Saturday, November 16, 2013

Romancing Pakistan



Exactly a week ago, the separatist leadership from the Kashmir Valley met with Mr. Sartaj Aziz, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's foreign policy advisor, in New Delhi. The meeting, first condemned by the BJP and then by the Indian Government, and attended by the major factions of Kashmir’s dissident movement, was no more than a headline-grabbing exercise. However, I must clarify that don’t see anything wrong with such meetings. Politicians, like others, of a country are free to meet politicians and officials of another country. More so, what was the hoopla surrounding this meeting given the fact that such meetings have happened in the past as well? 

If the Kashmiri leadership had time to meet Mr. Aziz, why don’t they meet the Indian officials and leadership as well? Yes, I know the answer: ‘What’s the point of talking to New Delhi when we know that nothing concrete will come out of such meetings as has been the case every time they talked to New Delhi?’ I agree. Talking to New Delhi has not changed the lives or the political destiny of the Kashmiris in any significant manner. But tell me, how on earth is Islamabad different from New Delhi in helping Kashmiris achieve their political aspirations? Has Islamabad been sincere about its support for Kashmir’s azadi movement? In fact, the official Pakistani position on Kashmir continues to be the merger of Kashmir with the former. Now that might suit Mr. Ali Shah Geelani, but would the other dissident leaders be able to digest that?  I don’t think so. 

Of course New Delhi’s politicians have consistently usurped the political rights of Kashmiris and its forces have violated the human rights of Kashmiris, time and again. What about Pakistan? Does it have a better scorecard? Has Islamabad not violated the human rights of Kashmiris? Have they not vitiated the indigenous azadi movement of the Kashmiris? If the Kashmiri dissidents say that Pakistan has not killed Kashmiris but has only provided political and diplomatic support to the Kashmir cause, they would either be delusional or would be bluffing their people. The fact is that Pakistan has not done a better job in Kashmir than India. Both are guilty of violating the rights of Kashmiris (yes, I agree that it is New Delhi, not Islamabad, that has the power to change the lives of Kashmiris for the better if it decides to do so, that is) and it should be said so. Remember, enemy’s enemy is not necessarily your friend; he may as well be your enemy too. 

What came out of the meeting? 
Did something concrete come out of this meeting between the Kashmiri dissident leadership and Sartaj Aziz? The truth is that nothing really came out of this meeting except of course providing an opportunity to the dissidents to show that they continue to have some importance in Kashmir. Pakistan as usual stuck to its position that they would politically and diplomatically support the Kashmir cause, which, we know, doesn’t mean much at the end of the day. Or is anyone thinking of making good use of the strategic ambiguity that would present itself post-2014? The possibility that Pakistan could give some ‘material help’ to Kashmir militancy once the US-led coalition withdraws from Afghanistan certainly exists. But those awaiting such an opportunity should realize that today’s Kashmir is not that of late 1980s and early 1990s: Kashmiris are tired of violence of all varieties, state and non-state included.  

What does Pakistan’s support mean for Kashmir?
Ali Shah Geelani's spokesman issued a statement after the Hurriyat leader’s meeting with Aziz: “Geelani told Aziz that Pakistan should continue to support the Kashmir cause politically as well as diplomatically, besides through other means, and highlight human rights violations in J&K at the hands of the security force”. For sure, Islamabad recently raised the issue at the UN, Shariff told Obama to mediate on Kashmir and of course raised the issue with the Indian side. To what effect? At the UN, let us face it, no one was interested in the Pakistani arguments. Obama’s focus was on the Taliban and Afghanistan, and yes, the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear assets, not on Kashmir. Indian side, as is to be expected, was more keen on Pakistani action of countering terrorism than talking about Kashmir. 

The point I am trying to make is simple and straightforward: In today’s milieu, Pakistan’s support for the Kashmir cause would not lead to anything and won’t mean much not only because of the prevailing international environment but also because of the internal debates within Pakistan about Kashmir. If anything, support by Pakistan would only mean bad omen for the Kashmir cause given Islamabad’s standing in the international system today. A lot of people may not like what I am saying, but to me this is crystal clear.  

More importantly, let me say this at the risk of repeating myself all over again: Kashmir’s dissident leadership should ask themselves whether it is a good idea to premise their azadi struggle on Pakistan and its support for it. I am not suggesting that the Kashmir question has no Pakistan angle but rather that Kashmir’s azadi struggle need not be seen as fundamentally related to the Pakistani state. In other words, the ontological existence and defining characteristics of Kashmir’s azadi struggle should be seen as divorced from the idea of Pakistan.

(Source: Greater Kashmir, November 17, 2013. URL:

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