There is this cardinal rule in diplomacy that, “before trying to bend a foreign government to your will you must calculate its strength and weaknesses dispassionately”. Our strength — the centre of gravity of our national power lies in our armed forces and no matter how hard the Indians tried to hit our weaknesses and our soft underbelly, we responded with great sacrifices and an untiring national resolve and commitment.
Obviously, these days the Kashmir issue is the focus of attention. But instead of deliberating on what we need to do to send a befitting response to Indians I think we should make a realistic appraisal of the current Kashmir situation without losing the sight of certain important points, which are: clear-cut military victory for either side is unlikely; as a nation, we should not measure the extent of our relations with some of the friendly countries in how they take up a diplomatic position on the Kashmir issue — as in international relations, interests are permanent and friendship is not. What is beyond the LoC is not in our control, and the deployment of power by PM Modi in India-occupied Kashmir (IoK) is most likely to fail because it also violates a fundamental military principle, “never reinforce failure”.
In the aftermath of India’s action in IoK, it has become crucial for the Pakistani government to show political and diplomatic results. Lately, Pakistan has maintained a stated position of finding solutions to all its problems with India through negotiations and dialogue, and given this context, Pakistan should not have severed its line of communication with India. We could show solidarity with the Kashmiris by asking the Indian High Commissioner to leave our country but handling any “turnaround of fortunes” becomes much easier if the countries remain connected and engaged diplomatically, even in the worst of circumstances.
An example of “striking turnaround of fortunes” is the interstate relationship is between Turkey and Russia. Turkey shot down a Russian war plane over northern Syria in November 2015, but in July 2016, Putin became the first foreign leader to call Erdogan and congratulate him on aborting an attempted military coup. Resultantly, both countries agreed to amend their economic relations and in a change, Erdogan stopped calling on Syria’s Assad to step down. This proves that only when one engages in dialogue, can one change the dynamics of interstate relationships.
On the question of violation of international laws — and there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that international law has been violated by India in IoK — countries tend to bank upon the UN to play its role. Unfortunately, this role remains confined to highlighting and internationalising a given issue without effecting to what continues to happen on ground. Two examples of such UN involvement are that of Israel and Yemen.
In the case of Israel, the UN voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, and Jerusalem was defined as a separate entity under international supervision, in 1947. But on 6 December 2017, President Trump violated international law and announced the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. What followed was severe criticism by UN Secretary General Guterres as well as the EU. Even the then rotating chairman of OIC, Turkey’s Erdogan, called an emergency summit in Istanbul. More than 50 heads of states attended that summit and the outcome was showcased in the final communiqué which declared East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine.
Interestingly, the statement by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, showed complete no-confidence in the office of the American President. He stated, “We don’t accept any role of United States in the political process from now on because it is completely biased towards Israel.” On 18 December 2017, Washington also vetoed the UNSC resolution which demanded that the Trump administration rescind its decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the American Embassy there. Fourteen of the 15 members of the Security Council had backed the vetoed resolution. Even an emergency UNGA session was called by Egypt on 21 December. President Trump threatened to cut off financial aid to those who backed the resolution that was sponsored by Turkey and Yemen. Out of 193 members, 128 voted in favour and nine against, with 35 abstaining. This example highlights two important conclusions — the UN resolutions can strengthen the diplomatic hand of the suffering country, but they do little or nothing to change the “conditions on ground”.
In case of Yemen, a UNSC resolution deploring the Houthi decision to dissolve the Yemeni Parliament and take over Yemen’s administration was tabled and passed unanimously on 15 February 2015. Instead of acting as a check and caution on the Houthis, what followed was the Houthi’s greater reliance on Iran — and the UN could do nothing to stop it. A revolutionary committee in Yemen that resumed the powers of presidency initiated direct air flights between Sana and Tehran, offered Iran port facilities, and signed a lucrative deal with the national Iranian oil company. If anyone had any doubt that the Houthis were not Iran’s proxies, those doubts were removed by these actions. In the case of Yemen as well, the UNSC played no substantive role that could change the position on ground. The only hope for the resolution of the Yemini conflict is that it may become too expensive for the conflicting actors to afford continuing it (fighting the war costs Saudi Arabia $6 billion per month).
The reality is that as a nation, we need to be more cautious and protective of what we process and have. We need to internalise more and continue to put our house in order. Nobody should equate the drive against corruption within Pakistan with Pakistan’s stand on the issue of Kashmir. The anti-corruption drive internally must proceed forward with full throttle. The opposition is in a mess not because it is being victimised, but only because for the first time in the history of Pakistan, the elite and powerful are being held accountable. As for an across-the-board accountability, this government can be held accountable for its performance after it completes its tenure. Simultaneously, those occupying government offices and indulging in corruption must not be spared by NAB.
India’s grand designs of becoming a regional or world power will be buried under the weight of its own ill-founded Kashmir strategy. All Pakistan has to do is exercise “strategic patience”. India cannot subjugate the will of the Kashmiri people. Kashmiri land it can occupy, the will of the Kashmiri people it cannot.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2019.