Kashmir Conundrum: A Core Determinant in Pakistan- India Relations

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By Sana Imtiaz Kitchlew

(The author holds Master of Philosophy in International Relations from School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University. She is a political analyst and is currently engaged in her independent post graduate research regarding Youth Bulges, Palestine and Kashmir issues)

South Asian strategic stability has persistently been challenged by Pak-India relations,in which the Kashmir conundrum is quintessentially a major contributing factor in defining Pakistan’s policy and relations towards arch-rival India. The Kashmir dispute being a major bone of contention, triggering two major wars since 1947, has brought adjacent nuclear weapon countries, India and Pakistan, on the brink of nuclear Armageddon at many times since 1998. At the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly on September 29, 2018, both Pakistani and Indian Foreign Ministers were castigated by each other for sponsoring cross-border terrorism and undermining the peace process.

Report issued by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)-which has charged India for carrying out unwarranted human rights violations

Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s speech in the General Assembly revealing the situation in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, principally in the light of report issued by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)-which has charged India for carrying out unwarranted human rights violations- emphasised that India is acting as a police state, conducting state terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. He showed Pakistan’s determination for resolving critical issues through dialogue with India but the Indian government frittering away every such prospect on‘flimsy’grounds. Forging of peace in South Asia,is completely dependent on an apt settlement of Kashmir dispute according to both the UNSC resolutions and the desires of Kashmiris. India’s approach and the conduct of bilateral relations is not appropriate for normalisation process and measures, fuelling mistrust and apprehensions between the two neighbouring nuclear powers.

For past three score and ten years, the people of Kashmir are caught in extreme repression and misery, in a profoundly militarised and deadliest area, coveting for right of self- determination. Still, the unwavering and resolute struggle of Kashmir is for their emancipation, is commendable. The loath and acrimony for India, amongst the Kashmiris,has largely intensified after 2016’s extra-judicial killing of Burhan Wani, a young Kashmiri freedom- fighter. The Modi- led BJP administration’s heavy handedness towards the Kashmiri resistance movement, since then, has steered the state policy at such a trajectory which has resulted into a huge scale massacre of innocent Kashmiri youth. This certainly has amounted into an increasingly witnessed scenario in which protesters, as an emblem of defiance towards their occupant forces, hoist the Pakistani flag in their gatherings. To supplement the worries of Kashmiris and Pakistanis, the Modi government is engaged in a systematic campaign of demographic changes in IOK to dilute the ratio of Muslim population in the state, through assisting Indian Hindus to settle in the Kashmir valley and integration of Kashmir into India by attrition of special status provided to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 35-A and Article 370 of the Indian constitution. All this being done to ensure that whenever India agrees for conducting referendum in IOK in future, the results should favour India and not Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir may turn into another state of India, provided that Indian Supreme Court abdicates Article 35(A) in its verdict expected in the near future, making it easier for India, in wake of such an occurrence, to assure to keep Kashmir issue off the negotiation table.Thus, it is possibly why India is abstaining from the peace process now.

Modi- government’s imposition of governor rule in the valley,whipping up tensions in the already cauldron-like region, comes not just with the objective of intensifying violence both in IOK and across the LoC, but with larger interest of weaponizing Indian public against Pakistan along buttressing popular support for the BJP in upcoming general elections in 2019. Profound faculty of analysis is requisite for the governments of both India and Pakistan to comprehend that a tragedy of such magnitude can only be attended by means of political tools such as dialogue, confidence building measures, track II diplomacy, etc. Pakistan has constantly been pressing to settle the Kashmir issue, through every accessible international forum, especially United Nations, having diplomatic meetings with different statesmen,and trying relentlessly to ‘orchestrate bonhomie’ with India in the true faith. From day one after assuming office, the serving Prime Minister of Pakistan has accentuated the need for peaceful coexistence with India and in fulfilment of his optimistic foreign policy approach viz-a-viz India, Imran Khan extended an ‘olive branch’in the victory speech, to disentangle Kashmir issue through talks. Subsequently, composing a letter addressing his Indian counterpart,he articulated his desire to recommence the deferred dialogue process, seeking a meeting of the foreign ministers of both the countries at the sidelines of the UNGA session, categorically mentioning the deep-rooted Jammu and Kashmir dispute as an important subject in the talks.

In response to the offer made by Imran Khan, India at first accepted the suggestion of meeting, however in a hasty volte-face, axed the meeting by alleging Pakistan of cultivating an ‘evil agenda’. On the contrary,the extremely perturbing developments, that were referred by India, had occurred much prior than the proclamation of this scheduled meeting. The postage stamps bearing pictures of Kashmir’s martyrs,indicted for “glorifying terrorists”, had been published in July this year before the general elections, in the wake of the note worthy report issued by OHCHR drawing attention towards the on going butchery in IOK by Indian forces. While addressing Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC)’s convention, conducted on sidelines of UNGA session, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi requested the UN Human Rights Council to appoint commission along a special rapporteur, as had even been called by the OHCHR’s report, to probe the human rights violations carried out by Indian forces in Kashmir.

The burgeoning assertiveness of Indian army in state’s foreign policy concerns became highly evident when the Pak-India dialogue fiasco ensued into an intensely antagonistic rhetoric adopted by Indian military command. The vitriolic remarks by Indian General Bipin Rawat of considering one more‘surgical strike’ across the LOC to ‘teach Pakistan a lesson’, attract attention towards Indian imprudence and intimidation. The world stands witness that Pakistan confided into having peaceful discourse while how India, repeatedly, rather than reciprocating the gestures of goodwill and peace by Pakistan, just turned down the offer of resumption of dialogue over Kashmir, having a recourse to tirade against Pakistan.The Modi administration is being pressurised to enormous extents by forces both within and outside BJP and with only a few months left for general elections in India, and already encountering a corruption scam in its defence relations with France, the incumbent government of India, can certainly not manage getting caught into another controversy by negotiating with Pakistan.Hence, it is highly probable that Pak-India bilateral relations tend to aggravate more in the near future. Pakistan can simply aspire that the next administration in India would realise and regard the worth of harmony and tranquillity in South Asia.
Peace endeavours amidst Pakistan and India have been so much politicised at all the levels of analysis that recurrent efforts of normalisation and de-escalation have all culminated into utter disappointment. Precariously intensified tensions, coupled with the ineptness of both the states to talk, have been endangering the growth of the entire South Asian region, which else,possesses enormous capacity for progress and regional integration.India is behaving as an impediment in fostering regional cooperation through SAARC and in a ministerial conference of the organisation, convened on the sidelines of the UNGA session, India showed utmost resistance towards summoning of a convention until attainment of a “conducive environment”. Indian civil and military command needs to understand that the intransigence and stubborn attitude denying dialogue process, has not just captivated the lives of Kashmiris, however by choosing to move on this treacherous path, and making Kashmir become a contentious issue and a potential nuclear breaking point,it is creating a menace for security of inhabitants of the whole South Asian region.

The environment of normalisation will leave broader geo-strategic implications for not just Kashmir, Pakistan and India, but for the whole South Asian region as well. It is imperative for both Pakistan and India to stimulate and then uphold an aura of mutual bilateralism to break the deadlock on Kashmir dispute. India must reap advantage of the transforming dynamics of civil-military relationship in today’s Pakistan in which Prime Minister and army stands on the same page. Pakistan should not be modifying its recognised official stance on Kashmir issue; however, its strategy calls fora reassessment to make sure that strategies carried out by Pakistan itself does not unintentionally hurt Kashmiris by conceding India any chance to confuse and divert global attention elsewhere from the tyranny of Indian security Forces. The instant India would fall short in convincingly alleging Pakistan of abetting ‘terrorists’ in Kashmir, nothing would facilitate it in executing and describing its suppression under the discourse of ‘counter terrorism’. Pakistan’s government, hence, calls for visionary, seasoned and impressive diplomacy and command of an exalted order.

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