Kashmir dispute and security of Pakistan

Dr Muhammad Khan

THERE are speculations that the newly formed coalition Government of Pakistan under Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has principally decided to restore the bilateral trade relations with India.

The bilateral trade relations between Islamabad and New Delhi were suspended after unilateral and illegal decision of India to annex Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) into Indian Union as union territories in August 2019.

Nevertheless, the Commerce Ministry has denied news by categorically stating that; “There is no change in Pakistan’s policy on trade with India.

” Despite this statement, the people of Pakistan and Kashmiri masses of IIOJK are disturbed over the revival of the post of Trade Minister (trade and investment) in New Delhi.

It means there is a soft corner for India among the top echelons which keep pushing for the restoration of Pakistan-India relationship at the cost of Kashmir dispute and blood of over 100,000 Kashmiris.

Earlier, former Prime Minister Imran Khan showed his readiness to talk with India in June 2021, only if India gives a roadmap for the restoration of pre-August 5, 2019 status of IIOJK.

Since there was no positive response from India, therefore, talks could not be conducted.

The people at the helm of affairs in Pakistan must understand that the Kashmir dispute is an issue of national security of Pakistan and cannot be dealt casually through hasty and impulsive decisions by the top-most leadership of the country.

There has to be thorough deliberations, before initiating any such proposal for talking to India over the dispute with all possible fallouts.

Such statements are indicative of the fact that there is an inconsistency over Pakistan’s Kashmir policy.

Tracing the history of Kashmir dispute, there has been consistencies in the stance of Pakistan ever since 1947.

Nevertheless, the veiled status of Kashmir dispute remained unchanged until there came some new proposals for the resolution of Kashmir dispute from President General Pervaiz Musharraf (2003-2007).

President Musharaf was so flexible on Kashmir that he once said, if India takes one step towards resolution of Kashmir, Pakistan will take ten steps.

India did not budge from its stated stance rather took the advantage of 2003 ceasefire agreement and fenced entire area of Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary without any opposition.

This was an effort of unilaterally changing the status of Kashmir, in fact a violation of Simla Accord-1972.

Simla Accord binds that; neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation in Kashmir.

Contrary to the spirit of Simla Accord-1972, India unilaterally altered the situation in Kashmir by fencing the LoC and Working Boundary from 2003 to 2008 and later by altering the legal status of the IIOJK on August 5, 2019.

Question arise, is the Simla Accord still a valid agreement for negotiations at bilateral level.

It has been repeatedly violated by New Delhi unilaterally without any resistance from Islamabad.

It is worth noting that every time India has been setting new milestones for Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute ever since its occupation in 1947. These milestones aimed at putting Pakistan on defensive.

Some of the key milestones India has fixed for Pakistan over the years are: Creating water issues for Pakistan in 1948, Siachen-1984, Simla Accord-1972, fencing of LoC (2003-2008), undoing the special status of IIOJK by converting the state into union territories-2019, changing the domicile laws of IIOJK in 2020 and enforcing delimitation formula for various parts of the occupied state in 2022.

Through these milestones, which Pakistan didn’t resists, provided India an excuse to consolidate its illegal occupation and strengthened its undesirable hold over IIOJK.

Since 2020, India is rapidly changing the demography of the IIOJK without any resistance and former FM, Mr Qureshi once said that, Article 370 is internal issue of India.

While everyone is mysteriously quiet in Pakistan, India is planning to further change the status of the State through new recommendations of Delimitation Commission of India in IIOJK.

It should be remembered that (though illegal) India maintained a constant stance over Jammu and Kashmir dispute from mid 1950s.

But, despite being legal and true representative of Kashmiris, there remained inconsistence in the policies over Kashmir dispute by various ruling elites in Pakistan.

At the global level how many nation states support Pakistani stance over Kashmir and do we have any fixed stance over Kashmir or else a Kashmir policy.

What about OIC and GCC states, do they really support Pakistan like the past, if not what has gone so wrong in Pakistan’s relations with them?

What facilitation over Kashmiris right of self-determination is being rendered by the US and other major powers?

There is a need to understand that, apart from Kashmiris right of self-determination, Kashmir is a dispute for the national security of Pakistan.

The national security of Pakistan lies in entire Jammu and Kashmir (not in AJK or GB) and security is not limited to borders but a wholesome concept including human security and food security.

In order to avoid inconsistencies, let’s formulate a permanent and unyielding Kashmir policy which must have vision of think-tanks, intellectuals, Kashmiri leadership and the strategic planners of the country.

These recommendations must be debated in Parliament of Pakistan for the formulation of a clear Kashmir policy.

A well-debated Kashmir policy approved by Parliament of Pakistan will provide strength to Foreign Office, diplomatic missions abroad and future governments of Pakistan to pursue the Kashmir dispute logically, legally and consistently with clarity leaving no space for the personal whims of any individual (s).

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.

(Courtesy Pakistan Observer)