India has shot itself in the foot. Modi government revoked the special status of Kashmir in such haste and in a manner that saner voices in India have called it a constitutional coup. Questions have been asked as to what prompted New Delhi to abolish Article 370 without any proper debate in Parliament or consultation with the people in Kashmir, at least those that are pro-India.
One conjecture is that since India was seriously upset about President Donald Trump’s mediation offer on Kashmir, Modi government thought to illegally annex the disputed territory. Other view is that India has gone ahead with the unprecedented move after being felt left out of the Afghan endgame. It has revoked Article 370, knowing well that such a move would spark tensions with Pakistan and may, therefore, undermine or even scuttle the Afghan peace deal altogether. The worry in New Delhi is that an Afghan peace deal brokered by Pakistan may deny it the strategic advantage that it has been looking for by exploiting the volatile situation.
But whatever “sinister plan” Indian policymakers had in their minds by abrogating the Kashmir’s special status, the fact is that the move has backfired and laid the ground for a new phase of resistance that New Delhi would surely struggle to quell in Kashmir for decades to come. India has done a great favour to Pakistan by changing the status quo.
True, many countries, including those from the Muslim world, have either given a muted or no reaction to the Indian move, but same can’t be said about the world media. Kashmir has remained a core dispute between Pakistan and India but occasionally found space in the international press before the August 5 events. Two weeks have passed since the Indian government scrapped Article 370, yet the Kashmir issue has remained in the international headlines. Despite the clampdown and the media blackout imposed by Indian authorities, foreign media outlets are bringing exclusive stories of massive protests inside the valley. Articles after articles are being written in known western publications, highlighting the implications of the Indian decision while exposing the Hindutva mindset. Also, for the first time in over 50 years, the UNSC discussed the Kashmir dispute during informal consultations. China has publicly backed Pakistan’s stance, which is not surprising. But what is telling is that even Russia and the UK have shown inclination towards Pakistan. This is nothing short of a major diplomatic victory for Pakistan given the Indian clout in the five permanent members of the Security Council. It was because of these developments that Indian Ambassador to UN Sayed Akbaruddin had to concede that New Delhi was not shying away from resolving the Kashmir dispute with Islamabad through dialogue.
What Pakistan has to do in the current situation is play this game started by India not as a T20 cricket match but a test series. Kashmir issue is not going to be resolved anytime soon. For the short term, yes Pakistan has to mount a diplomatic offensive, which it has done already. But what it needs is a long-term strategy keeping the Indian mindset in view. Why India often gets away with international scrutiny despite committing brazen human rights violations in Kashmir is because of its growing economy. Many countries’ economic interests are tied to India as it is a huge consumer market. In international relations, countries’ interests come first. So, if Pakistan wants its voice to be heard on the Kashmir dispute at global forums, it has to concentrate on achieving political and economy stability. This is not going to happen overnight but the basis of that paradigm shift can be laid without much delay. India, not Pakistan, is going to lose Kashmir if Islamabad takes the correct decisions in this hour of crises. Advantage Pakistan!
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2019.