View from the neighbourhood: Imran’s frustration

Aakash Joshi
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. (The New York Times)

The changed status of Jammu and Kashmir continues to be a source of both moral outrage, even an assertion of ethical superiority, in the Pakistan media. But, as the consequences of the new reality scripted by New Delhi s actions the scrapping of special status, the trifurcation of the state set in, there is also talk in the press in Pakistan of strategies to deal with it.

In its editorial on August 24, Dawn remarks on an interview that Imran Khan gave to the New York Times in which he expressed his frustration at India s rejections of his overtures for peace talks, culminating with the action in Kashmir. But, remarks the editorial, while Mr Khan s disappointment is understandable, it is doubtful whether his decision to drop the idea of talks is sensible .

Displaying a commendable consistency in times of polarisation and jingoistic statements, the newspaper sticks to its line talks are the only solution for the many disputes between India and Pakistan: While Mr Khan s disappointment is understandable, it is doubtful whether his decision to drop the idea of talks is sensible. But the editorial goes on to say that it is equally impossible to appease India and that Pakistan must pursue every diplomatic avenue to highlight the human rights abuses in Kashmir.

It adds that for this, it needs a strong, coherent and consistent strategy, perhaps with input from former diplomats, who have participated in several peace efforts with India without compromising on Pakistan s vision for Kashmir.

Convoluted strategy

Sherry Rehman, a former Pakistani diplomat and the first woman Leader of the Opposition in the country s senate, weighs in on both the political and diplomatic fallout of the situation in Kashmir on August 22 in The Express Tribune. Politically, she calls for a unified stand against New Delhi s actions: Kashmir is a national issue and evokes widespread sentiment in Pakistan. All political parties stand against India s forcible annexation of Kashmir against the will of its people. The resolution passed by the joint session of Parliament reflects this consensus. The government should form a multi-party committee with members who have foreign policy experience to activate the Kashmiri diaspora, meet legislators in P5 countries and international human rights organisations, to highlight the plight of Kashmiris and their right to self-determination under UNSC resolutions.

On the diplomatic front she suggests a host of technical-legal options at Pakistan s disposal, including the mechanisms under which Islamabad can approach the UNSC, UNHRC, the General Assembly, etc. She then goes on to couch the need for intelligence gathering along the LoC as a tool for increasing international opprobrium against India: With violence in (Kashmir) likely to rise as curfew restrictions ease, India might pert the world s attention from the indigenous freedom struggle by increasing ceasefire violations along LoC; undertaking a false flag operation in Kashmir; resorting to allegations of cross-border terrorism against Pakistan. To preempt Indian actions, Pakistan must increase intelligence gathering in IoK, especially along the LoC; inform diplomatic missions, including those of the P5, of Indian intentions; highlight the indigenous nature of the freedom movement in Kashmir; and focus on how Indian aggression against the Kashmiri people is the cause of violence in Kashmir.

The Kashmiri question

Subhajit Naskar writing in the Dhaka Tribune, on August 18 asks a provocative question: What about the Kashmiris? First, he situates the reasons for the dissolution of Article 370 and 35A squarely in the ideological predilections of the RSS and, by extension, a section of the BJP: The crude obsession of the RSS is that Article 370 formed the very basis of Kashmir s complex relationship with India as it endowed the region of Jammu and Kashmir with special autonomy and safeguarded the self-determination of Kashmiris. The nullification of Article 35A with Article 370 may further alienate the Kashmiris as it empowered the J&K legislature to define the permanent residents of the state, and their special rights and privileges.

Second, he seems to believe that there is an imminent danger of a demographic change in Kashmir: In the absence of Art 35A, Kashmir may witness widespread immigration of Hindus into the Valley that eventually will create the hegemony of majority Hindus.
Finally, the article also sees in the move by the Indian government an abandonment of the secular, federal principles that marked the founding of the Republic: This most recent decision (abrogation of special status) has not only dismantled the Nehruvian notion of peaceful solution of Kashmir but it brought back the idea of communal resettlement to the fore. The article ends with a thought for the people of the Valley: India has surely in the whole process of forceful assimilation with India, failed the democratic desires of Kashmiris and left the distinct culture of Kashmiriyat far behind. Kashmir continues to remain sandwiched between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan.