A fateful choice

By Ashraf Jehangir Qazi

More than two months after Modi’s political blitzkrieg of August 5, 2019 there is still no practical consensus or political clarity in Pakistan on how to deal with the totally changed situation in IOK and India-Pakistan relations.

In IOK, genocide has been transformed from possibility to probability. In fact, Genocide Watch – basing its findings on the specific definition of genocide by the Genocide Convention of 1948 – has issued Genocide Alerts for Kashmir and Assam. As for India-Pakistan relations, they have become totally zero-sum.

The international community has to an extent demonstrated its concern over the situation in IOK and India’s policies. But it has no plans to press India to reverse its decision of August 5, 2019. Geo-politics and geo-economics are considered the villains. However, the negative image of Pakistan that has developed over the past several decades is also an important factor. Not surprisingly, the prime minister has expressed disappointment over the response of the international community despite his own considerable efforts.

Where do we go from here? Dialogue with India is dead. Simla is dead. The LoC, which derives from Simla, is moot but getting hotter by the day. India’s diplomacy is far more aggressive than Pakistan’s. It keeps threatening Pakistan. Pakistan keeps reassuring the world.

There is no country – including Pakistan – whose national and foreign policies are exclusively or even primarily based on law and morality. They are always based on selective morality and legality which allow them to be set aside whenever convenient to the ‘national interest’ which in turn is determined by ruling institutions that answer to their corporate interests, not always the wishes and priorities of the people.

The truth is that without Naya Pakistan – that is: a comprehensively and radically transformed Pakistan – no immediate and longer-term policy continuum can be developed and implemented. More specifically, no coherent and successful Kashmir policy will be possible. However, a year later Naya Pakistan is still more talk than walk, and promises have been reduced to calls for patience.

With regard to the situation in IOK, broadly speaking, there are two views. Both support Pakistan doing as much as possible for the Kashmiris in IOK who are now fighting for their political, and possibly physical, existence against the fascist might of India. The difference is with regard to the interpretation of “as much as possible.”

One view rules out war and the threat of war as an option, except in the event of Indian military aggression. It sees Pakistan as massively and comprehensively challenged by domestic and external issues. These render the cost of any kinetic option in support of the Kashmiris in IOK, even if they face genocide, as fatal for Pakistan. Accordingly, the survival of Pakistan must remain the paramount priority.

The Kashmiris will, however, never be abandoned diplomatically. In fact, Pakistan’s “only option” is to intensify its diplomacy and make it more and more insistent. This is the only way to expose the extent of India’s escalating crimes in IOK, wear down the indifference of the international community and progressively build up pressure on a maverick and criminal Indian government whose bellicosity and communal chauvinism threatens the survival of the region and the world.

This is indeed a serious view. It refers to ultimate dangers. It remains constant in support of the rights and the cause of the Kashmiris. It throws the onus of responsibility on India and the international community. It assumes a long-term effort. It seeks an alleviation of the plight of the Kashmiris in IOK, admittedly within an irretrievably degraded political environment. It might even make possible an eventual Modi-Imran encounter that could defuse the situation and open up more positive possibilities.

The alternate view, however, sees a fatal flaw in the above arguments. It does not address the possibility of genocide which has become a probability. India knows that ‘normal’ repression which is horrible and outrageous enough to warrant the attention of the International Criminal Court (ICC) cannot eliminate the Kashmiri resistance permanently because it is embedded in the people, and the LoC cannot be completely de-activated unless there is peace.

India is also confident it can withstand the dismay and disappointment of the international community because of the assets it brings to the table and because of the cynicism of the same international community which is used to living with a bad conscience. In other words, the first view fails to prevent both genocide in Kashmir and, given the inevitable overheating of the LoC, war with India. It is a war that some say has already begun.

So what does this latter view propose? It proposes to avoid both genocide and war through more aggressive and assertive diplomacy combined with seriously addressing the issue of Pakistan’s very poor image which negatively impacts on the effectiveness of its Kashmir diplomacy and ‘lawfare’. This is not a matter of global prejudice against Pakistan. In addition to the international weight of India, it is a consequence of decades of structurally impeded governance in Pakistan over the past six decades and more.

Apart from intensified conventional diplomatic advocacy, the more assertive approach envisages a set of political initiatives to develop greater diplomatic leverage at the international level. An effort to reconcile the preferred policy option of Kashmiris in IOK with the options stated in UN resolutions should become a policy priority. This would entail a serious study of the text of Article 257 of the Pakistan constitution that has the potential to reconcile the Azadi and Pakistan options, especially after Modi’s revocation of Article 370 and Article 35-A of the Indian constitution which aims at facilitating the “re-engineering” of the communal composition of the population of the valley. Such ‘facilitation’, as well as other measures against the Kashmiri population, fall within the definition of genocide according to the Genocide Convention.

The Kashmiri resistance should be encouraged and enabled to eschew violence as far as possible. This will not be easy because of Indian atrocities under the cover of darkness, lock-downs and information black-outs. The Kashmiri freedom struggle will need to be sustained through all legitimate means to minimize and eliminate credible accusations of “terrorism.”

The Kashmiri political parties in IOK which oppose Modi’s policies need to come together on a common platform. The feasibility of a ‘government in exile’ including representatives of the opposition parties of IOK needs to be considered. The Kashmir cause must largely be advocated through authentic and credible Kashmiri voices. These voices must pass the ‘fact check’ tests about conditions in IOK in order to retain their international credibility. They have to be professionally competent.

Such initiatives, in the event of increasing Indian atrocities in IOK and diversionary belligerence against Pakistan, should enable Pakistan to argue more persuasively to the international community that unless it presses India to change course no Pakistani government or institution will be able to prevent the slide towards a war that ‘no one can win’. This alternate view insists that only through such credibly assertive diplomacy, including reinforcing political initiatives and military deployments, will it be possible to check Modi’s path towards genocide and war.

These two views, while not mutually exclusive, do present a choice the government cannot avoid without raising doubts about its resolve, and risking mounting domestic cries of “national betrayal”.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan. Email: ashrafjqazi@gmail.com.

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