Modi’s play with fire

Published: August 9, 2019
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The measures Pakistan announced on Wednesday in response to the Modi government’s decisions regarding the fate of occupied Kashmir and its people must have sent a clear message to India and the international community about Islamabad’s concerns on the changing scenario in the Subcontinent and its implications for the entire South Asian region. After a two-day-long debate following the drastic and unprecedented Indian action regarding the status of Jammu and Kashmir, a joint session of the Pakistani Parliament, through a unanimous resolution, warned India “to refrain from undertaking any irresponsible, unilateral actions that may lead to dangerous escalation that will have far reaching impact not only for South Asia but the entire world.”

Though occasionally marred by lack of sensitivity and unbecoming utterances and conduct of some of the lawmakers on either side, the session managed to convey a unified stand while rejecting India’s “illegal, unilateral, reckless and coercive attempts to alter the disputed status of Indian occupied Kashmir as enshrined in the UNSC resolutions”. Besides condemning the “brutalization of the people of IOK through killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, mass blinding by pellet guns and use of rape as an instrument of war”, the joint resolution warned against future Indian design to alter the demography of the Muslim-majority region.

A meeting of the National Security Council, meanwhile, presided over by the PM came out with some crucial decisions to express the grave concerns Pakistan has over the unprecedented India moves. These decisions included the downgrading of diplomatic ties, suspension of bilateral trade and review of bilateral arrangements. The civilian and military leadership also decided to take up the latest development with the United Nations Security Council and to observe Black Day on August 14 as a show of solidarity with the people of Kashmir.

Contrary to what some hawks in and outside Parliament maintained and insisted, this is what Pakistan could do in the given circumstances. Long years of mismanagement of foreign policy have left Pakistan in an awkward position which is now struggling to regain its stature in the comity of nations.

There should also be some other reasons for the restraint shown by Pakistan. In fact, it is rather too early to assess the actual consequences of Modi’s adventure and how it is going to be received in and outside India. At the moment there is an iron curtain around Jammu and Kashmir, the world’s most militarised zone. With a complete suspension of communications, including Internet and mobile phone services, and in the absence of any updates on online editions of local newspapers for the last one week, one really doesn’t know what is happening inside the Valley. There are reports of some civilians having been martyred by security forces during protests that have been going on despite a day and night curfew being in place. A statement from the UN Human Rights spokesperson on Wednesday expressed ‘grave concern’ over information blackout from Kashmir. The spokesperson feared that latest Indian restrictions “will exacerbate the human rights situation in the region”.

The Modi government is, however, under fire not only from the parliamentary opposition, but some sane voices in the media are also criticising it. At a local TV talk show, the host disputed the Indian argument about Kashmir being its internal matter or integral part. It is an international dispute so long as UN resolutions continue to hold ground; it is an international dispute with the continuous presence of UN observers along the border for the last forty years; it is an international dispute, with China claiming part of its territory; it was an international dispute when the Kargil war was stopped with the intervention of US; it is an international issue compelling President Trump to offer US mediation to help resolve it. However, this integration is not going to help the BJP win over hearts and souls of the people of Kashmir who are giving their blood and lives to realise their dream of freedom.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2019.

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