Vigorous diplomatic offensive

Published: September 6, 2019
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As Kashmiris face a fifth straight week of darkness under a crippling curfew and unprovoked violence imposed by the occupiers sent by New Delhi, the light is finally starting to shine from the West. Slowly but steadily, efforts from Islamabad seem to be finally moving the large, rusty gears of diplomacy to force India to lift the strict restrictions imposed on millions of residents of the disputed Himalayan territory.

In recent weeks, statements on the Kashmir situation have been issued by the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and rights groups such as Amnesty International. Multiple countries – including France, China and even one of India’s closest and longest-standing partner Russia – have also called on New Delhi to err on the side of caution in Kashmir.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament has expressed serious concerns over the complete communications and media blackouts in the heavily-militarised region. The committee strongly criticised the Indian government — led by right-wing BJP — and its Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India was also exhorted to immediately lift the curfew in Kashmir and hold talks with Pakistan.

Earlier, France President Emmanuel Macron had met Modi on the sidelines of the G-7 Summit and told him that Paris was keeping a close eye on the Kashmir situation to ensure that the interests and rights of the civilian populations are properly taken into account in the region.

The UK, where one of the largest-ever protests over the conditions in Kashmir played out in the streets of London this week, members of parliament — particularly those having South Asian origins — have been issuing statements which prompted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to at least pick up the phone and call his counterparts in Islamabad and New Delhi.

And now, top diplomatic and military officers from the Gulf nations of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar have visited Islamabad. The three Arab states have at least sat up and taken notice of Pakistan’s stance. In the case of the UAE, it is a particular achievement for Pakistan as the emirate had recently chosen to award Modi with a state medal, much to the shock of the larger Muslim world. Islamabad has also reached out to Iran, a Muslim neighbour and a major trading partner for India. Tehran, for its part, has supported Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir.

Slowly but surely Islamabad’s efforts abroad are beginning to matter, and countries are taking note of the terrible humanitarian conditions in the disputed territory. There can be no doubt that this is going to be a very tough fight. Even though the military has reassured the nation that no effort would be spared if conditions necessitate militaristic action, Islamabad is doing all it can to force a tabletop solution for this crisis. It is hoped that such measures will build up the momentum for the UN General Assembly Session due to be held later this month. There, the nation should expect Prime Minister Imran Khan to forcefully raise the Kashmir issue in his unique style.

Already, it seems that the international pressure that Pakistan has helped create against New Delhi’s illegal actions in Kashmir are starting to pay off, in the shape of a bit of relaxation in the curfew restriction on Kashmiris. The time between now and the UNGA will be critical. Islamabad is finally gaining momentum in its lobbying efforts and it must build on it further, perhaps even call for an emergency session of the OIC in Islamabad to bring the 53 Muslim member states on the side of Kashmir and present that united front before the world.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2019.

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