The voices of emancipation and freedom of Kashmiris from the empires of Indian mainland, have been echoing in the valleys of Kashmir, even before the era of Habba Khatoon and her enchanting poetry. Kashmir; maintaining its position as the jewel of the subcontinent, through the dynasties of Shah Mir, Mughals, Durranis and finally the Sikhs, preserved its cultural integrity and uniqueness. Sadly this jewel; ever since the advent of modern weaponry and the rhetoric of state-centered staunch realism, has turned into a 21st century nuclear flashpoint. 

The global notions of expansionism and power maximisation have transformed this two lac square kilometers area into a political and military stalemate where three major powers of the world are engaged in conflict. From the illegitimate violations of the Line of Control (LoC) to the military incursions by China in Aksai Chin and the irreprehensible excessive use of force by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the valley, Kashmiris are ever fearful and insecure even in their own beloved homeland.

The common Kashmiri boy, who sells kulchas in his small shop to make his living, is full of vigour and zest to stand up against the barrage of pellet guns and tear gas shells just to make his demand for freedom heard in the highest echelons of international decision making. Unaware of the sorry fact that hegemons of the world are inconsiderate of their blood and busy painting rosy images of the harsh realities of this world in verbose Security Council resolutions, which find no standing ground or materialization in the realpolitik of this diplomatic realm. Such a resolution was passed by the UN to pacify the conflict between India and Pakistan, suggesting a withdrawal of forces from the region followed by a plebiscite, without giving due regard to the level of mutual trust deficit that existed between the two countries after fighting a major war.

This insecurity and lack of trust has subsisted from the day of independence to this very day after 70 years, shaping agendas and policies of both the major stakeholders. Over the years, foreign policies of both India and Pakistan under various types of military, conservative and even liberal governments have been unable to decide an amicable solution for Kashmir. A look into the external policies of both the states in the past, reveals an inherent unwillingness by the Indian side to change the status quo of the Kashmiri people for the better, rather strangling the population with a more and more restrictive and authoritarian internal Kashmir policy.

Whereas as in comparison, the Pakistani side has been forthcoming in seeking any plausible and appropriate solution for the Kashmiri people, ranging from bi-lateral to multilateral forums, this fact is substantiated by the insistence of Pakistan to have bi-lateral talks the previous year on Kashmir, that met a blatant refusal by Indian counterparts to engage in any kind of talks, as former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief A S Daulat in his recent interview to The Indian Express said, “I have never understood, why is India afraid to talk about Kashmir with Pakistan?...I am sorry to say but it’s easier to talk to Pakistan than to Kashmiris.”

The Indian foreign policy with regards to Kashmir has followed a non-linear path of trends, with certain governments being very open in regard to negotiation with Pakistanis, achieving some progress like the opening of cross LoC trade with India and the initiation of Muzaffarabad-Srinagar and Rawalakot-Poonch bus services. These along with the visits of certain Huriyat leaders in Azad Jammu and Kashmir reflect the positive trend that was observed in this overall hap hazardous relationship. With the negative trend constituting the current Modi era in which the intra-relations between the Indian Government and the Jammu and Kashmir government as well as the international relations between India and Pakistan in regards with Kashmir, are at their all-time low. The worst spike of this whole scenario was witnessed soon after the extra judicial killing of Burhan Wani, which led to wide spread agitation and protests all across Kashmir, as tensions between the government quarters running so high due to this indigenous mobilisation that even the Indian army with over six lac active duty personnel in the region, had to resort to tying up a Kashmiri boy in front of their armored vehicle just to save themselves from young stone pelters, protesting against this state sponsored aggression.

The current situation in Kashmir has come to the brink of a muffled civil disobedience, quoting the former RAW chief, “They are no longer hiding. School girls and women are coming out to throw stones. The Kashmir situation has never been so bad.” Indian government is following an American foreign policy doctrine of avoiding international meddling in case of domestic unruliness, by not engaging in talks on Kashmir while the internal condition there is hanging by the thread. The current position of Jammu and Kashmir has come to a point where the Indian government has had to appoint a former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief of Kashmiri origin, Dineshwar Sharma as interlocutor for talks between the Indian government and the Kashmiri people, this shows the despair of the government that is hopelessly trying to quell the Kashmiri furor against the usurpation of their fundamental human rights.

In Pakistan however, the overall strategy of dealing with India in terms of Kashmir has changed quite a lot since the days of Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the myth that Kashmir can be liberated by sole military might and armed support of the Kashmiri people has been repudiated. This belief has however, changed considerably since the inception of the global war on terror, in which Pakistan has been on the forefront with over 30,000 lives sacrificed for this very cause. The idea of using or facilitating non-state actors especially to sponsor the freedom struggle of Kashmiris has long eroded and almost ceased to exist in the prevailing security situation, as Senator Mushahid Ullah said in a meeting with US senators that, “There is no role for militancy in policy- making and non-state actors cannot be allowed to operate from the Pakistani territory.” A new initiative to deal with the Kashmir scenario had been devised, implemented extensively by the previous government, extenuated by the current government, which ascertains and recognises the fact that the solution for Kashmir can only be sought in diplomatic and internationally recogniSed forums of arbitration. Serious effort in this regard has been seen in the recent past with Pakistan speaking and demanding serious attention on numerous international forums for the Kashmiri cause, including the United Nations General Assembly and SAARC, SCO as well as NAM summits.

However, even after all these endeavors a possibly amicable solution for Kashmir is nowhere to be seen on the horizon. The Kashmiri people are suffering like never before at the hands of rogue state machinery, given utmost arbitrary legal backing for this excessive use of power and aggression, through illegal injunctions like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). While completely ignoring the demands and rights of people and undermining the puppet government of CM Mehbooba Mufti that has no real control whatsoever in J&K.

The way forward for Pakistan at this point in time would be to allocate more manpower and resources to enhance its diplomatic efforts in international arena, through a tailored and comprehensive Kashmir policy keeping in consideration all tangible and non-tangible stakeholders and factors. This can only be done by gaining the complete trust of the indigenous Kashmiri political parties like the Muslim Conference (MC) and the All Parties Huriyat Conference (APHC) moreover, taking on board the general Kashmiri population by increasing their representation in foreign delegations and establishing specialised committees of Kashmiri youth that can help in disseminating firsthand information about their movement to the international community.

Pakistan and India both have to accept and recognise that negotiations and a bi-lateral solution is the only effective and sustainable remedy to this foreign policy quagmire that has strained the relations of both the countries and pushed them into war time and again, resulting in loss of lives and significant economic blowbacks. Avoiding talks and boasting national pride with delusions of sheer military strength and numbers will not get India or Pakistan anywhere. The precondition so that both the countries can even dream of becoming stable economic and political powers in the global front, is to first become stable at home, and that is impossible without ameliorating the contemporary public and political atmosphere of Kashmir. Chanting the slogans of Akhand Bharat and Kashmir as the Jugular Vein of Pakistan are good for political rallies and for gathering popular opinion, but at the negotiating table these hysterical rhetoric have to be brushed aside and the greater national and public interests have to speak with utter cold-hearted rationality.