During his address to the UN General Assembly in September 2012, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari candidly expressed his anguish on the failure of the international community to resolve the long outstanding Kashmir issue. Speaking on this occasion, Zardari had said that “Kashmir remains a symbol of the failures, rather than strengths of the UN system.” While Zardari’s matter- of- fact statement should have seared the inner conscience of the international community and at least shamed it into put up a token show of solidarity with the Kashmir cause or extending perfunctory sympathy towards its people. Unfortunately, nothing like this ever happened giving rise to the suspicion that no one really took Zardari’s words seriously!
Flash forward to 2015 and we once again find Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lamenting the UN’s apathy regarding implementation of its own resolutions on Kashmir. Addressing the joint session of Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s (PaK) Assembly on the occasion of Kashmir Solidarity Day, Sharif struck an emotional chord by recalling his Kashmir connection from childhood days and saying “Kashmir runs in my blood.” He also reaffirmed Pakistan’s unstinted commitment towards the Kashmir cause, outlined in detail how Islamabad was working tirelessly towards its resolution and openly criticised New Delhi which “always adopted dilly-dallying tactics” on the ‘K’ issue. In addition, Sharif exuded full confidence regarding early resolution of the Kashmir issue saying that “Time is not far away when the clouds of oppression will shed and the Kashmiri people will see the dawn of independence.”
Sharif’s statements of promise and optimism were music to the ears of the Hurriyat which felt ecstatic and showered lavish praises on Islamabad for all it had done and was doing for the people of Kashmir. Infact, the Hurriyat was so overwhelmed by what was said by Sharif that in its euphoria and exuberance, the separatist conglomerate has either intentionally to or perhaps unwittingly, failed to read the ‘fine print’ and thus missed out on something very crucial in Sharif’s speech that could have far reaching consequences on the Kashmir issue and its resolution!
In his speech, Sharif said that Pakistan and Kashmir are “one entity in all respects and no power on earth can separate the two.” While certain sections of the Hurriyat as well as a substantial segment of society in Indian administered Kashmir (IaK) may endorse this view, but there is also a sizeable population in both IaK and PaK that supports complete ‘independence’ and this lot cannot be disregarded. So, when one seriously ponders over Sharif’s assertion that Kashmir and Pakistan are “one entity,” which “no power on earth can separate,” one realises that it smacks of the same arrogance as New Delhi’s claim of Kashmir being an “Atoot Ang” (inseparable part) of India. Nawaz Sharif must realise that just because Islamabad has been espousing the Kashmir cause, the same does not give it ‘ownership rights’ over Kashmir or its people and that irrespective of a person’s personal preference on this issue, no self respecting Kashmiri would ever like to be taken for granted- either by India or Pakistan!
During his address, Sharif took pains to highlight the efforts being made by Pakistan for the early resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio, saying that his government was raising this issue in all international forums. He also mentioned that he had personally taken up the Kashmir issue with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and these efforts made by Nawaz Sharif and his government deserves to be complimented. However, his admission that the same had made no headway since “in response to this, they have nothing to say and they keep mum…” is something that is really alarming since in practical terms, it reduces all that Islamabad has been doing for resolution of the Kashmir issue into meaningless rhetoric- or to put it in Shakespeare’s words, something “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!”
What should really worry the Hurriyat is the disturbing fact that despite having support of UN resolutions on Kashmir, why is Islamabad unable to garner support of the international community on the issue of resolving the Kashmir imbroglio? This inexplicable and sorry state of affairs leads us to a very basic but important question- if despite the UN resolutions being in its favour, Pakistan has not been able to move even an inch forward as far as resolution of the Kashmir issue is concerned, then how is Sharif so confident that “Time is not far away when the clouds of oppression will shed and the Kashmiri people will see the dawn of independence?”
Though Sharif may be very optimistic on resolution of the Kashmir issue, he has not elucidated as to how does he intend remedying the grave problem of indifference towards implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir that plagues the international community. The only hint that Sharif has given in his speech is, “we have to wake them up.” Now how exactly does Sharif plan to ‘wake-up’ the international community is beyond my comprehension and so, I leave it to the reader to decide. Yes, Sharif has repeatedly been reminding the international community that Kashmir is a potential “nuclear flashpoint” and reiterating that “Lasting peace in South Asia is possible only with the just-resolution of Kashmir issue.” However, will this really galvanise the international community into concerted action remains a moot point!
Sharif’s recipe for ushering in peace and tranquility in the subcontinent revolves around a single ingredient called Kashmir and so it not only seems simple but also appears to be workable. Unfortunately, the international community does not seem to share Sharif’s view of Kashmir being a potential ‘nuclear flashpoint’ and it has good reasons for the same. Readers would agree that whether it was Pakistan’s military misadventure in Kargil, the militant strike on the Indian Parliament or the Mumbai attacks, the response of New Delhi was extremely guarded and restrained which ensured that the level of hostilities don’t escalate into full scale military confrontation. Some experts in Pakistan have attributed New Delhi’s cautious approach to provocation to its fear that a military confrontation could trigger a massive nuclear reaction from Pakistan which does not have a ‘no first use’ nuclear policy.
However, whatever be the reason, the fact remains that New Delhi has played its cards well. Unlike Pakistan, whose Army Chief General Raheel Sharif publically flaunts Islamabad’s nuclear capability claiming that it occupies a “central place” in the defence of the country, New Delhi has ensured that its Army Chiefs or Generals don’t comment on nuclear issues. Moreover, it has enunciated a well articulated nuclear policy, clarifying that India is merely maintaining a credible minimum deterrence and is fully committed to follow a “no-first-use posture as well as non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon States.” Thus, despite being a non signatory to the NPT, New Delhi has still been able to project itself as a ‘responsible’ nuclear power debunking the theory that Kashmir could be a potential “nuclear flashpoint”.
With India and Pakistan having fought two full scale wars in 1948 and 1965 over Kashmir as well as a limited war in Kargil war, there is every reason to believe Sharif’s assertion that the Kashmir issue is the main reason for Indo-Pak acrimony and that once resolved, would automatically usher- in enduring peace and stability in the region. However, with proscribed terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) continuing to enjoy Pakistan’s patronage, it is more than evident to the international community that even after the Kashmir issue has been resolved, Indo-Pak relations would continue to be anything but cordial. Remember, in a pamphlet entitled “Why Are We Waging Jihad?” The LeT has clearly defined that its core agenda is not merely ‘liberation’ of Kashmir but restoration of Islamic rule over all parts of India and the LeT has even declared India as an existential enemy of Islam!
So, whether we accept it or not, the fact is that by allowing self serving interests to prevail over its moral responsibility towards its oppressed Kashmiri brethren, Pakistan has squandered an excellent opportunity to play a leading and decisive role in resolving the Kashmir issue. To make matters worse, the Pakistan army has caused irreparable damage to the ideological struggle for the ‘right to self determination’ in Kashmir by fomenting militancy. Therefore, while Pakistan may euphemistically refer to militants as ‘freedom-fighters’ and insist that the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir is ‘indigenous’ in nature and receives no support from the Pakistan army, the truth is not hidden from the international community!
Is the Pakistan army so naïve as to believe that militants could ‘liberate’ Kashmir when it itself was unable to do so in 1947 and 1965? Encouraging violence under the garb of ‘armed resistance’ just to bleed India through a ‘thousand cuts’ may be an ingenious military proposition. However, Kashmiris are paying a very high cost for this in terms of huge loss of human lives and suffering untold miseries. Militancy has so alienated the international community that despite UN resolutions on Kashmir, no country is willing to get involved in facilitating the resolution of this more than six and a half decade old issue.
By attempting to annex Kashmir by force and fomenting militancy in the State, Pakistan is viewed by the international community as a party having ‘vested interests’ in Kashmir. Consequently, Pakistan is unable to make any progress on resolution of the Kashmir issue as has lost all its credibility and standing within the international community. However, what is worse is that due to its skewed Kashmir policy, Islamabad has allowed the ideological issue of Kashmir and its internationally accepted dispute to be downgraded into a petty bilateral territorial dispute between India and Pakistan that merits no third party intervention. So, would it be wrong or uncharitable to say that alongwith the UN, Kashmir is also the symbol of Pakistan’s failure?