Dr. Imtiaz Khan
Currently there is lot of ongoing talk about backdoor negotiations between India and Pakistan apparently facilitated by a middle eastern country, UAE. There is more than what meets the eye, as a miniscule nation like UAE has a limited clout to persuade the two nuclear powers to participate in a peaceful dialogue. Most likely some back door maneuverings conducted by a major super power broke the ice between these nations and they were coaxed to at least interact with each other.
Under normal circumstances as a resident of Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) who has been witness to protracted suffering of the population there, I should relish that there is a thaw in the relationship between the two countries and there is a chance that the parleys may help to establish the ground work needed for the resolution of tangled problem of IOK. Unfortunately, that is the case and like majority of Kashmiri diaspora, I am deeply anguished by the news of this interaction and information that several meetings have already taken place in Dubai, London and Bangkok. Notwithstanding, that the authenticity of these news items cannot be indisputably established, but if true it can be safely stated that Pakistan once again is being taken for a ride. Although, there is very little information about the agenda included in these talks but they are doomed even before they have begun which will be calamitous for the cause of Kashmir. Let me discuss the rationale for the inference that why this interaction will be nothing but an unmitigated disaster unless initial spadework is performed.
1. To state in a very simplistic terms, one fails to understand what is so unique about these negotiations. Similar bilateral summits between the two nations, with failed outcomes have been held on previous occasions and current one apparently is not a departure from the past. The primary reason for these unabated failures is lack of sincerity and seriousness on Indian side. All along as regards to Kashmir issue India has been disingenuous in the past and their attitude has not undergone any radical change. Any individual thinking otherwise is living in an illusionary world.
2. As a keen observant of Indo-Pak talks in the past decade, if you think little deeply, one can see a pattern. The talks are initiated at the level of mid-officials with the promise that they will be upgraded in the near future. This is followed by bomb blasts or so called terrorist attacks on Indian soil (Mumbai, Pathankot, Pulwama). Highly efficient Indian agencies who are unable to prevent these attacks lose no time in blaming Pakistan or ISIS and claiming that they have inconvertible evidence of their involvement. Pakistan is put on defensive and their repeated pleas for the access to the evidence collected by India is denied. Instead India has the chutzpah to dictate Pakistan and clamor that the so called “suspects “be handed over to them. As expected, Pakistan refuses to do so and there is cessation of parleys for a long time. There is no reason to believe that India will not continue to pursue this strategy of one step forward and two steps backward.
It does not take an in depth analysis to reach the conclusion that this dilly-dally process adopted by India is part of their game plan. The country is aggressively pursuing the policy of strengthening her grip on IOK. This involves a) introducing fresh draconian laws on daily basis to further subjugate the people of IOK b) bring in Hindu officials from India who will cooperate in executing their designs and most important c) ensure that demographic changes are accomplished so that IOK is transformed from Muslim majority to minority state.
As alluded earlier, the mistrust between India and Pakistan is so deep that bilateralism will never work. It has failed to yield tangible results in the past and it is puerile to think that the future will be any different. Let us refer to the most important bilateral agreement called “Shimla accord” between the two countries which was signed in the year of 1972 post Bangladesh war. Very often when it comes to Kashmir issue, India emphatically states that the talks need to be held under the purview of this agreement. In this regard it needs to be conveyed that the accord never took off the ground. Let us name any one or two clauses in the agreement which were fulfilled. Needless to say that the accord was a non-starter and should be subjected to the dustbin of history. Moreover, the point which needs to be emphasized is that the accord was signed between victor (India) and vanquished (Pakistan). The Prime Minister of Pakistan was under duress to get back 90,000 POWS and the territory back from India. Whether he had the mandate to bargain on Kashmir issue is very questionable. The promise for the right of self-determination was given to people of IOK by world body called “United Nations.” Neither India nor Pakistan have jurisdiction or locus standi to compromise on this issue and any agreement made without the participation of the genuine or bonafide leadership of Kashmiri people should be held null and void. In short Kashmir issue cannot be used as a bargaining chip between the two countries for other unresolved matters.
Having stated some of the points which outline the futility of current Indo-Pak negotiations let us get into recent faux pas by Pakistan which has harmed Kashmir cause and calls for important damage control.
It is very disappointing to observe that in response to the changed scenario after August 5, 2019 foreign ministry of Pakistan has not re-evaluated their strategy as regards to Kashmir. One would expect that the Foreign Minister of Pakistan to plead the case of Kashmiris at important world capitals rather than in the gatherings held in Multan or other cities of Pakistan. One fails to understand if there is some strategy vis a vis current developments in IOK. It is of utmost importance that experts on this topic including diplomats, politicians and journalists in tune with the problem are approached and both long-term and short-term strategy to address this issue is developed. Obviously the blueprint (if there was one) of the past has failed and novel and innovative ideas need to be entertained. Overall, new course of action that refurbishes, reinvents and re-invigorates the Kashmir policy needs to be adopted.
3. Pakistan army is the most respectable institution in the country and needs to be held in high esteem. It needs to be admitted that the army all along has been highly supportive and source of inspiration for the freedom struggle of people of IOK. However, the recent statement by army chief that “India and Pakistan should bury the past” is a let down for people of IOK. Very emphatically it should be impressed upon General Bajwa that the fact that more than 130,000 innocent Kashmiri people were martyred by occupation forces cannot be discounted. More than 15,000 Kashmiri women ranging from 8 -80 years of age were gang raped by Indian army and that cannot be forgotten. The presence of thousands of mass graves and missing Kashmiris in the region cannot be ignored. Thousands of children as young as 13 years have been blinded by pellet gun wounds should not go un-noticed. About 20,000 Kashmiri youth languishing till now in Indian jails under sub-human conditions should not be forgotten. General Sahib, it will be a gross injustice of monumental magnitude to dismiss these barbarous acts which are shame for entire humanity. Notwithstanding the internal or external compulsions, people of IOK expect that leadership of Pakistan army will play a proactive role in impressing upon the political leadership to pursue these savage acts of in International court of justice. Although unrelated, this reminds of a past incidence during which Prime Minister of Pakistan on a visit to India snubbed the Hurriyat leadership but had time to participate in a luncheon ceremony organized by a steel magnate of that country. Let it be reminded people of IOK look upon Pakistani people in general and the army in particular as their ultimate saviors who will rescue them from the clutches of Indian hell hound. The sensitivities and sensibilities of the Kashmir should receive top priority before making these statements or participating in any activity.
4. The recent hoopla in Pakistani news channels about Modi’s letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan on the “national day” was upsetting. Needless to say that this kind of attitude is playing to Indian agenda. To construe this very minor step as “new beginning” is a juvenile approach and needs to be avoided. This gesture is a part of Indian machinations and willful agenda to deviate world attention from Kashmir issue and the atrocities they are inflicting on the population. The picture India wants to portray to the international community that impasse has been broken, channels of communication with Pakistan have been opened and in future things will be hunky-dory. Under no circumstances should Pakistan get swayed with the optics as far as the relationship with India is concerned. In one of his statements well-known politician of Pakistan glossed on the Modi’s letter and called it as “ window of opportunity.” As a Kashmiri I see no window but an opaque wall which needs to be dismantled with courage and conviction so that people of IOK can see the sunlight and breathe fresh air. In short these kind of gestures can be construed as trap laid by India over which they have mastered and Pakistan should be smart enough not to take the bait.
5. Pakistan needs to get over and stop licking the wounds of 1971 war. Though it was highly unfortunate incident for the Muslims of sub-continent but the current situation presents a different scenario. By indulging in unabated jingoism and saber rattling India is testing the nerves of Pakistan. Pakistan needs to shed their obsequious attitude towards India and stop getting on defensive. Although, India tries to act as a super power but taking current realities it can be interpreted as a pipe dream. It is laughable to compare India with China who as emerged as an economic giant and posing an existential threat for United States as a superpower. In short Indian economy is in total disarray and with China breathing over its neck it is highly unlikely that it will indulge in any military adventurism against Pakistan. Pakistan needs to be firm and unwavering in its stand on Kashmir and unequivocally refuse to yield to any kind of pressure.
Due to the paucity of space, I will not be able to make exhaustive suggestions about the steps that Pakistan needs to take to counter the onslaught of Indian propaganda. Unfortunately, Indian machinery is well geared up and to a large extent they have been successful in distorting the image of Pakistan. India recruited several agencies in Europe and America and presented Kashmir issue as an outcome of terrorist activities perpetrated at the behest of Pakistan. Kashmir issue is screaming and screeching for the media campaign that needs to be launched to spread the voice of innocent Kashmiris who are being subjected to kind of atrocities never witnessed before. Some of the following steps may prove to be helpful.
- One doesn’t get the glimpse of the suffering or the struggle of Kashmiri people on the streets of Pakistan. There are no billboards or giant size posters depicting the Indian monstrosity and subjugation of Kashmir population. The structures depicting the same should be installed just outside the major airports and as soon as a tourist enters the city it should gain his/her attention and the person should develop a curiosity about the issue. The billboards and posters should be present in front of major landmark buildings and tourist spots.
- Indian film industry has produced at least 5-6 feature films on Kashmir issue in which it was presented as a consequence of Pakistan sponsored terrorist activities. To my immense delight the movies were total lackluster and was a portrayal of buffoonery rather than historical facts. It is my suggestion that Ministry of Information and Broadcasting with the guidance of Ministry of Foreign affairs should seriously consider to produce a feature film on real life incidents that illustrates the Indian atrocities in IOK. Mass rapes in the village of Kunan-Pushpora could be an excellent topic for the film. Versatile director like Shoaib Mansoor (who created movies like Khuda key Liya, Bol etc.) could be an excellent choice. There is enormous information on this gory incident and writing a script will not be a painstaking effort. The movie may not be a” magnum opus” but experienced foreign technicians should be recruited to illustrate the chilling effect of this macabre event. If handled deftly the movie may find space in International film festivals and the Kashmir cause could get the world attention like never witnessed before.
- Ministry of Information and Broadcasting along with Kashmir committee should hold a yearly painting and news exhibition which depict the sufferings, miseries and enslavement of the IOK population. The event should be highly publicized and serious efforts should be made to ensure the presence of foreign diplomats and international press. The event should be judged and prizes distributed for the top presentations.