The Indian civil and military leadership has stirred up “war hysteria”, post-Pulwama incident, to deflect the global community’s attention away from the core issue of an indigenous freedom movement in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). In its sabre-rattling, the Indian ruling establishment is ignoring the most decisive party to the conflict; the people of Kashmir. It is the Kashmiri people alone have the right to decide their fate through a plebiscite, if ever given a chance to exercise the option in light of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 47. The People of IOK are demanding this right and also facing the repression and brutality at the hands of the Indian security forces.
US President Trump has also expressed his concern over growing tensions between India and Pakistan, without referring to the core issue of Kashmir. He also seemingly fails to acknowledge that the non-resolution of the Kashmir issue may lead to a conflict in the sub-continent that could endanger lives of millions, besides sinking global corporate investments in the region. However, for Pakistan the silver lining in Trump’s statement is that the US President has not bought baseless Indian accusations and has admitted to have developed a “much better” relationship with Pakistan in recent months.
Historically, the misery of the people of the IOK is not primarily linked to Indo-Pak inflexibility alone, rather they have remained victims to geopolitical rivalries and resultant insensitivity of the global community. The Simla Agreement (1972) signed under most unfavourable conditions did not help the Kashmir cause either. The agreement was a non-starter, being a bilateral agreement, where the most important third party – the people of Kashmir – was neither consulted nor had any say in the overall process of conflict resolution. Non provision of mediation clause and non determination of time lines did the rest. Moreover, the two signatories (India and Pakistan) stuck to their inflexible positions and have stalled the process since then. It is time for the international community, India and Pakistan to embrace this reality before it is too late.
In this regard the Parliament of Pakistan should repeal the Simla Agreement, taking the Kashmir issue back to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). In doing so, the UNGA may be asked for the implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir in order to avert a “nuclear war” that may engulf millions of innocent civilians in Pakistan and India. It is only through third party mediation and substantive dialogue that the Kashmir issue could be resolved.
India and Pakistan have failed to find a solution through wars or bilateral dialogue. De-escalation of the situation besides taking measures to avert any Indian strike against mainland Pakistan or across the Line of Control (LOC) be accorded priority. Indian threats of ‘attacking seminaries’ in Mureedke or Bahawalpur will also be a fatal mistake. This is because as experienced by the US and Pakistan, it took Pakistan years to control the aftershocks of such strikes, especially the infamous Damadola strike in 2006 – which killed over 80 people – on a religious seminary.
In conclusion, considering the track record of the Modi Government, thriving on jingoism and anti-Pakistan rhetoric, possibility of a “Surgical Strike” cannot be ruled out, despite the possibility of escalation based on Pakistan’s response. This is because PM Modi has to “show” some action against Pakistan to his right wing support base. Moreover, an overemphasis by blaming Pakistan for the Pulwama incident also helps Modi and his government to divert the global community’s attention away from human rights violations in IOK.
Finally, even though the US President has so far stopped short of directly blaming Pakistan for the Pulwama incident, it would also be interesting to see how the US government responds to the brewing situation in substantive terms. President Trump also understands that appeasing India at the cost of Pakistan, at this point in time, may prove to be detrimental to the Taliban-US Afghan peace talks facilitated by Pakistan.
The author, Major Gen. Ijaz Hussain Awan, is a retired military officer and a security and defence analyst.