By Imtiaz Gul
The Kashmir Solidarity Day is being celebrated today, amid massive worldwide and local protests and strikes, with the day also coinciding with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Srinagar. The Kashmir valley is going through an unprecedented unrest, which is also a major indication and disapproval of New Delhi’s rule in the occupied territory.
In Pakistan, a number of meetings are being organized to mark the day of solidarity. Banners, flyers and billboards, all over, also remind us of the “unfinished agenda” of the 1947 partition. But this is also a day of reflection for all of us.
What has all this “symbolic” support for Kashmiris in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir, under the Indian control, brought Pakistan so far?
Pakistan has tried to get Kashmiris their freedom from Indian control, however, all these efforts have so far achieved limited results. In fact, all these protests here and abroad, including emphatic support at the United Nations, have hardly helped in convincing India that Kashmiris under its control want freedom.
Why is that so?
That is because of the monetary and financial interests, with the Western corporations heavily investing in India. Most Western nations are also major trading partners of India, where bilateral trade includes arms, technology and customer services.
These interests muzzle these governments’ voices as far as the grave humanitarian situation in Kashmir is concerned. Often, their diplomats privately concede that they do not want to jeopardize their commercial interests in India.
This is the bitter reality facing us all. Economic interests trump political interests. China is the best example of it; it has uneasy political relations with the US, Germany, and India, however, it still remains the biggest trading partner of these countries.
This reality seems to have triggered a definite thinking within Pakistan’s ruling circles. They seem to be listening to the advice out of Beijing; “we waited for Hong Kong and Macao for a century. Why can’t you change your strategy and wait for Kashmir”, the Chinese top leadership has been asking the Pakistani top brass.
One can discern from discussions, with people who matter, that the strategy on Kashmir has been a “failure” so far. It has only earned Pakistan a bad name, left it bruised and under-developed. India, on the other hand, has successfully projected Pakistan’s persistent support for the Kashmir cause as “support for terrorism in India”.
Hence, a new “thought” in Islamabad is gaining momentum. This thought from within the military circles certainly reflects a new pragmatism. The thought asks:
Why not develop a new strategy that is economic, and not “praetorian”, in its focus?
“Economic development could make the country globally relevant again”, is the advice that Chinese leadership has given to their Pakistani counterparts. Once the country is economically strong, it may prompt many leading nations to themselves step forward and work for an end to the miseries of Kashmiris under the Indian rule.
This is what Beijing desires and, after several decades, this Chinese advice seems to have found receptive ears in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Regardless who eventually forms the government in New Delhi in May, it is clear that it will be dealing with a “new” thinking in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
It will find in Imran Khan and General Bajwa two prominent “policy makers”, who are determined to turn the state’s focus entirely on geo-economics. They believe that only in prioritizing geo-economics lies Pakistan’s mid and long term salvation.
Should we hope for a new south Asia, free of brutal geo-political games, after the general elections in India?
The write is Executive Director, CRSS