It remains unclear if BJP can scrap the special status Kashmir has enjoyed for over fifty years by deleting articles 35A and 370 from the Indian Constitution and if so, can such fundamental change legally be introduced into the basic Law of the Land by just a Presidential Order without a vote in favor by the Indian Parliament? This is already been challenged in the Indian Supreme Court, voices in Parliament from nearly all the Opposition parties have opposed it. However there is no real opposition to Maryam’s Uncle Modi doing what he did. With politically bankrupt leadership of the Indian National Congress (INC) in total disarray after the humiliating defeat in the last elections the main political principle behind the Modi’s regime being ‘might is right’, such “formalities” don’t really count. A major item in the election manifesto with which the BJP won the election for a second time in a row, this should have been expected.
The disastrous Indian attack on Pakistan in late February exposed India as an aggressor, it cost them two fighter aircraft and a combat pilot while the other was taken captive by Pakistan! Next the verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) acknowledged the death verdict by a military court in Pakistan, the only concession India got was “Consular Access” based on the Geneva Convention. The increased frequency of attacks from across the Line of Control (LoC) on Pakistani territory, the use of cluster ammunition against Pakistani civilians are graphic signs of their deep frustration. Moreover Imran Khan’s successful visit to the US wiped two decades of anti-Pakistani narratives launched by India. Trump’s offer to mediate between India and Pakistan based on Modi mentioning such a possibility during his last visit in Washington infuriated India. This may have stepped up the BJP plans for a “final solution” to the Kashmir problem’.
The dispatch of over thirty thousand plus troops to add to the half a million already present in a valley having less than 7 million inhabitants, the forcible evacuation of tourists and the alerting of Indian troops along the Indo-Pakistani border were clear indications about some impending Indian move. The only country in the world upset at possible peace in Afghanistan, with Pakistan playing a leading role, can India be happy not being able to continue to waging this proxy war against Pakistan on the cheap? The use of Afghanistan as a platform has all but destroyed the country, they first used Russian lives and money in the 80s and then American lives and money since the beginning of this century. Is this a last desperate attempt to derail the US-Taliban peace talks? Modi calculated it right, there was no outcry from the international community including the UN, only a weak critique from several quarters. Trump is busy with Afghanistan, Europe is busy with the refugees and Brexit – more than some hu-ha-hu about human rights one can’t expect from them.
Complaints in international organizations are not likely to help. Calling the ICJ? There is much doubt if the honorable judges would want to take a stand. Even a vote in the UNSC –when the UN has done nothing for seven decades – will not help. The voices coming out from our Parliament signify anything but unity, it was simply partisan politics. Those who could undo it would be the Indian people and the Kashmiris, that seems not very likely given the current power equation. Does our government want to go to war for Kashmir? That crude mistake would upset all the plans that the PTI government has made for fighting poverty, bringing the economy on track and pushing for accountability.
Shahbaz Sharif in his speech said that this was a massive failure for the government, that Pakistan was taken by surprise because we did not follow up the situation in depth. This is rank and blatant hypocrisy. Given Nawaz Sharif being cosy with the Indians because of his sons’ business. Advising self-introspection is nonsense, what was done over the years when the present Opposition was in power? Ask former Ambassador Zamir Akram why he refused Tariq Fatemi from Islamabad badgering him in Geneva to arrange meetings of Indian businessmen with Nawaz Sharif in Davos. Ask Zardari why he made Husain Haqqani Pakistan’s Ambassador to Wash DC? Ask Ashfaq Kayani how Haqqani got security clearance for becoming Ambassador to the US? Appointing Maulana Fazlur Rahman as Chairman Kashmir Committee was a cruel joke on Kashmiris.
The military wanted a military solution until Kargil. It fought three wars with India over Kashmir, the results were not encouraging. Today it seems we have learned our lesson, political problems needing political solutions applies to Kashmir as much as to Afghanistan. That was why Gen Musharraf during his rule tried to right his wrong in Kargil and devised a very different solution for the Kashmir problem. He proposed what was called the ‘Four-point solution’ to Kashmir. Maybe Air Marshal (Retd) Masood Akhtar who was Chief Instructor in NDU in 2000 can explain better where he came up with this “brilliant idea”. According to different accounts, the solution was, in principle, acceptable to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee but the deal fell through hours before the signing ceremony. His flexible and very unorthodox idea included demilitarization of Kashmir, more or less free movement of Kashmiris across the LoC and self-governance without independence for both parts. That was a real step forward but it did not materialize. Consecutive civilian Pakistani governments have made no such effort to find “out of the box” solutions. Instead, they withdrew to the position of 1948: implementation of the UN resolutions including plebiscite. But what was a possible solution in the 1950s and 60s changed with the Simla Agreement of 1972. From there onwards India regarded it as a bilateral issue since Bhutto had agreed to it. To insist on UN resolutions afterwards is just closing the eyes on ground realties.
Pakistan must review its antiquated Kashmir policy and develop a new stand. India’s action has repercussions for Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) which now should be made a full-fledged part of Pakistan. After we have realized that war is not an option there should be initiatives to demilitarize the ‘highest battlefield’. And finally, there is a need to re-think the rationale why Pakistan was created, Indian Muslims who wanted to separate from Hindu rule. Today the number of Muslims in India is almost the same as in Pakistan. Kashmiri Muslims in Occupied Kashmir have had a tough life until now and it will be worse in future. But isn’t that more or less the fate of all Muslims in Hindutva-prone India? Thus Pakistan will naturally support Indian Muslims and all others when their rights are harmed but that can be political and diplomatic support only. Banning trade and cutting down on diplomatic ties are only some actions we can take.
The new ground realties are not going to go away. The silver lining, by its action India has brought Kashmir “front and center” into international focus. This is an opportunity gifted to us by Modi provided we can exploit it. To correct public perception at the grassroots level across the world, we must despatch teams headed by former Ambassadors for 3-4 weeks to the countries they had served in to apprise their old contacts and local media across the board about the Kashmir problem. While India’s recent actions do pose a challenge, do we have the courage and the capability to convert this challenge into a great opportunity to stoke and stir the world’s conscience? In the meantime let us keep our power dry, we cannot – and should not – rule out the military option, it could be forced on us due to circumstances beyond our control.
The writer is a defense and security analyst.