Seize Kashmir

The recent developments in Kashmir and India offer Pakistan a fresh opportunity to redesign policy. We put Kashmir on the backburner for a decade, with very little return.

The Indian army’s aggressive posture at the Line of Control in Kashmir, the Kashmir-related recent executions in India and New Delhi’s failure to move on resolving even minor border disputes, all point to the need for a robust Kashmir policy by Pakistan.

Our new Kashmir policy should be based on three pillars:
alignment with Kashmir’s younger generation,
smart advocacy, and
UN resolutions.

The mantle of Kashmiri resistance to Indian occupation is passing on to a younger generation. Young Kashmiris are impressive. They are well-educated, bold and connected to the global e-village. A couple of years ago they forced a Pakistani flag atop a main building of the university in Srinagar.

In March 2011, teenager Aneesa Nabi arrived at the United Nations in Geneva to brief diplomats and NGOs on how the Indian army killed her parents. Younger Kashmiris launched the Kashmir spring in late 2010 as a prelude to the Arab spring. No wonder then that Tunisian and Libyan activists invited Kashmiris to join them during a seminar on the sidelines of a UN Human Rights Council session held in early 2011.

Pakistan’s Kashmir policy should keep pace with the activism of young Kashmiris. The movement for political change in Pakistan is also the work of our younger generation. There is a need to establish more links between younger Pakistani and Kashmiri activists.

The methods of Kashmir advocacy employed by the government and politicians in Pakistan need to change. Maulana Fazlur Rehman should do us a favour and relinquish his chairmanship of our parliamentary panel on Kashmir.

His successor should be someone who can demonstrate sharp advocacy skills and offer new ideas. Social media activism should become a strong component of our Kashmir policy. The old methods won’t work. The Kashmir-focused broadcasts of PTV and PBC networks have a lot of room for improvement.

One of the major flaws of our Kashmir debate is the underlying assumption that resolving the international dispute in Kashmir is purely a Pakistani need. That is incorrect.

Kashmir is a huge burden on India’s military, security and diplomacy. For all its global ambitions, most of India’s guns point at Pakistan and are positioned on our borders. Kashmir continues to bleed New Delhi’s military resources.

India is wasting vital resources on Kashmir and Pakistan that could go a long way in solving the problems of a poverty- and disease-ridden population. Kashmir continues to inspire nearly five dozen insurgent groups that have wreaked havoc across northeast India.

And a festering Kashmir will continue to pose a threat to the security of India’s major cities as they face a blowback from Indian army’s heavy-handed tactics in Kashmir that include rapes and mass graves.

It is a deeply flawed argument that Pakistan should be desperate to resolve Kashmir at any cost. The biggest service Islamabad can do to Kashmiris is to stop paying attention to out-of-the-box solutions coming from American think-tanks.

India should be left to deal with this problem in accordance with the available roadmap – the UN Security

Council resolutions. Economic and social turmoil inside India, the security threat coming from a prolonged Kashmir military occupation and other pressures are all factors that play on the side of Pakistan and Kashmiris.

This leaves another important question: What about trade with India? The MFN status that India granted Pakistan some six years ago is largely on paper, not fully functional on the ground. There is no harm in granting India MFN status, but the recent public and secret steps taken by the Zardari government to boost Indian trade to Afghanistan is not in our favour.

Even before the MFN and the new Pakistani concessions, Pak-India bilateral trade has been at comfortable levels. The notion that there’s no trade between us is wrong and exaggerated. This level of trade can continue for several years to come without any problems or losses to Pakistan’s consumers and economy.

Generous one-sided Pakistani trade concessions to India defy logic. These concessions are lucrative and New Delhi is dying to get them as soon as possible. Islamabad should openly link these concessions to visible Indian cooperation in resolving border disputes and water issues, and to easing repression inside Kashmir.

Article By: Ahmed Quraishi

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