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HANDLING THE KASHMIR CRISIS (I)

The Pulwama attack that killed a little more than forty Indian soldiers, mostly Sikhs, brought the near dormant Kashmir crisis into international focus because of Modis’ so-called “surgical strike” and Pakistan’s measured response. Pakistan’s denial about the Indian claims was supported by the western media relying on satellite imagery. For a change this also swayed international opinion in our favour.
Despite a history of reacting emotionally, in close interaction with the Army high command the government kept emotions in check. Calling for calm Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan noted that there is no such thing as ‘limited war’ and that it could escalate into a nuclear holocaust. Offered talks to India he also promised cooperation in any investigation into Pulwama. Releasing the captured pilot on the second day after he was downed amply displayed our willingness for peace. Modi did Pakistan a number of favours besides bringing Kashmir into focus, the opposition closed ranks behind the government they normally fight tooth and nail and the international community largely appreciated Pakistani reactions. Our only faux pas was FM Qureshi not attending the OIC Summit, giving away a unique opportunity to rebut India verbatim on a “right of reply” and promote Pakistan’s stand in the crisis.
Insisting that Kashmir is integral part of India for decades, Indian FM Sushma Swaraj repeated this travesty on the floor of the OIC Conference. She faced embarrassment, mainly within India, when the OIC adopted a strongly worded resolution calling Kashmir disputed and condemning India’s atrocities in Kashmir. However given Saudi Arabian and UAE sensitivities towards India, the UAE invited Sushma Swaraj to the OIC Conference as an honoured guest, the Resolution did not figure in the OIC Declaration. Pakistan must come to terms with this and not live in fantasy land about Arab support in anything concerning India. One is hurt that the Arabs are not sensitive to the sufferings of the Kashmiris. On the other hand Turkey’s support was firm and unequivocal.
Where do we go from here? The Pulwama incident has shown that unsolved problems when suppressed tend to go out of hand and create violence. The world has changed since the Kashmir crisis started in 1947. Globalization has broken up post-war alliances and power balance. The partition of British-India into India and Pakistan was made based on the two-nation theory and nationalism. When markets and financial institutions become global and an international court of law is present, the importance and exclusiveness of national borders becomes less stringent. Accordingly nationalism has to recede in order to make room for global development.
Pakistan is more sensitive to the issue than India. One central point of nation states is the sanctity of their territory and borders. Pakistani President Musharraf almost managed a solution of the Kashmir problem by accepting the LOC as provisional border (and thus indicating readiness to negotiate Pakistan’s claim to Kashmir) something that is impossible with the hardliner India government firmed by BJP. Pakistan has always displayed a more relaxed attitude towards borders. The brotherly relationship with China was founded when Pakistan agreed to give away a part of its own territory (which admittedly at that time seemed to be of no practical use) –something that India would never have done. The contested border in the west with Afghanistan though kept in place was never a ‘hard’ border and only when our fight against terrorism started for real the army is now fencing it thus making it a ‘hard’ border. Other territorial disputes between India and Pakistan include the Rann of Kutch and Siachen. They cost a lot of sacrifice of men and material which seems justified only if holding on to a hard-core nationalism and nation state. Such nationalism has shown to be a problem in the recent crisis.
The current crisis, which nearly came to a bloody result because of Uncle Modi’s madness, teaches that peace in the neighbourhood is more important than warfare (or near war) that disrupts trade and economy, cancels and delays flights and arouses emotions that are counterproductive.



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