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This is why Pakistan can no longer respond militarily to India’s Kashmir move

Visionary diplomacy may be the only way forward. Of course, the success of Pakistan’s diplomacy will depend on the human rights scene in India.

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The Narendra Modi government’s decision to revoke the special status of Kashmir by abrogating Article 370 is a major dent to India’s democracy and regional conflict dynamics. In the short term, it has brought tremendous pressure on Pakistan to maintain its ownership of the issue and keep it alive effectively. The shock generated by the move is lesser than what was felt in 1971, but greater than in 2011. In 1971, Pakistan lost its eastern wing after a war with India, and May 2011 is when the American military carried out a surprise operation to capture and kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The worry is not about Pakistan’s own security but to an issue central to its imagination.

Despite the eagerness to agitate the matter internationally, there seems to be little interest in encouraging domestic protests. In fact, the demonstrations in Pakistan are very deliberate and lack the ferocity that was expected. This is despite the fact that people are feeling genuinely hurt at the development. After all, the public narrative for the last 72 years was tied to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute in Pakistan’s favour. Repeatedly people were told that Kashmir flows in Pakistan’s blood. But some of the political workers that I spoke with were of the view that the current Imran Khan government would like to see the matter being agitated abroad and not in Pakistan.

Also read: Kashmir off the table, Modi govt now wants revised ‘talking points’ with Pakistan

Military reaction no longer an option

Allowing mass protests in the country run the risk of bringing out a cast of characters that Pakistan doesn’t want associated with its image at the moment. Controlling protests may also be to avoid the pressure that is likely to mount domestically on the military to respond to India militarily. While reassuring support to Prime Minister Imran Khan during his recent visit to Muzaffarabad, the prime minister of Pakistan’s Kashmir Farooq Haider got emotional and stated that there were “lakhs of Kashmiri people in Azad Jammu and Kashmir waiting to cross the LoC” to push back the Indian military and claim the Kashmir valley.

Haider’s emotional outburst depicted a sense of loss and disappointment felt by people expecting change in the status quo for so many decades. While Haider tried to prod the military to take action, the fact remains unspoken that the Army GHQ may not be able to use the military option as it did in the past. Pakistan’s military has gradually realised, especially after the Kargil operation, that direct military response is not an option. This was never explained to the ordinary man, who is now struck with shock, dejection and a sense of betrayal at the realisation that the military is out of options. Even worse, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi admitted to the lack of capacity to pull the world together to push India to revise the decision.

Pakistan military’s capacity to finish the unfinished business of Partition has diminished dramatically. The commitment to reign in the jihadis, which was given to the UK and the US by army chief General Qamar Bajwa, brought a major shift in the military’s capability to pursue the matter. After Kargil, in particular, in which the Northern Light Infantry was used, the army has never directly tried to change the status quo. After 1999, the jihadis played a greater role. With the threat of jihadis substantially diminished (this will become clearer by the summer of next year depending on the nature of violence in Kashmir and ability of jihadis to respond from across the border), Islamabad more than Rawalpindi will have to take the lead on the issue by pleading the matter diplomatically. But more importantly, the initiative is now very much in the hands of the Kashmiri people. The media clampdown and oppression in the Kashmir valley is being noticed by the world.

Also read: This is General Bajwa’s dilemma after Modi govt’s Article 370 move in Kashmir

Conflict no longer an option

There is already a lot of criticism internationally of the Modi government’s decision. While New Delhi hopes that all these noises will eventually subside, from now on Pakistan mainstay in keeping the Kashmir issue alive will be the international media or diplomatic means. A battle at the diplomatic front, however, will depend on how hot is the political temperature in the Valley. Not to mention Pakistan’s ability to juggle international support diplomatically.

The shift from military to diplomacy may have brought a subtle and inadvertent change in Pakistan’s civil-military balance as it is tantamount to a major shift of responsibility from Rawalpindi to Islamabad.

Notwithstanding the fact that under the present PTI government the military is effectively in charge, the bulk of the responsibility to plead the case on the diplomatic front will be the civilians’. Although the army has a heavy presence in the committee formed by Prime Minister Imran Khan to highlight the Kashmir issue internationally, the actual work will have to be done by the Foreign Office. The military will continue to play a covert role in supporting the Pakistani diaspora to flag the Kashmir issue abroad, but sustaining the protest in the medium to long term is a huge challenge. Unless violence in Kashmir or India, in general, increases to levels that makes people look, Pakistan requires an entirely new methodology than what the military was used to.

In the past, conflict was used as a tool to internationalise the Kashmir issue. Raising the spectre of possible nuclear exchange would draw international attention towards the matter. The country’s financial constraints have seriously challenged its capacity to use conflict as a tool (this precludes ability to defend itself when required). At this juncture, the likelihood of using the Afghanistan peace process for political barter is also very low. Now, it is a different ballgame – drawing attention of the international community towards a human rights issue in which a lot will not only depend on the Kashmiris, but also the extent to which the Indian government provides fodder in the form of committing human rights atrocities.

Also read: Should India worry about China and Pakistan pushing the UNSC on Kashmir?

Diplomacy back on the block

This seeming shift of emphasis from conflict to diplomacy may not result in a drastic shift in the overall civil-military imbalance in the country.

The political parties appear to be divided, and their capacities washed too out to benefit from the moment and expand the space for themselves. The political parties have failed to come together to demand an answer from the military for failure of the Kashmir policy. The behaviour of the bulk of the elected Parliament and all political parties across the ideological divide indicates institutional crowding out. There seems to be little capability to frame a new policy, which will be informed by an internal inquiry on if the turn of events regarding Kashmir ought to be treated simply as poor intelligence, as senior journalist Mariana Babur believes it to be, or the military getting blindsided due to its inability to listen to multiple or alternative voices. This problem, as was obvious from the foreign minister’s press conference unveiling a new policy on flagging the Kashmir issue, remains. A new approach revolves around creating an additional bureaucratic structure to plead the Kashmir issue or telling those that question the government with the threat that they are being watched.   

Maryam Nawaz Sharif being arrested soon after she questioned the Kashmir policy publicly has shut the door on the much-needed introspection by the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz leadership. As for the other national party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), its leadership seems to have confined itself to the role of suggesting ways to create additional bureaucracy, which may not necessarily strengthen Pakistan’s position to agitate the matter effectively.

Pakistan would either have to wait for a very long time and wait for the moment when the Western world needs Pakistan again to return to its older policy framework. The alternative is to work doubly hard to re-build its relation with China to the level of where it was during the Nawaz Sharif days. Visionary and imaginative diplomacy that could negotiate the complex global geopolitics of modern times may be the only way forward. Of course, the success of Pakistan’s diplomacy will depend on the human rights scene in India.

Ayesha Siddiqa is author of Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy and research associate at SOAS, University of London. She tweets: @iamthedrifter. Views are personal.

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  1. Now Kashmir is divided in two parts, laddakh and Jammu and Kasmir.Jammu is having Hindu majority and they will never support Kasmiri Muslims and pakistan.Laddahk has Budhist majority and culturally and racially, they have no links with Kashmir valley Muslims. Laddakh people will always remain loyal to India .Only handful Kashmiris who are not more than 30 lakhs are supportive of independence. For any reason if Kashmir is to be separated from India, Hindus will kick every Indian Muslims to Pakistan, can Pakistan afford it.

  2. Why is she even being allowed to write here is a question to ask The Print? So why do you need to write, “,Views are Personal” after every article? Clearly, you want to sensitise issues. While it is fine if any Indian takes anti government stance, it is simply so outlandish to print views from an enemy country and even more so if it’s Pakistan whose military has announced to give India a thousand cuts. Is The Print only interested in spreading hatred, creating animosity within the country and to a very large extent playing into the hands of opposition who have no other job these days but disagree with everything that an elected government does?

  3. Comments on human rights situation in J&K are myopic given it’s past political, military and social history. Even if you leave out Pakistan (POK, Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), no major power in the world has an unblemished record on human rights either. All of them, at some point of time in history, have also struggled with separatism, annexation, terrorism, large scale public turbulence etc.. You can’t run from this reality.

    Current negative western media perception is the result of India trying too hard to avoid talking about Kashmir at any cost for decades. In it’s jealousy to not get caught in Pakistan’s internalization game, India forgot the difference between international outreach & internationalization of J&K. I think India with its large diaspora, diplomatic strength and democratic institutions could have done much better job than Pakistan on this front.

    In the end game with Pakistan, world powers including media will soon realize that this India over the years is not the same India of yesteryear’s. They will find a more capable, confident and self assured country which is ready to shed it’s soft/weak state tag and chart it’s own path in the world order without succumbing to any outside pressure. This will be a very difficult pill to swallow not only for it’s enemies but also for its allies & friends. If you look at examples like North Korea, Iran etc,,, you will realize how little any world power could possibly do when it comes to a country like India. At the end, terms like internalization, arbitration, mediation, resolutions, statements, condemnations, international laws, charter etc,,,will simply remain buzwords with no consequences on ground to India.

  4. Indian Newspapers Articles Are Filled With Trash From Islamist’s & the West!! I Have Seen No Nation Or Media In The World (Including Leftists, BBC, CNN..) Which Is So Much Against Their Own Nation!! Most Articles In Indian Media, Have A Foreign Taste Which Is Highly Disgusting!! High Time To Give A Taste Of Swarajya To The “Brown British” & The Khan Market Gang!!

  5. This is wishful Pakistani thinking. Hoping the trouble emanates within Kashmir for which Pakistan will render all provocation. Why does it not just shut up and minds its own business?

    • The lady had taken a lot of efforts in a hope that someday Pakistan will get a grip on Kashmir. Well good that she is optimistic but like Pakistan India too is a sovereign country and she will not be sitting quiet doing nothing. As regards human rights issues are concerned the whole world gives a fuck to it.
      The lady conveniently forgets to talk about Human rights violations by Pakistan itself in not just in POK Balochistan KP Baltistan, Waziristan and all such occupied territories but most importantly within Pakistan’s own Karachi. In Pakistan mohajirs ahmadias minority hindus christians are being butchered and their women raped forcibly converted and married off to muslims there by changing the demography will not be lost on the world scanner.
      Also the Lady does not say a word about Chinese excesses in Xinjiang on her fellow muslim Uighurs.
      She is extremely optimistic while being Pro Pak in her write up. Unfortunately this does not work. She will need to have a more unbiased stand in her writing for her to be taken for serious. As regards actions, finally infront of a strong nations strong will the world becomes a mute spectator. There are various past examples and even the current ones also point in the same direction. By organising constant dharnas and demonstrations and protest in international fora, those people will soon realise that falling pray to Pakistani scheme is an exercise in futility. Unless Pakistan does not come out clean on its stand on terrorism and display by it’s actions to the world of it’s commitment to Anti Terrorist stand Pakistan will always fail. The other reason Pakistan will always it’s Army. Pak Army will never want to give up her control over the country because then it will stop it’s source of earning and the rich
      & luxurious lifestyle of it’s armed forces personnel. The power in Pakistan has corrupted and it’s army is corrupted ultimately.

  6. Wisdom for a peaceful sub continent cannot be achieved unless and until both countries skip to be in USA or USSR or Israeli shoes. Both nations should relearn to distance themselves from war mongering countries, especially, when it’s citizens are extremely eager to experience the final escape from Tunnel! Independence of their judiciary; police & administration, alongside media on human rights is worrisome! Serious advice of their economists are not adhered!

  7. It is time we talk about Tibet and its Hanaisation , plight of Uighurs at International fora.
    China has completed demographic transformation of Tibet while raising issues very internal to India’s own. Let the world be deliberating on possible repeat of Tiananmen, in Hong Kong , Uighurs Xinjiang. Can US be offering to Mediate ?
    World is silent on appalling human rights violations in Gilgit Baltistan and plunder of its resources by China as pay back for its support to Pakistan. It is Ditto in Baluchistan .
    Indian Territory can’t be negotiated in exchange for Pakistan to help US out of Afghanistan.
    It is same as Texas was included as part of US and can’t be returned to Mexico as a pie ? This to calm its violent lawlessness and influx of Refugees from their and down south inside US ? Do they US and Mexico renegotiate? seek global mediation?
    Any offer of mediation by World There?
    Only return of Complete POK to India including Gilgit Baltistan will open a route from India to Afghanistan. It will stamp out Pakistan sponsored Taliban terrorism causing destruction of Afghan people and their right to peace and progress.
    Taliban is nothing but a Pakistani China ploy to obtain Indian territory as price for settlement that will remain eternally elusive. Time for world to support Free Tibet . Return of POK Free Baluchistan

  8. 1) “abrogating Article 370 is a major dent to India’s democracy and regional conflict” – A narrow minded take and shows lack of understand of what the article is. A privilege that none of the states had if its removed does not amount to “Major dent” in democracy. None of the other states had it!! This action is actually MORE democratic and great equalizer.

    2) “Despite the eagerness to agitate the matter internationally, there seems to be little interest in encouraging domestic protests” In fact there WERE protests in Lahore and many other places plus a concerted effort on SM to spread propaganda and incite violence in Kashmir speaks volumes of paki operations.

    Stopped reading after first 2 paragraph.

  9. Bottomline, according to this article – India did some clerical paperwork and tossed 370 into the dustbin. Pakistan army won’t look for a war with india, at least until india invades pak, as imran khan has been saying.
    So what is likely – infiltration by pak of “freedom fighters”. There is a huge sea of people who will volunteer in pakistan for this. A low cost alternative for pakistan to make the indian military bleed. On the other hand ,modi govt can continue with curfew or re-impose it anytime for several months or years.
    Clearly supporting jihad is a low cost high return option for pakistan, especially if there is no cost imposed by the FATF

    • This is a possible scenario in 2023, waves of Indian Naval Rafales flying CAPs from Duqm ,the Vikrant and Vikramaditya, bludgeoning Karachi, Gwadar and Quetta. IAF Rafale, SU30 flying CAPS in POK, and Islamabad, while Indian Army IBGs and Apaches tear up Lahore and Rawalpindi backed up by the Spyder, S400 and S500, add in some determined leadership of Modi and Amit Shah, the odds for Pakistan look even more bleak. This is probable and most likely inevitable too as Indian economy becomes a 5 trillion economy, an unstoppable juggernaut, as India reclaims her place in Asia as a Asian and Civilisational pole

  10. Her comments are reasonable and, given her expertise, need respect. However, decades of brain washing through bigoted textbooks and endless TV propaganda now leaves Pakistani leadership with few options. Imran Khan will be run out of office if he cannot change the situation on the ground. Pakistani army will also loose face if the “macho heroes” find themselves impotent. When thinking of options, don’t underestimate the power of their belief that 1 Muslim equals 10 Hindus. Armed with that logic, it is not hard to see why they think they have the upper hand before any engagement. Therefore, they will respond militarily and by unleashing terror. If India can handle these inevitable attacks and provocations, it will finally start the process of putting the problem of Kashmir behind.

  11. At last some sensible and matter of fact article from across the border. It is a long haul. A truelly democratically and empowered government out of shackles of the ESTABLISHMENT is the need of the hour, which is bothered more for development, education, economy and health of it’s people. For past 60-65 years Pakistan is the colony of corrupt generals, who in connivance with chosen so called politicians are looting the poor people. Only once this cabal is thrown into dustbin, then only whole subcontinent will become an economic powerhouse

  12. I agree.
    Pakistan needs to build national power with investment in education.
    Kashmir & the world will graviate itself towards Pakistan

  13. Diplomacy is the only option. Not talking to each other is not an option. 2. Consider the recent fuss over NFU. As it is, NFU, or a promise to not use these weapons against a NNWS, is a platitude. There is no court of appeal if a nation breaks its word. For what it is worth, the sanctity of such a profound issue should not be disturbed on Twitter. 3. However, given how the situation is evolving, one does not foresee any meaningful diplomacy between the two countries in the foreseeable future. A tense, dangerous period lies ahead of us.

  14. “Human rights scene in India”

    Pakis talking about “human rights” is the ultimate comedy. In case the world public does not laugh enough, Pakis are supported by another huge champion of “human rights” China 😂.

  15. Ayesha is a respected analyst.After absorbing Gigit as a district and populating POK with Punjabis, the geography/status has been altered ( not to talk of the demographic change to create a Punjabi majority ) by Pakistan.Merging J &K is not going to result in Hindus flooding into the state (unlike Jammu where a bhakt says Rohingya Muslims have been allowed to settle in large numbers) And also in terms of land area 80 percent are so is Ladakh with 15 % population( one need not talk about the Ladakhi’s complaint of past discrimination)
    .Considering Musharraf was about to finalize a deal with India making the LOC permanent( but for an overactive Chief Justice coming in the way) what has changed now.Except the elitist rulers have been removed and hopefully cleaner leaders at the Gram Panchayat level would bring prosperity vertically down rather than laterally.

    Yes the way it was done could be questioned ( on procedure not on intent.Considering the past case laws, I do not think SC will overrule)but at the ground level things can only improve-all the gods willing.

  16. The problem is that the burden of human rights is always on a democracy; tinpot democracies like Pakistan are never held accountable.

  17. Indirectly, the author has made the point that India should not give Pak any handle to run to the world with complaints, by being unmindful of human rights in J&K.

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