, whose friendship is more important than that of the other party. Big powers don’t wake up one day and say let us solve this problem because it is hurting people or violates moral principles or human rights.
India has used its influence in Washington to get it on her side. Both the US and India need each other. The US needs India to contain China and India needs the United States as a source of capital and technology, as well as a partner in fulfilling its regional and global ambitions. It appears that India under Prime Minister Modi is utilizing its bonhomie with the US to create for itself a ‘Hegemonic Lebensraum’ in South Asia and both have shared perceptions of Pakistan. They are using each other to advance their respective interests there. Modi would use the relations with Washington to strengthen his hands vis a vis Pakistan, particularly to get a pass for his repression in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. This approach appears to suit the US as well owing to its own peculiar strategic objectives in the region.
The US keeps repeating the standard line that the Kashmir dispute should be resolved through direct negotiations between the parties. But it forgets that given its heavy engagement in the region on behalf of India it too has become a party to this dispute. The US should recognize that the totality of its current and future interests in the region will not be served if the Kashmir dispute and the relations between India and Pakistan are not addressed.
Most of the influential countries in the Islamic world are allied to Washington and also have friendly ties with India. This at times, checkmates their approach towards Kashmir dispute in particular, despite the fact that these countries are also having cordial relations with Pakistan.
Pakistan after passing through some testing times in the past several years is clearly on the mend across the board under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan – the internal security picture has vastly improved; country’s foreign policy is dynamic; democracy is taking roots; national unity is more cohesive; the nation is showing more resolve and sense of optimism and above all economic outlook is showing promise.
Pakistan’s foreign policy has been energized under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s leadership and we are seeing a major uptake in Pakistan’s image and clout. There is a new confidence being reposed by major international players in Pakistan’s internal security, political stability and economic future. Last but not least, India Pakistan relations, which in my view is the most important instrument.
INDIA PAKISTAN RELATIONS
Modi’s brutal repression of Indian Occupied Kashmir has no room for compromise; hence India does not feel any compulsion for a dialogue with Pakistan for resolving the Kashmir dispute.
Ultimately nothing will be more effective in solving the Kashmir dispute than what Kashmiris can do inside Indian Occupied Kashmir and what Pakistan can do to compel India to change its position on Kashmir. As a causal factor for compelling India to come to table to resolve Kashmir dispute, an economically and geopolitically strong Pakistan remains pivotal.
Pakistan needs to create an environment which obliges India to have friendly relations with Pakistan. Where India may feel it has no alternative. This improvement in relation should however predicate on a solution of Kashmir dispute. Pakistan continues to call on India to solve the Kashmir dispute however India has so far failed to oblige. Moral appeals and pious statements don’t seem to work in international affairs.
The bottom line is that Kashmiris have to make the Indian occupation untenable. Furthermore, better relations with Pakistan have to become irresistible for India. Only then, both the Kashmiris and Pakistan can dictate their terms to India for resolving the Kashmir dispute. India has to be given confidence that its loss in Indian Occupied Kashmir will be its gain somewhere else. No one should feel defeated. This has to be a win-win situation for India, Pakistan and Kashmir.
Kashmir is ingrained in Pakistan’s history, culture and its identity, and thus it has been a primary supporter of the Kashmir cause. Pakistan should therefore continue to support the Kashmir cause diplomatically, morally and politically for its own sake and for the sake of Kashmir. Whatever happens, Pakistan cannot abandon Kashmir.