Niloofar Qureshi

On Pakistan’s Independence Day Promise!

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Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain’s Independence Day speech was both reassuring and frustrating. Reassuring because he said that “Pakistan cannot forget Kashmiris and would continue to support them to get right of self-determination in light of the UN resolution” and frustrating because this is what every President, Prime Minister and Army Chief of Pakistan has been reiterating for the last 70 years. After all, when the UNSC has already passed resolution 47 outlining the blueprint for India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue in 1948, for how long can we be expected to live on Islamabad’s unfulfilled promises?

Unfortunately, despite all its diplomatic efforts Islamabad neither been able to get New Delhi to fulfill the UNSC stipulated plebiscite in Kashmir, nor has it succeeded in building international consensus on urgent requirement of resolving the long outstanding Kashmir issue. Even more exasperating is the fact that even though the UNSC has passed several resolutions on Kashmir, the UN and international community today considers Kashmir as a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan that requires being mutually resolved without any third party mediation! The question is – how did the internationally accepted ideological issue of Kashmir end up becoming a bilateral issue and a petty Indo-Pak territorial dispute?

Our leaders have been putting blame for non resolution of the Kashmir issue on New Delhi’s obduracy, apathy of the international community due to vested interests and at times even on some ‘grand conspiracy’. However, by accepting such excuses we would be missing wood for trees. Thus, it would be much more beneficial for us to find out as to how New Delhi has managed to blatantly disregard UN resolutions on Kashmir for seven decades and! We need to know, why the UN and international community are behaving like mute spectators on the Kashmir issue. After all, it’s not easy for any country to tell the UN that its resolutions are no more “relevant.” Yet, New Delhi has done so and the UN and international community’s failure to admonish it for blatantly disregarding these resolutions amounts to tacit acceptance of India’s point of view.

Let’s come down to hard facts. No amount of discussion or debate can conceal the fact that Pakistan has mishandled the Kashmir issue right from the beginning. After India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947, it was Pakistan’s decision to take control of Kashmir by devising a “tribal invasion” and this made the ruler of J&K sign the ‘instrument of accession’ in favour of India. Even when New Delhi took the issue regarding ‘tribal invasion’ of Kashmir to the UN, Pakistan had the option of challenging this decision and it had all the reasons to do so since Pakistan  considered the instrument of accession a legally invalid document. Thus, it could have easily challenged New Delhi’s decision to take the Kashmir issue to the UN on technical grounds regarding the legality of the instrument of accession and demanded that this case should rightfully be decided in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and not by the UNSC.

Had Pakistan done so then getting a verdict in its favour was inevitable as the Kashmir region of J&K had a predominantly Muslim population. However, passing resolutions on Kashmir by the UNSC also conferred implied legality on the instrument of accession signed by the erstwhile ruler of J&K.  And this is evident from the fact that even though Islamabad continues to refer to Indian presence in Kashmir as “illegal occupation,” no other nation (including Pakistan’s “all weather friend” China) or international organisation (including the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) shares this view! Thus, it’s due to absolute lack of foresight on the part of Pakistan that India’s right over Kashmir was endorsed by the UN!

However, this was not the only blunder that Pakistan made at that time. India had gone to the UNSC to complain about Pakistan’s “aggression” in Kashmir. Yet, Pakistan allowed this issue to be heard under chapter VI of UNSC charter which deals with “peaceful settlement of disputes” knowing very well that all resolutions under this chapter are neither binding nor enforceable. This was the second monumental blunder that Pakistan made. Had it insisted that since India’s case concerned alleged Pakistani aggression, the Kashmir issue should be taken up under chapter VII of UNSC charter which deals “acts of aggression,” then the UN would have been duty bound to ensure implementation of these resolutions even if it required use of military force. Thus, by adopting a casual approach at the UN in 1948, Pakistan gave a definite diplomatic advantage to India on the Kashmir issue!

Luckily all was not lost as the UN resolutions still provided Pakistan a chance to retrieve the situation. Inclusion of plebiscite gave J&K the implied status of “disputed territory” and Pakistan did well by making this the main plank of its diplomatic offensive on Kashmir. This strategy worked well and Pakistan found support within the international community. However, by ceding portions of J&K under its control to China in 1963, Pakistan diluted its “disputed territory” stand and ended up being isolated on the Kashmir issue and the complete lack of any material reference to the Kashmir issue in the UN post 1963 proves this point. And its recent decision of allowing the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to run through Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) Islamabad has further eroded it “disputed territory” argument.

New Delhi seized this opportunity and swiftly lodged an official complaint against CEPC with both Islamabad and Beijing. What is notable is it didn’t approach the UN on this subject and that’s simply because it is wisely adhering to its stand that Kashmir is a bilateral issue with Pakistan in which the UN has no role. New Delhi’s objection got open support from Washington which has officially stated that the CPEC runs through “disputed territory.” Beijing has responded to New Delhi’s complaint with an assurance that despite the CPEC its position on the Kashmir as an issue of territorial dispute between India and Pakistan “remains unchanged.” Thus, while Islamabad has severely compromised its “disputed territory” case, New Delhi on the other hand has strengthened its traditional stance that Kashmir is a bilateral issue!

In 1965, Pakistan’s second attempt to take control of Kashmir by force resulted in an all-out war with India. Just like in 1947, this time too Pakistan lost out on both the military and diplomatic fronts. While its army failed to win Kashmir, Pakistan’s decision of once again using force to resolve the ‘K’ issue completely changed the perception of the international community. Seeing Pakistan disregarding UN resolutions and instead using its army to resolve the Kashmir issue led the world to start viewing the Kashmir imbroglio as a territorial dispute and not an ideological issue. And thanks to Gen Pervez Musharraf’s 1999 Kargil misadventure, India not only won accolades for its “restraint” against extreme provocation but was also seen as the ‘victim’ by international community which became all the more convinced that Kashmir was basically a territorial issue between India and Pakistan.

The biggest blunder in its Kashmir strategy that Pakistan made was to start militancy in Kashmir. Though its covert support to militant groups fighting in Kashmir was an open secret, Islamabad did play safe by doing the diplomatically correct thing of completely disassociating itself from militancy. However, for reasons that defy logical comprehension, in 2016, former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif openly expressed solidarity with militant groups in Kashmir and to make matters worse chose the platform of UN General Assembly to do so. And with this, whatever goodwill that Pakistan still enjoyed on its Kashmir stand ended as no responsible nation or organisation of international repute would like to back a government that supports militancy.

Tailpiece: President Mamoon’s Independence Day message reiterates Pakistan’s commitment to resolve the Kashmir issue “in light of the UN resolution” and this is exactly what the Hurriyat also wants. However, this is only possible when Islamabad makes a genuine effort to recover lost ground by rejecting violence as a tool to resolve the Kashmir issue as it goes against the spirit and soul of the UN resolutions. However, as far as the possibility of Islamabad doing this is concerned, your guess would be as good as mine!

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