For the last 28 years, the Kashmir Day is being observed to convey to the Kashmiris living in India that they are not alone in their fight for freedom. There will be speeches today, processions will be taken out, a human chain will be formed, prayers will be held, and a new resolve to solve the Kashmir issue will be revoked. A message will be sent across the globe that the movement to free Kashmir from Indian atrocities is alive. Will this voice be heard in the corridors of international powers, is a million dollar question. Apparently, it looks as if the issue of Kashmir has moved from being a reality to becoming myth. What have we achieved in the last 28 years since Nawaz Sharif, as the Chief Minister Punjab, called for a nationwide protest on February 5, 1990, to show solidarity with the Kashmiris? Does an ordinary Pakistani who is given a day off from work, (the PPP government declared the Kashmir Day a public holiday in 1991), is also concerned with Kashmir issue or has it become a policy issue only? On this Kashmir Day, we may reassess our policy on Kashmir.
Pakistan and India have fought three full and one half-baked war on Kashmir. Until the half-baked war, the Kargil fiasco as it would be recorded in a fair account of history, India had a hard time justifying its atrocious and blatant position in Kashmir, especially in the face of 700,000 soldiers and some draconian laws that have made Kashmir a garrison state. It was after the Kargil that Pakistan’s involvement in the Kashmir affair was seen hostile and aligned with the Indian claim that Pakistan had been stoking insurgency in Kashmir. Instead of internationalising the Kashmir issue, as Musharraf later described the reason behind starting the Kargil conflict, the war affected Pakistan’s credibility as a responsible nation. When infiltrators were taking positions on Kargil, Pakistan, and India were entering into yet another peace process using the Bus Diplomacy. Another price that Pakistan paid for this ill-thought-out adventure was a shift in US policy against Pakistan. In the instructions by the Whitehouse, that Pakistan withdraws its troops from the Kargil, was a message that India and the US were now on the same page, vis-à-vis Kashmir. Though Musharraf, wearing the democratic hat, as the president of Pakistan, tried to work out a solution to the Kashmir issue, but the hawks in both India and Pakistan were loath to see the hot seat, that had kept them relevant, getting cold. The irony is that with the rise of electronic media, the issue of Kashmir, instead of seeing a robust revival has been restricted to reporting firing and casualties on the Line of Control (LoC). The most that the ISPR, the media wing of the armed forces, can do is ask the television channels to do programs on LoC, showing how valiantly our soldiers are defending the Pakistani held Kashmir and consequently the rest of Pakistan. Two army divisions comprising 45,000 soldiers are deployed to man LoC. Other operational resources are in addition to this manpower. But how does showing soldiers manning LoC keeps the Kashmir issue alive is incomprehensible.
The national TV, spinning around domestic politics and starved of international news, has very little to even talk about the efforts made by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Cell operating in Muzaffarabad at AJK. The officers at the liberation cell even blame the armed forces for keeping the Kashmir cause alive at the LoC level or to a few activities such as the Kashmir Day.
One of the wrong approaches to solve the Kashmir cause was to use the Jihad ideology, to reinforce the Muslim majority narrative for the amalgamation of Indian Held Kashmir with Pakistan. In times, with Jihad morphing into terrorism, the Pakistan’s narrative on Kashmir fell apart. Today, any insurgency in Kashmir is termed as terrorism supported by Pakistan. It has been India’s success and Pakistan’s failure at the foreign policy front. With India and Afghanistan on the right and left of the US, the advocacy to reinforce Pakistan as an unreliable and hostile nation is gaining traction. Having spent years in the Afghan war, besides providing thousands of its refuges a safe stay, that entire country today holds Pakistan responsible for its present crisis. Scapegoating Pakistan has been so easy. Being a dependent economy how much leverage do we have in reminding the US that the recurring terrorism in Afghanistan is because of US policy failure? Though CPEC has given Pakistan a boost in foreign investment, will it also change the history, because China does not come to the rescue of its friends through the bail out packages? In the fiscal year, 2018 Pakistan would need $ 31 billion to meet its gross external financing needs. It might be a matter of great comfort that Pakistan has one of the most exceptional nuclear arsenal and highly motivated armed forces, making India think hundred times before making any attempt at war, but does this make us any better as a country that the international world would be proud of making economic ties with. How many more years can we survive on the geo-strategic position syndrome?
The solution to Kashmir would eventually be found in Kashmir. Neither Pakistan will be willing to give up its part nor India would relinquish the side of Kashmir under its control. The only way out would be giving the people of both Kashmir[s] the sovereign right to decide their fate. Otherwise, Kashmir is not an issue either for an ordinary Pakistani or the international world that has been for years seeing human rights atrocities there without qualms. So far our approach towards Kashmir is simply moving it away from a reality to a myth.