Authored by: Sidra Khan
Edited by: S. Sadia Kazmi
Strategic Vision institute (SVI) held a round table discussion regarding, “The Ongoing Movement in Kashmir and Future Prospects”, on 15th July 2016. The guest speakers for the discussion were Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Ambassador Salman Bashir (Former Foreign Secretary), and Dr Ishtiaq Ahmad, Director and Associate Professor, School of Politics & IR, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. Amidst the changing situation in Kashmir and the recent violent uprisings having strategic implications for Pakistan, the event was organized to evaluate the way forward for Kashmir issue. It was timely for the SVI to invite the experts to deliberate on the subject.
Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema, President SVI, welcomed and thanked the worthy guests, speakers, participants for affording valuable time out of their busy schedule and gracing the occasion with their presence. He chaired the session, and set the tone of the subject with a view that there exists a persistent pressure on South Asia for the maintenance of strategic stability in view of the recent developments that have been taking place between India and Pakistan over the issue of Kashmir.
Dr Cheema, while explaining the current situation, stated that Pakistan is in an enigmatic dilemma as far as Kashmir is concerned. Pakistan’s support to the cause of Kashmir is due and legitimate but the situation gets complicated when Kashmiris associate themselves with Pakistan; holding and wrapping the dead body of young freedom fighter Burhan Wani in Pakistani flags. These Kashmiri sentiments, which they show with their Pakistani brothers, are consequential for Kashmiri public as they are termed as Pakistani sponsored and may not only invoke anti-Pakistan sentiments in India but invite brutal Indian reprisals against the Kashmiris. Dr Cheema raised a question as to what extent this association of Kashmiris with Pakistan has helped Kashmir in fighting the war against India. Today, the Muslim world is standing at a point of dead end for its two biggest freedom movements: Kashmir and Palestine freedom struggle, both of which have no solution in sight. Dr Cheema turned to history explaining how during the time of decolonization, these movements were glorified and respected all over the globe, however the tables have turned after 9/11, when these freedom movements today are being dubbed as terrorism or terrorist activities. Especially in case of Kashmir, the Kashmiri struggle is being termed by India as an act of terrorism being sponsored by Pakistan, which in turn makes the situation complex for Kashmir itself.
Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi highlighted that the Indian held Kashmir is going through very difficult times. He mentioned that even though recently there is a reduced activity around the LOC where both India and Pakistan are trying to comply to observe restraint, yet every three years there is a major blow up in the Kashmir valley which signifies the problem of delineation in Kashmir valley, which remains the point of contention between the two states.
Ambassador Qazi set the discourse in which the Kashmir issue must be seen. He suggested that if Pakistan desires to solve Kashmir issue it needs to be honest with it, Pakistan should not talk about Kashmir just for the sake of talks, which would be equal to deceiving Pakistan and Kashmiri brothers. All the international organizations; United Nations, Organization of Islamic Council and the statements made for Kashmir and the Kashmiri families abroad are the minor parts of the large package of polices to which Pakistan has given zero priority until now. Pakistan, itself is suffering from crisis for a long time, which includes economic crisis, energy crisis and identity crisis. However, the biggest crisis Pakistan is facing is the image of Pakistan in international community, which is not positive. The world accepts the issue of Kashmir and acknowledges the harsh brutalities happening in Kashmir being committed by the Indian forces and also recognizes Kashmir as a disputed territory. However, the world also is not oblivious to the fact that India having such a sheer size of market-economy, gets to have a major importance in the world. Pakistan on the other hand, is taken as the chief sponsor of Kashmir case and has done nothing to improve its own image. When any country’s image is down for whatever reasons, that states’ voice is not heard even if it is justified, it does not carry weight because the image which is carrying that voice is not pleasant. This certainly explains and suggests that Pakistan needs to change and work on improving its image for its voice to be heard at international level on any issue.
Ambassador Qazi while further stressing on the same point, narrated an incident to highlight how Pakistan is lagging behind in securing support and playing the role that it should in Kashmir. He mentioned that once an APHC leader was held captive by the Indian forces and was asked for his opinion on their commitment to the violence in Kashmir. The APHC leader had no two opinions about it and was quite certain about them (Indians) being his enemy. However, when the Indian forces mentioned Pakistan as a friend to Kashmiri people, the APHC leader was rather uncertain about Pakistan’s claim of delivering freedom to the Kashmiri people. Narrating the incident, Ambassador Qazi clearly highlighted that Pakistan has not been able to meet the expectations of the Kashmiri brothers.
Ambassador Qazi made it clear that after 9/11 all freedom struggles are being viewed as terrorist activities unless they were governed by the US itself. Hence, the point of self-determination became the respect for LOC that should be duly observed by all the stakeholders. In this context, he maintained that Pakistan has mortally wounded its own Kashmir case due to thorough lack of professionalism and lack of sound thinking.
He suggested that Pakistan needs to be serious in its efforts as depending on other states such as China or the US, that again depicts Pakistan’s lack of seriousness to solve the Kashmir issue. Ambassador Qazi suggested that if Kashmir issue is to be solved, Pakistan will have to improve its relations with India along with improving its image in the international word, and will have to get the Kashmiri Muslims to be united under a single slogan. The Kashmir issue cannot be solved unless the Kashmiri Muslims are kept united on the agenda of freedom. He believed that the section of Kashmiris favoring ‘third option’ can be addressed by highlighting Article 257 of Pakistan’s Constitution, which states: “When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State.” The bottom line, he said, is that Pakistanis need to be sincere about Kashmir
Pakistan also needs to acknowledge the harsh realities, which are; First, Pakistan cannot win a war against India; second, the guerilla warfare or arms struggle in a disputed territory is legal by charter of United Nations and international law but it is not effective against the mighty and also when the international support is not given to it.
The second speaker Ambassador Salman Bashir started by endorsing Ambassador Qazi that Pakistan needs to be honest and true to itself if it desires to solve the Kashmir issue and should also improve its credibility within and outside the country. Relating to China, Ambassador Bashir made an analogy how China has kept its pace with the modern world and changed themselves according to the changing international trends. He said that facts are important but what is more important is too seek truth from facts. If Pakistan wants to solve Kashmir issue, Pakistan must first understand the contemporary international structure. He also talked about the public speeches and talk shows being aired on television that have no relevance and impact on the lives of everyday Pakistanis and are only the fantasy stories keeping the people entrained. He warned that there is little awareness in Pakistan about the changes taking place in the world. If 1991 was the End of History according to Fukuyama, it was replaced by a new political discourse in the US that stresses on questioning one’s own identity. The US shaped the last century and came out with the concept of self-determination having a strategic connotation. It meant wrapping up of age of empires or the age of decolonization. He maintained that the UN is a slumbering giant created for the strategic purpose and will wake up only when commanded by its patron, who created it and are now themselves in turmoil and confusion. Ambassador Bashir expressed that today’s world has entered into an era of disintegration, which can be felt by the entire world. It is important for Pakistan to understand these realities. Creating this whole context of the contemporary international system and putting Kashmir issue in this, Ambassador Bashir suggested a way out. He proposed that it is time that the youth of Pakistan show and expose the brutalities of Indian in the Indian held Kashmir, to the world. He also suggested that the responsibility also lies with the writers, columnists and academicians to project the hollowness of Indian democracy.
The third speaker for the day Dr Ishtiaq Ahmad started by saying that the focal point in the Kashmir issue are Kashmiri people who are being marginalized and killed for their freedom struggle. He divided the Kashmir struggle into three main stages; the first stage beginning from 1950s with the upsurge of settlement of dispute by the United Security Council and the efforts done by the UN Peace Keeping forces until 1990s; the second stage came with the year 2000s’ violent means used by Kashmiris and Non Kashmiris in Indian held Kashmir to liberate Kashmir from Indian occupation; the third stage according to Dr. Ishtiaq began after 9/11 where all the freedom struggle movements were termed as an act of terrorism especially if they were found to have Islamic origin. Today we see that the militancy has returned in the freedom struggle of Kashmir as there is a use of violent means staring from 2008 by the youth of Kashmir who largely demand freedom. Further endorsing the points given by Ambassador Qazi and Ambassador Bashir, he accepted that Pakistan does need to improve its image internationally but most importantly Kashmir should be seen as a humanitarian issue rather than an issue which needs solution by India or Pakistan.
The discussion was followed by Question & Answer session. Dr Shahid Bukari, Assistant Professor, Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, raised a point regarding the image of Pakistan as to how and what instruments should be used by the Pakistani foreign office to improve their effectiveness around the globe. Answering the question, Ambassador Qazi opined that the problem is much deeper. The weak internal governance of Pakistan and national policy is unfortunately what makes for the face of Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pakistan needs to improve its internal policy first, after which Pakistan can easily counter India through the required professionalism. Pakistan’s diplomats can help in improving Pakistan’s image abroad and therefore Pakistan should bring out professionalism in their diplomats and policy makers.
Ms. Sidra Khan, Research Associate SVI, asked what is the possibility that India, a country that comprises of 29 union states, might be creating a problem for itself with reference to what it is doing in Kashmir. Ambassador Salman Bashir replied that India’s actions in Indian held Kashmir would surely have impact on its internal situation. If India violates those principles in one part i.e. Kashmir, it would act as a catalyst and a cancer that would feed on its other polices too.
Ms. Sadia Kazmi, Senior Research Associate SVI, stated that the Kashmir situation has certainly showed the distinction between the oppressor and the oppressed and provides Pakistan with an opportunity in disguise to highlight the brutalities of India in the Indian held Kashmir, by voicing concern at various international platforms and by extending support to the Kashmiri people by keeping them onboard. Ambassador Qazi added that there are millions of Kashmiris who have been killed. The Kashmir Valley is the world’s most traumatized region and yet the international community is quite on this matter. The world powers do not put pressure on India, which they should, to condemn the Indian brutalities in the Indian held Kashmir, because of which Kashmir continues to suffer.
In the end, Dr. Cheema once again extended his gratitude to all the speakers and the audience.