It seems all our mighty politicians have been bitten by the “Liberate Kashmir” bug. The latest in this long line of “liberators” is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Addressing a mammoth jalsa of his Party’s jialas at Karachi recently, he forcefully vowed that he would liberate Kashmir, forgetting that soon after his late grandfather Z.A. Bhutto, signed the Simla Accord with the late Indira Gandhi, the Indians declared the Kashmir issue to be a bilateral dispute and stated that the UN Security Council Resolutions of 1948 and ’49 were no longer valid.

Kashmir has had a long and chequered history ever since the British hastily departed from the Indian subcontinent and left us to our own devices. It has suffered mightily at the hands of the Indian occupiers who let loose a long reign of terror to subdue any effort by its inhabitants to throw off the Indian yoke. India today, has some 300,000 troops deployed in Indian held Kashmir (IHK) and has incorporated the State into the Indian Union; Kashmir is now an “uttoot ang” of the Union, as far as India is concerned.

Pakistan and India have fought four wars over Kashmir ever since Partition; in 1947 and ’48, in 1965 when late Ayub Khan was led up the garden path by his Foreign Affairs Minister Z.A. Bhutto, small scale operations in 1971, and a disastrous limited war in Kargil in 1999. The first one ended when the UN brokered a ceasefire and a Cease Fire Line (CFL) came into existence. The 1965 war yielded nothing to either belligerent who, soon after the cessation of hostilities, had to return to their pre-war positions along the CFL. The end of the 1971 war gave rise to the Line Of Actual Control (LOAC) which was essentially the old CFL with some minor adjustments. The Kargil misadventure launched by General Musharraf was an unmitigated disaster despite the heavy price paid by the loss of thousands of young soldiers and officers. The then Prime Minister had to scamper off to Washington DC to beg US President Clinton to broker a cease fire.

The Kashmir dispute has been eloquently narrated by Ms. Mary Aweaver in her book, “Pakistan in the Shadow of Jehad and Afghanistan,” as excerpted below:-

“Pakistan blames India; India blames Pakistan because, it says, the Pakistan Government never withdrew from Azad Kashmir. Islamabad charges that New Delhi, in defiance of the UN, has continued to occupy nearly two thirds of Kashmir. Things became even more contentious in 1972 when two of the world’s most resolute foes signed the Simla Accord, which was interpreted by India as having delinked the Kashmir dispute from the UN, and transformed it into a bilateral matter between the two States. Pakistan has never publicly accepted this assertion.”

Elsewhere she states, “Neither Pakistan nor India could afford to lose Kashmir: it was central to both their identities.”

Those who vow that they will liberate Kashmir are unaware of the ground realities. We have gone to India four times over Kashmir and have failed each time. Now that both countries are nuclear powers; any military misadventure may morph into a nuclear war with the loss of millions of lives. In a conventional war we do not have the numbers to ensure a worthwhile outcome.

As for the UN Security Council Resolutions, they have been in cold storage for decades and will probably continue to remain there. The international community is too busy wooing India as a trading partner and dare not earn India’s ire by stoking the fire over Kashmir.

A few words about the recent exchange of small arms and heavy weapons fire between Pakistani and Indian forces along the Working Boundary. This is nothing new: there have been numerous similar exchanges in the past provoked by either side; only the duration and the intensity has varied before the guns fell silent. There are bound to be similar small arms and heavy weapons duels in the future too.

To conclude, Pakistani and Indian troops will continue to face each other, eyeball to eyeball, along the long LOAC and Working Boundary, from the plains of Punjab to the lofty, snowbound heights of the Karakorums (and the Siachin Glacier), as they have been doing since 1947. Soldiers will continue to die, either due to enemy fire or more likely due to the harsh climate and unforgiving terrain. And Maulana Fazal ur Rahman, like his predecessors and successors, will continue to enjoy the pays and perks that go with his portfolio of Chairman, Kashmir Liberation Committee.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.