It has been three weeks since Modi’s government manipulated the Indian Constitution, discarded democratic principles, and imprisoned the people of Kashmir in their own valley.
Three weeks of human rights violations in the name of changing the demographic identity of the Kashmir valley.
Three weeks of one megalomaniac’s prejudices imposed on approximately 12 million people.
No crystal ball is needed to see what will soon occur in India: once the Modi government restores some semblance of normalcy to the valley, the uprising will begin. Violence will spiral out of control; it will touch and reignite old prejudices between Hindu and Muslim in an India that grows more polarised under a man who must divide in order to rule. ‘National security’ will be used as an excuse to round up dissidents and critics who will be gleefully prosecuted on trumped-up charges under the amended ‘Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act’ with its more expansive definition of ‘terrorist’ allowing the government to designate any individual as a terrorist without due process. The spokes of tyranny are oiled and ready.
In these three weeks, we have also witnessed the shortcomings of Pakistan’s diplomacy. As a nation, our voice fails to rouse other nations to action — a painful reminder of our place at the global stage. If we want that to change, if we want allies then we, as a nation, must change.
In the long term, anyone who wishes to be a major international player must be a major economic power. That is just the brutal truth of the world. In the short term, we must first realise the fact — for it is a fact, no point denying it — that we are a nation that takes more than it gives back to other nations. We give no incentive to major international players to side with Pakistan on contentious issues. Our international relationships are more parasitic than symbiotic.
India, on the other hand, is an economic power, whether we like it or not.
This is why it will be difficult, even for the United Nations, to take effective measures against India’s human rights violations. The UN has historically faced significant issues in trying to enforce human rights against major economic powers.
Even if the UN via its Security Council wanted to take harsher measures against India it would need the support of permanent members of the Security Council. The only use of the term ‘enforcement’ in the UN Charter occurs in Chapter VII dealing with the Security Council. The term ‘enforcement’ has no definition and is the subject of controversy but may include benign measures such as the passing of resolutions or harsher ones such as economic sanctions, or, armed intervention. Harsher measures can only be achieved if 9 out of 15 members vote and must include the concurring votes of all five permanent members.
As I wrote in my column last week, none of the permanent members of the Security Council seem galvanised enough to impose sanctions on India.
This does create a few image problems for the UN. India has, after all, ripped apart a number of UN resolutions to achieve its measures in Kashmir. Ignoring India’s actions or not taking a strong stand on Kashmir will undermine the UN’s respect in the international legal order. This may be Pakistan’s strongest argument to catalyse action within the UN.
While the UN searches for its soul, Pakistan must do the same. It must reassess its diplomatic agenda. Now is a good time for Pakistan to discard the impression that it belongs to a greater Muslim Ummah — a religious coalition that will gallop through fields of fire to its aid. This concept is redundant. Religious ideology alone will never be enough for alliances to be formed.
The concept of a Muslim Ummah broke apart a few decades after Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). What delusions do we suffer from to believe that it can exist today? The Muslim countries in the Gulf have approximately more than $100 billion in annual trade with India. As Bill Clinton once said: “It’s the economy, stupid.” That is what the Muslim world looks at.
So instead of dreaming about an Ummah that only ever existed around 1,400 years ago, it is perhaps better to look for other allies. Pakistan could build better relationships with the EU and America. But in order to receive the benefit of alliances from the EU, Pakistan will have to move towards the idea of liberal democracy.
It is also important that Pakistan not be selective about its outrage. Of course, what India is doing is wrong, but our silence regarding the abuse of human rights in general, shows us in a rather hypocritical light. We cannot be selective about human rights when asking for the world to take them more seriously.
It is through diplomacy that Pakistan can ever hope to do anything about Kashmir. It is necessary to remind the warmongers amongst our nation that we have gone to war with India in the past. It is not something that needs repetition, especially given the current state of our economy. One does not become a major economy by going to war. It is bad for business.
Kashmir should be the catalyst for Pakistan’s introspection. We must be better than Modi’s India. We must not only raise our voice for the people of Kashmir but also do better in how we treat our own minority religious groups.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2019.