Ayear has passed since India unilaterally revoked the special status of the disputed territory. Kashmir has, since then, remained under lockdown. Over eight million people have been subjected to the worst forms of oppression.
Pakistan, a party to the longstanding dispute, has rejected India’s unilateral moves and has been pushing to advance its narrative through diplomatic means at the international level. Discussions and debates in Pakistan over Kashmir have often remained emotional. The current government appears to be more keen on pacifying the domestic audience than taking practical steps to persuade India to reverse its controversial and illegal moves. The new political map, asserting Pakistan’s principled stance on Kashmir and renaming one of the main arteries in Islamabad as Srinagar Highway are some of the steps meant to satisfy the domestic public opinion.
When India in August last year revoked Articles 370 and 35(A) of its Constitution, Pakistan was apparently caught by surprise. Since Pakistan was not expecting Modi to resort to such an unprecedented move on Kashmir, Pakistan had to hurriedly come up with a contingency plan. In the aftermath of Indian decision, Pakistan on August 7 decided to take a host of steps after the high-level huddle of civil and military leadership. Those decisions include downgrading of diplomatic ties, suspension of bilateral trade, reviewing bilateral agreements and forcefully raising the issue at the UNSC.
The government immediately implemented the decision as far as downgrading of diplomatic ties and severing bilateral trade were concerned. But there has been no movement yet on reviewing bilateral arrangements. The Foreign Office did write letters to relevant departments getting all the details of the number of bilateral accords with India. There are dozens of such agreements but the government took no decision further whether to revoke some of the arrangements. The government was even reluctant to abandon the 1972 Shimla Agreement in which it was clearly written that no side would alter the status quo on Kashmir pending the final settlement.
India on August 5, 2019, unilaterally changed the status quo and hence rendered the Shimla Accord meaningless. It is inexplicable as to why Pakistan is still sticking to that Accord which India has used time and again to impress upon that Kashmir is a bilateral dispute. If Pakistan walks away from the Shimla Accord, the current Line of Control will revert back to the Ceasefire Line. Also, this would reject Indian claims that Kashmir is bilateral issue.
Pakistan is, however, reluctant to take those hard steps perhaps fearing possible implications. It also highlights the fact that perhaps Pakistan with time has limited options on Kashmir. Raising the issue at the UNSC and other international forums will not pay much dividends given that the West’s and even some Muslim countries’ interests are linked with India. These hard facts warranted a rethink of the Kashmir strategy.
Kashmir is not a static issue anymore. Indo-China border tension has clearly exhibited the urgency that India and China feel about the impending finality of resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute. We sadly are fixed in what happened 70 years ago. We need a dynamic policy on J&K dispute, not one frozen in time. The debate has to reach our media and intelligentsia. Let’s check what our people really want. We can tell them our limitations (both financial and military). Perpetual war/animosity would mean endless poverty and disease, as we would not have the resources to address these issues.
Let’s discuss the possibilities of whether or not we can get J&K through the policy that we are or have been following, in say the next 25 or 50 years or even 100 years. Let’s see what kind of a resolution the people see to the conflict.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2020.