Support on Kashmir

Prime Minister Imran Khan forcefully exposed Indian atrocities in Occupied Kashmir at the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly last year.

Despite the powerful projection of Kashmir’s cause, unfortunately no moral and legal support could be won from the august gathering of world leaders against Indian brutalities and illegal annexation of Kashmir. A few trusted friends, China, Turkey and Malaysia however came along. The rest of the world and particularly Arab countries remained indifferent. Why? Because it is not an age of alliances based on ideologies and religions. International relations are dictated by economic interests. India has succeeded in creating an impression that it is a huge growing market with a large consumer base which paved the way for convergence of its economic and strategic interests with America and Western Europe, particularly against the rising economic power of China. It is time to rethink and recast the strategy to effectively help millions of unarmed Kashmiris who are struggling for their survival in the midst of repression by the Indian Army.

Policymakers at home must have studied this tectonic shift in world politics. They must also have aligned themselves with the reality to achieve a better response this time by improving upon their narrative, particularly by adding the issue of violations of human rights by India. Human rights violations are used by Western countries against Muslim societies and states. The UN has several standing resolutions on human rights. Its Human Rights Charter is binding upon all its member states. Pakistan is a declared nuclear power. That has proved good deterrence so far. However, the world remains apprehensive of this capability despite continued assurances over safety and control over the nuclear arsenal. The command and control systems have even been highly praised by many countries, but the fact remains that Pakistan is a Muslim state and therefore streaks of prejudice and undercurrent of distrust greatly undermine any independent assessment and trust. Kashmir is recognized as a flashpoint with a potential of nuclear war between India and Pakistan, but it could not shake the world’s conscience.

Our ‘friends’ in the Middle East and rest of the Muslim world are busy fighting their own wars and looking after their economic interests so we should neither expect nor raise any hope that any state will support us over our disputes with India. We need to create an environment for investment. Owing to our continuous economic woes and vulnerability since inception, Pakistan’s true stature and place amongst nations could not be achieved. Thus, it is time to redirect ourselves towards an economic independence that will eventually ensure our safety and peaceful existence as a neighbour of a bully such as India.

Huge credit goes to the military leadership that assured the defence of Pakistan by entering into different military alliances. The 1947-48 Kashmir war fully exposed Pakistan’s limitations of its defence equipment that started with the denial of fair share in the assets of British India by the new Indian Government. Pakistan was forced to look for help all around the world. Pakistan and its civil and military leadership had realized from the very beginning that without Kashmir Pakistan and its agriculture-based economy would not survive and therefore it was right in declaring Kashmir its jugular vein. India, on the other hand, having forcibly and coercively occupied Indian states also knew that strategically it was important to occupy Kashmir to strangulate Pakistan. Events starting from the arrival of Mountbatten to liquidate Indian Empire to the farce annexation of Kashmir on October 27, 1947 made it abundantly clear that India and its leadership was willing to resign from all principles of international law to hurt Pakistan. After illegally occupying and faking an annexation of Kashmir it then rushed to the UN crying foul and since then it has been gaining time to strengthen its illegal occupation and change the world opinion in its favour. Having put Pakistan at a great disadvantage, India has been forcing Pakistan to expend tens of billions of dollars on its defence at the cost of the welfare of hundreds of millions people living near the poverty line.

Pakistan’s agrarian economy is fast shrinking due to tremendous urbanization and townships built on rich agriculture land. Irresponsible successive governments did nothing to protect it from greedy developers. The existing agri-economy cannot sustain a huge defence budget and debt service. Moreover, the little industry mostly based on agriculture products (textile, fertilizer, sugar) has no capacity to take that burden as its growth is heavily undermined by excessive taxation and unscrupulous entrepreneurship involved in the flight of precious capital due to hitherto ineffective foreign exchange regime.

The income tax base is still less than three million in a country of over 200 million. In these circumstances, it is time to shift from a defence paradigm to a development paradigm and achieve self-reliance. Something out-of-the-box needs to be thought out and implemented. Pakistan has a good case on Kashmir. It can win huge support if it can assure peace, certainty, an independent judiciary and a corruption-free bureaucracy as well as a clean government at all levels that will attract investment. There are many untapped sectors. Once other states perceive Pakistan as a growing economy they are bound to take note and come to the rescue of the poor Kashmiris. Pakistan needs partnerships, not alliances.

The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court and former additional attorney general for Pakistan.