President Asif Zardari has assured Barrister Sultan Mahmood that Pakistan would continue to demand solution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and extend the cause its moral, diplomatic and political support. In a meeting at the Presidency on Saturday, Mr Zardari also told him that the government would help Azad Kashmir in the execution of its development works. It is ironic and, of course, highly disturbing that it is only when our leaders happen to meet any of Azad Kashmir’s political personality, or pay a visit there, that Pakistan’s traditional and principled stand on Kashmir comes to their mind. The only exceptions are the annual ritual mention of the issue at the UN General Assembly sessions and the OIC meetings. Somehow, when it should be the most relevant to stress the existence of the dispute and the need for its resolution through a UN-sponsored plebiscite i.e. while interacting with the Indians, it has simply been missing in recent times. The world inevitably gets the impression that the issue has died away with time and Pakistan has reconciled with the forcible occupation of the Valley by New Delhi.

Islamabad has to put an end to this contradictory approach and the Indians have to be told in unambiguous terms that normalisation of relations they so keenly desire could not proceed further till the dispute is out of the way, settled in a just manner. Kashmir is not a mere useless piece of land that it could be abandoned to the mercy of India. If Mr Zardari tells Mr Sultan Mahmood that it constitutes ‘the spinal cord of Pakistan’, the Quaid-i-Azam characterised it as its “jugular vein”, both depicting the reality of the situation. Damage to either can put the very existence of Pakistan at risk. The principle sources of water flowing into Pakistan are located in the part held by India, which is wantonly diverting them to its uses, flouting the World Bank-brokered Indus Waters Treaty that it had signed in settlement of the water dispute with Pakistan. This poses a serious threat to our economy that is based on agriculture and has already turned a fairly vast area into wasteland.

Pakistan has to proactively bring this costly infringement to the notice of the international community as well the background of the issue and the atrocities India’s security forces are committing on the freedom-loving Kashmiris. It should put on hold any further progress towards improving relations with India till there are positive signs of its readiness to find a just solution of the dispute.