Following the killing of young Kashmiri freedom fighter and social media campaigner Burhan Wani last month, a series of unfortunate events in the occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir has considerably attracted the international public attention. These events have once again brought the longstanding issue of Kashmir into limelight. The world has condemned and criticized the excessive and brutal use of force by the Indian security forces that has resulted in the deaths of more than 70 unarmed protesters in the occupied valley. The Indian police have also ruthlessly used the pellet guns only to disperse the protesters, rendering more than 100 Kashmiris blind.

The government of Pakistan has pledged to raise the Kashmir issue on relevant international forums. Surely, the issue of Kashmir needs to be highlighted internationally, enabling the international community to observe the unabated Indian atrocities in the occupied Kashmir. However, at the same time, Pakistan also direly needs to revisit and redevise its so-called Kashmir policy. As a matter of fact, presently there can be observed some fundamental flaws, contradictions and inconsistencies vis-à-vis Pakistan’s current strategy towards resolving one of the most contentious issues in the world. They include Pakistan’s orientation and attitude towards Kashmir, and the very instruments of its strategy to tackle this issue. Unfortunately, besides India’s stubbornness, these shortcomings have become another major hurdle in the way of early resolution of Kashmir dispute.

As Pakistan’s Kashmir bandwagon has stuck in the mud, therefore the act of mere spinning the wheels would get us nowhere. After redefining and redevising its so-called Kashmir cause, Pakistan should now thoughtfully evolve anther pragmatic and effective strategy to achieve this goal, keeping in view the ground realities and hard facts. It is also quite advisable to initiate a healthy and objective debate in the country for this purpose. With similar intention, I hereby have also tried to discuss and analyze this issue to the best of my knowledge and convictions. Many could disagree with me. Nevertheless, I wish my humble but honest attempt may provide some food for thought, or may simply serve as a precursor to such debate on this issue. For I believe, “there are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still”.

Before proposing any strategy or policy for it, let’s first briefly discuss Pakistan’s current policy and posture vis-à-vis Kashmir dispute. Having declared the Kashmir issue ‘an unfinished agenda of partition’, Pakistan has constantly been endeavoring to conclude this agenda in accordance with its self-evolved strategy. Over a period of time, Pakistan has devised a number of coercive as well as pacific instruments to fix the Kashmir dispute. At times, it has tried to extensively employ these instruments, simultaneously and separately, to get the desired objectives. However, Pakistan’s entire Kashmir maneuvering has been a frustrating fiasco at the end of the day.

Soon after independence, some untoward regional developments gave rise to the military component of Pakistan’s three-prong Kashmir strategy. It was essentially based on Pakistan’s over-optimism to ‘liberate’ the state of Jammu and Kashmir through military means i.e. the use of state’s military apparatus to flush Indian security forces out of the occupied valley. In fact, this strategy is as old as the Kashmir dispute itself. In 1947, Pakistan’s armed forces invaded the Kashmir valley as soon as Indian troops entered the state of Jammu and Kashmir to forcibly occupy it after signing a controversial Instrument of Accession with the ‘runway’ Maharaja of Kashmir.

At that juncture, Pakistan was quite justified in invading Kashmir as it could no longer remain a silent spectator to this undesirable development in its neighborhood. The troops of Pakistan Army, while enjoying the support of local inhabitants and gallant tribesmen, succeeded in liberating the territories of present-day AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan. However, Pakistan had to accept a ceasefire when the international community started exerting pressure on Pakistan through the UNSC, pledging to pacifically resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with aspirations of Kashmiri people.

Pakistan’s tendency towards resolving Kashmir dispute through military means was best observed during the period between 1947 and 1965. It was also the period during which the UNSC passed many resolutions acknowledging Kashmiris’ right to determine their political future. In fact, the military components of Pakistan’s Kashmir strategy have lost its significance and relevance since the conclusion of Fist Kashmir War in January 1949. This war provided the only opportunity to Pakistan to liberate the occupied territory from the Indian clutches. After this war, not only did India militarily consolidate its position in held Kashmir, but also the world communities somehow acknowledged the Indian de facto hold on Kashmir, considerably minimizing the scope of any future military intervention in the Indian-held Kashmir. Now the nuclearization of South Asia has almost diminished the prospects of any kind of military maneuvering there.

For a long time, a section of Pakistan’s military has been obsessed with the idea of liberating the Indian-held Kashmir through military muscles. There have also been a number of overambitious military commanders in Pakistan who have unrealistically tried this strategy too. The 1965 Operation Gibraltar and Operation Grand Slam and 1999 Kargil Operation are the glaring examples of this phenomenon. Instead of helping liberate the held Kashmir, Pakistan’s ill-conceived military plans sparked a full scale war between the two arch foes, resulting in making India more hostile towards Pakistan, and more sensitive towards the held Kashmir. The 2014 Russia’s annexation of Crimea has shown that nowadays only a mighty world power can think of annexing any foreign territory through military strength. Obviously Pakistan is not as stronger as the Russia. Nor is India as weaker as the Ukraine.

Pakistan is also blamed for using the non-state actors as an instrument of its Kashmir strategy. In the late 1980’s, an indigenous armed insurgency sparked in the Indian-held Kashmir. By that time, Afghan Jihad had also been successfully concluded. Thus Pakistan found another opportunity of engaging the victorious Mujahedeen of Afghan Jihad in the newly-launched ‘Kashmir Jihad’. Naturally the Kashmir Intifada was intensified by the participation of these Mujahedeen. Later, the 9/11 incident altogether transformed the underlying dynamics of the freedom movements throughout the world, including the Kashmir. The freedom fighters were readily labelled as terrorists. Later, the so-called Doval Doctrine played a pivotal role in shifting the epicenter of insurgency from the Indian-held Kashmir to Pakistan after ‘hiring’ various militant groups. Thus the ‘strategic assets’ of Pakistan eventually became its cumbersome liability.

Besides the aforementioned two coercive components of Pakistan’s Kashmir strategy, there is another pacific component- the Pak-India dialogue process. Since inking the Simla Agreement in 1972, Pakistan and India have been trying to settle longstanding disputes, including the Kashmir issue, through dialogue. In fact, India has treacherously persuaded Pakistan into this open-ended dialogue process just to dilute their bilateral tension over this issue, besides hoodwinking the international community. Now, having set a number of unreasonable preconditions for it, India has eventually suspended this dialogue process. Besides this, India is also quite reluctant to include the Kashmir issue in the dialogue agenda.

The so-called bilateralism has severely damaged the international character of the Kashmir issue. It has reduced this issue to a territorial dispute between two antagonist states. Therefore, the unrealistic strategies adopted by Pakistan in the name of its ‘Kashmir cause’ have significantly complicated the Kashmir issue. Observably Pakistan’s Kashmir policy has been quite counter-productive. It has somehow helped India perpetuate its illegal occupation on the Kashmir valley. It has just added to the miseries of the hapless and long-persecuted people of Kashmir. After a long bloody freedom struggle, presently the Kashmiris find themselves just in the middle of nowhere. Thus this policy has virtually brought them into a blind alley.

(To be continued)