Pakistan’s peace offensive and India’s no-dialogue posturing

In its desire to isolate Pakistan, the Pulwama attack brought the Kashmir issue again to the centre stage of the world


Durdana Najam September 10, 2020

Incidents like the Pulwama attack only provide fresh impetus to hostility between India and Pakistan. The unanticipated occasion, however, has been Pakistan’s restrained response to India’s diplomatic offensive to position Pakistan as a country of little substance and of more violence. Since the Mumbai attack that floundered the composite dialogue process, India has rejected every peace offensive with a singular aim to isolate Pakistan. The problem with this policy is that it does not relate to the changing dynamic of regional politics, which is fast becoming dependent on the economic corporation for survival. It also shows that India has not been able to cast off the scars of Partition from its national psyche. In Pakistan, however, there has been an awakening of a different kind.

Speaking at the Royal United Service Institute in 2017, Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said, “Pakistan army is now no more insecure and feels confident of its future and it welcomes India’s participation in Pakistan’s flagship infrastructure project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.” When Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed power after the general election in July 2018, he invited India for dialogue. To dispel any doubt of the talks getting scuttled, Khan informed about the civil and military leadership being on the same page to resolve disputed matters between India and Pakistan with an emphasis on Kashmir. Then a letter was dispatched to India from the Prime Minister Office with an offer to arrange for foreign ministerial talks on the sidelines of the annual United Nation’s Security Council’s session. All these overtures were rejected.

Then came the Kartarpur Corridor and suddenly Pakistan and India were on the same page. Not because of their own liking, but because of the political mileage the religious diplomacy offered both the countries. India is going to the ballot in a few months, and Modi’s reputation has been called into question after the exposure of awarding the $9 billion deal for manufacturing French jet fighters to a company with no experience to build planes. For a gloss over the corruption charges against him, Modi is extracting both Sikh and ultra-nationalist Hindu vote by proving Pakistan both an enemy and a next-door friend.

In its desire to isolate Pakistan, the Pulwama attack has brought the Kashmir issue again to the centre stage of the world. As the conundrum unfolded, the cries about the United Nation’s report exposing human rights violations in Kashmir got traction. If anything, the mention of this report every time India puts up any offensive to paint as terrorism, the Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom builds a case against India.

Unless India decides to respond to peace with peace — the model Pakistan has adopted — all conflicts from Mumbai to Kulbhushan to Pulwama will remain inconclusive. The psychology of retribution will only feed into the war hysteria the hawks of both countries have cultivated over 72 years.

There should be a limit to using Kashmir to get equal with Pakistan or for Pakistan to use it as a launching pad to mount a military offensive against India. Has anyone of late asked the Kashmiris what they want? Have they been called on international forums to present their case? Here one is not talking about the Kashmiri diaspora or those living at the other side of the Line of Control in Pakistan. One is talking about the Kashmiris living under the brutal force of the Indian army and braving the pro-Kashmir Pakistan India policy. What is their idea of liberation? Is it an alliance with Pakistan or with India or none? Or is it liberation from their unmet needs for basic

human rights such as clean drinking water, employment opportunities, economic development and education opportunities that the Indian government has failed to provide. Treating Kashmiris like enemies or as a bulwark against an enemy has no relevance to the Kashmir solution.

The solution to Kashmir lies – as the spymasters of both the countries, AS Daulat and Asad Durrani, have proposed – in talking. This is the least expensive solution unless both the countries desire to keep squandering billions on their military presence at the LoC, Siachen glaciers and all the lines and borders that separate us.

Joseph Engelbrecht, the international relation theorist, argues that the decision to terminate war results from a radical paradigm shift on the part of national decision-makers. Therefore, for any positive outcome both the countries have to look through this problem using a completely different lens.

 

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