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Kashmir merits immediate attention

By S. Sadia Kazmi

Kashmir once again has emerged as a nuclear flashpoint between India and Pakistan. But war is not an option. Ignoring the issue is also not the solution. The only solution is to give due attention and urgently address the core problem between India and Pakistan, which is none other than the Kashmir issue. The current war-like situation between India and Pakistan is reflective of this very fact. It also shows India’s tendency to blame Pakistan in any event of tragedy befalling India. The same happened this time as well. Soon after the Pulwama incident there started an immediate and ever-growing war hysteria on the Indian side blaming Pakistan for the deaths of 40 Indian soldiers, conveniently ignoring the most basic by most of the Indian leadership and public alike that the attack was carried out by a local Kashmiri who couldn’t have possibly brought such huge amount of explosives across the border from Pakistan. This is further reinforced by the statement from Indian military commander Lt. Gen. D. S. Hooda who believes that “It is not possible to bring such massive amounts of explosives by infiltrating the border,” and that “the material may have been taken from stashes of explosives” which are there for the purpose of broadening the Jammu highway. Hence, without any evidence jumping to a sudden conclusion and blaming Pakistan for this, coupled with aggressive threats doesn’t make any sense nor reflects sanely on the Indian side.  

Pakistan on its part maintained a more approachable and balanced posture as is evident from PM Imran Khan’s two speeches. In his first address he welcomed India to provide an “actionable intelligence” with evidence that Pakistan’s soil was used in this event or is involved in anyway. However, this offer was out rightly rejected by the Indian PM Narendra Modi. Instead India continued to issue war mongering rhetoric. Simultaneously PM Imran Khan was quite clear that Pakistan’s offer for negotiation and action against the perpetrators should not be taken as Pakistan’s weakness because if there is a need for counteraction, “Pakistan will not think but retaliate”. There shouldn’t have been any doubts in India’s mind that Pakistan was bent upon trying all possible means to give peace a chance and avoid any untoward incident. But India as always stuck to its stubborn stance engulfing the whole region into a state of mass panic. Ideally the focus should have been on the people of Kashmir who have since long been under oppressive Indian rule. This is the very reason that Kashmiris are standing up for their rights in a purely indigenous struggle.  

Now the two have been on the loggerhead. There have been violation of LOC by IAF, downing of Indian jets and an injured Indian pilot in Pakistan’s custody. It is so unfortunate that only after the situation went to this extreme do we now see a statement coming from Sushma Swaraj asking for help from international community to de-escalate the situation. 

It is also somewhat surprising to see a delayed response from the international community especially by the US when the chances of escalation have been and still are quite high. It is unimaginable how the US could let it go on without any active and urgent intervention soon after the first confirmed news of Indian Air Force crossing the LOC and violating Pakistan’s air space in an act of aggression. This shows that while the US led West keeps on trumpeting its unfound and purely hypothetical concerns about the likelihood of nuclear exchange between two South Asian nuclear powers, they don’t really understand the real dynamics of escalation of the conflict in the South Asian setting. It looks like they are oblivious to the fact that how soon even a limited conflict could spiral out of control without the third party intervention. It is especially true in an environment where the hostile sentiments on both sides of the border are too high to allow for any bilateral diplomatic channel to open through. Hence, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to infer that the West in fact is convinced on the deterrent potential of the nuclear weapons; a principle which forms the basis of Pakistan’s defensive nuclear policy. Nonetheless, it is by no means to suggest that the delayed intervention is justified, instead the situation shouldn’t have been taken lightly and quick and urgent measure to diffuse the smallest conflict should have been put into place. 

India, a so called biggest democracy of the world completely failed to show any sanity with its war mongering and belligerent disposition adopted by the political leadership. For whatever have been the vested interest of the ruling political party in the wake of upcoming elections, the act of aggression initiated by India purely based on assumption negates the very premise of the “democratic peace theory”; The international proponents of democratic peace theory need to understand that “India – a so called democracy” is actually a “wolf in the garb of sheep” more inclined to employing aggression to achieve the political objectives instead of giving peaceful alternatives a chance. Not for the sake of comparison but Pakistan on the other hand showed the most balanced and mature behavior throughout. Pakistan’s offer for negotiation and joint investigative efforts in Pulwama incident was misread by India as weakness which brought the region to the brink of war. In such a scenario a calculated and precise retaliation from Pakistan was the only justified response. As the DG ISPR Maj Gen. Asif Ghafoor mentioned in a press conference that “despite having the credibility and the support of the public, Pakistan moved with extreme caution and exercised restraint – without violating the airspace, it conveyed to the Indian side that Pakistan possesses the capability and the will”.  This is how the seasoned and mature democracies act. 

Media also has to undergo self-accountability. It totally failed to act responsibly especially in the current era of hybrid warfare where the cost of glamorizing the war or its prospects should be understood. Again, the Indian media had been overemphasizing the need for an all out attack on Pakistan soon after the Pulwama incident. It didn’t even bother demanding the Indian leadership to at least furnish some verifiable proof of Pakistan’s involvement. Instead it was integral in inciting aggression and putting pressure on the leadership which was already disposed to pushing up the escalation ladder. It is also important to highlight the general moral of Indian Army over the years. There have been 400 incidences of suicides by Indian soldiers, 500 cases where a soldier has shot a senior officer, and almost 1000 soldiers reported to have deserted the army under the poor conditions and treatment meted out to them by their own senior officials and government. India should drop its anti-Pakistan obsession which now has crossed all the sane limits. It is high time that along with the political leadership, the Indian media should also stop glorifying war and stop issuing fake news.      

In all of this one shouldn’t forget that the underlying core issue between India and Pakistan is Kashmir and requires immediate, serious and dedicated deliberation from both sides. It is the people of Kashmir who have been facing the most abominable human crisis and suppression at the hands of Indian Occupation Forces for more than six decades now. Again, if India is obstinate enough to not talk about it without addressing the issue of “terrorism”, the International community needs to convince India to change this mindset. All other issues between India and Pakistan are the off shoots of Kashmir issue. If the core problem is left unattended, no effort in any other domain would sustain. Even though Pakistan is willing to cooperate with India against terrorism. India needs to realize that Kashmir is not just a problem between India and Pakistan, but the very people of Kashmir are the real stakeholders. The real stakeholder is now standing up in protest and rebellion against the Indian occupation forces in a purely indigenous struggle in retaliation to Indian brutalities. So, blaming Pakistan for inciting violence in Kashmir against India holds no water. The very brutalities have earned India a rebellion in Kashmiri youth, which it has no idea how to deal with other than further alienating them by using force.

This very argument is reinforced by the statements from Farooq Abdullah who keeps on warning India and insists on the need for talk or lose Kashmir. He has been vocal in mentioning that it is ridiculous to blame Pakistan for Indian failures in Kashmir. It is in fact Indian atrocities which have created a condition where India is swiftly losing good will (if there was any) among the Kashmiris. In the current situation there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that Pakistan wants peace. The same should be realized by India. War is not a solution to the lingering problems. The only solution is through diplomatic channel, negotiation or even third part mediation if in case the efforts fall host to hardened positions and stalemate. Kashmir should be immediately put at the forefront of any peace talks, be it on the bilateral level or at the international forum. Kashmir cannot afford no more putting off.

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Sadia Kazmi

Sadia Kazmi works as a Senior Research Associate at the Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad. She is a PhD candidate at the National Defense University

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