In January 1948, Sir Zafrullah Khan, the erudite foreign minister of Pakistan, made a spirited five-hour speech at the UN Security Council articulating Pakistan’s position on the Kashmir issue. In a tour de force which changed the nature of the debate from India’s complaint to the legality of accession of Kashmir to India, Sir Zafrullah lamented: ‘What is not fully known is the depths of misery to which they have been reduced by a century of unmitigated tyranny and oppression under Dogra rule until it is difficult to say which is of greater tragedy to a Kashmiri: his life or his death.’ Replace ‘Dogra’ with ‘Indian’ today and the reality remains the same. For nearly seventy years India has been illegally occupying the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir and the plight of the Kashmiri people seems unending — the latest is just one sad episode in a litany of oppression.
As the mantras go: ‘history repeats itself,’ and ‘we must learn from history,’ both India and Pakistan must take into cognisance their past before jumping to anything in the future. Anything else will spell doom for both the countries — and since South Asia is home to nearly a fifth of the world’s population, this is not a proposition to be taken lightly. Where all sensible voices are arguing for de-escalation along the Radcliffe line, we must keep in mind the following:
First, there is no military solution to the Kashmir dispute. Both countries must understand it, and since I am a Pakistani, especially Pakistan. Pakistan has fought three wars specifically on Kashmir at different times — 1947-8, 1965 and 1999, but all three wars have ended in a stalemate.
There is no indication that the reality would be much different now, except that the threat of nuclear war will lead the death toll into millions rather than hundreds. Escalating tensions along the LoC or international border will, as in the past, only hurt the poor and hapless people of both India and Pakistan and no one else. Both sides need to let this sink in.
Secondly, ‘internationalising’ the Kashmir issue will lead to no dividend. Kashmir has been an ‘international’ issue since day one, but after the 1960’s hardly any country has taken a keen interest in it. Since the 1960’s till today the international community has repeatedly asked both countries to resolve it bilaterally, as we agreed at Simla in 1972, and so sending delegations to the UN, OIC, Western countries, etc will only clock up airline miles and nothing else.
Thirdly, while previous rounds of India-Pakistan tensions only empowered the right-wingers on both sides a little, the current escalation of tensions will substantially strengthen them. With the rising tide of Islamic extremism in the world, the anti-India rhetoric will only spike their support in Pakistan. Similarly, Hindu extremism is on the rise in India, and the recent spate of attacks on non-Hindus, be it for beef eating or anything else, is testament of their rising strength. Our increased tensions will only make them stronger and not only create more bad blood between the two countries, but also polarise societies within our countries. Therefore the repercussions will be more harmful internally rather than externally.
Both Pakistan and India are their own worst enemies. Rather than improving the lot of their people, they are threatening the lives of millions of people through their antics. Worse still the Kashmiri people are still in the same misery they were in 1947 — the battle is over them but yet their fate is becoming bleaker by the day.
For a long time Pakistan has been the best case of Benedict Anderson’s
‘Imagined Communities,’ but the time has come to become a reality and put the interests and lives of the 190 million Pakistanis before anything else.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2016.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ