Pakistan and India have fought three full and one half-baked war on Kashmir. Until the Kargil fiasco, India had hard time justifying its atrocious and blatant position on Kashmir, especially in the face of 700,000 soldiers and some Draconian laws, which have made Kashmir a garrison state. It was after the Kargil that Pakistan’s involvement in the Kashmir affair was seen hostile and aligned with the Indian claim that Pakistan had been stoking insurgency in the region. Instead of internationalising the Kashmir issue, as Musharraf later described the reason behind starting the Kargil conflict, the war affected Pakistan’s credibility as a responsible nation. Another price that Pakistan paid for this ill-thought-out adventure was a shift in US policy towards Kashmir. To take Pakistan out of the Kargil conflict, White House instructed Pakistan to withdraw troops from Kargil. It was a message that India and the US were now on the same page, vis-à-vis Kashmir.
It was expected that with the rise of electronic media, the issue of Kashmir would get mainstream. Instead, it was restricted to reporting firing and casualties on the Line of Control (LoC). The most that the ISPR, the media wing of the armed forces, could do was to ask the television channels to conduct programmes on LoC, showing how valiantly our soldiers were defending Azad Kashmir and consequently the rest of Pakistan. Two army divisions comprising 45,000 soldiers are deployed on the LoC. Other operational resources are in addition to this manpower. It is incomprehensible how reporting on LoC keeps the Kashmir issue alive.
India’s Kashmir policy, since the Kargil fiasco, rested on two factors. One, equating the Kashmir’s freedom struggle with terrorism. Two, calling Pakistan a rogue state supporting terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. After 9/11, Indian and the US-supported governments in Afghanistan have successfully painted an image of Pakistan being an unreliable and hostile nation.
Having spent years in the Afghan war and providing thousands of refugees a safe haven, Pakistan is still held responsible for the crisis in Afghanistan. Scapegoating Pakistan has been so easy. Being a dependent economy, how much leverage do we have in reminding the US that the recurring terrorism in Afghanistan is because of US policy failure?
In a similar vein, India has politicised the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) proceedings by repeatedly demanding Pakistan’s blacklisting. In its latest report, the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) has noted that Pakistan has partially complied with 36 of the 40 parameters — which is a welcome act. However, keeping to its conspiratorial behaviour towards Pakistan India has been spreading rumours about Pakistan getting blacklisted at the FATF.
Pakistan has done a remarkable job since the revocation of Article 370 in highlighting India’s abusive behaviour in Kashmir, but the opportunity cost of not pursuing the Kashmir cause actively throughout has been exponential — now it is difficult for Pakistan to rally the international support against India.
It is ironical that in the entire process starting from taking away Kashmir’s autonomy to the ranting against India from the International press, the voice of the Kashmiris is missing. The Kashmiri leadership instead of being the handmaiden of Pakistan has turned into mere protestors.
It might be a matter of great comfort that Pakistan has one of the most exceptional nuclear arsenal and highly motivated armed forces, making India think hundred times before attempting a war, but the question arises whether this makes us any better as a country with which the international world would be proud of developing economic and business ties. It’s time we came out of the geo-strategic position syndrome and acknowledged that the new tilt is towards geo-economics.
Pakistan has no alternative except holding on to this governance structure of the international order. There is no heroism in Modi; it is the commercial attraction of India’s market that has earned him laurels.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2019.