For as long as I can recall I have always heard Pakistan repeating the same old argument on the Kashmir issue year after year at the annual UN General Assembly meet. And ever since the Hurriyat came into existence I have seen this separatist conglomerate just looking for an excuse to call for a hartal and thereafter invariably keep extending its duration by issuing fresh ‘protest calendars’ without assigning any reasons. Since the arguments on Kashmir proffered by Islamabad and the Hurriyat’s hartal strategy hasn’t been able to mobilise international opinion on the issue of ‘self determination’, one would have expected them to dump their fruitless approach and instead come out with something that is more effective.
Yet this has not happened and both Islamabad and the Hurriyat continue to obdurately defend their ineffectual methods of drawing attention of the international community on the Kashmir issue and I for one just couldn’t comprehend their inexplicable behaviour. Luckily, a quote of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche that read, “Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal” came to my rescue and helped me understand why Islamabad and the Hurriyat are unwilling to rethink their Kashmir strategy. Another possible reason is that rather than having the humility in admitting that their current strategy has proved unsuccessful and introspect on why their strategies are not yielding positive results, Islamabad and the Hurriyat simply blame the UN and international community for lack of any progress regarding resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Both Islamabad and the Hurriyat continue to obdurately defend their ineffectual methods of drawing attention of the international community on the Kashmir issue and I for one just couldn’t comprehend their inexplicable behaviour. Luckily, a quote of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche that read, “Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal” came to my rescue and helped me understand why Islamabad and the Hurriyat are unwilling to rethink their Kashmir strategy.
The Hurriyat may be greatly indebted to Islamabad for raising the Kashmir issue at various international forums but what is the use of this when all its talk about India being in “illegal occupation” of Kashmir and resorting to “state terrorism” to suppress its people falls on deaf ears? Of what avail is Islamabad’s repeated demand for implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir when the UN has officially declared Kashmir a “bilateral issue” between India and Pakistan? What is the point of Islamabad recognising the separatists as “true leaders” of the Kashmiris when an overwhelming majority of the international community doesn’t share this view? These are some serious questions that need to be answered because merely championing the Kashmir cause or making frequent promises of solidarity mean nothing when the Kashmir issue has remained unaddressed for nearly seven decades!
Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani may have expressed surprise when he learnt that Kashmir was not mentioned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in his UNGA address. However, it was expected all along that this would happen as there has been no change in the UN’s stand that being a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan it will not intervene unless both New Delhi and Islamabad request for the same. And here is the catch - while Islamabad may be demanding UN intervention, New Delhi on its part is absolutely clear that the UN has no role to play as far as resolving the Kashmir issue is concerned and so even when the UN Secretary General offers mediation it is just (in Geelani sahib’s words) “lip service”.
Another major reason why Islamabad has not been able to influence or convince the international community on the Kashmir issue is because of its continuing support to terror groups due to which it cannot exercise assertiveness within the comity of nations. To add to its woes an overwhelming majority of nations hold Pakistan directly responsible for the spate of terror attacks in India and after the Uri incident, global opinion has definitely turned against Islamabad. This is evident from the global reaction to New Delhi’s announcement that it had carried out surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC). One would have expected the international community to immediately put India in the dock for its provocative act of aggression but no country has come out to admonish New Delhi. This is only because New Delhi has been clever enough to clarify that its military action was specifically and only directed against terrorists who were waiting to cross over the LoC for carrying out acts of terror on Indian soil.
A few days ago, New Delhi announced its decision to pull out of the forthcoming SAARC summit and in an obvious reference to Pakistan said “increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in the region and growing interference in the internal affairs of member States by one country have created an environment that is not conducive to the successful holding of the 19th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in November 2016.” Within no time Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Nepal also decided to pull out and all of them either directly or indirectly blamed Islamabad for creating an atmosphere that was not conducive for this summit. Though it is playing down this episode, Islamabad’s near complete diplomatic isolation among SAARC countries proves that by refusing to end its support to terror groups Pakistan is diplomatically becoming a pariah in the neighbourhood and this does not bode well for the Kashmir struggle.
It is thus absolutely clear that what Islamabad and the Hurriyat leadership terms as ‘legitimate armed struggle’ in Kashmir is viewed as terrorism by the international community. When a fundamental contradiction in perception on such a serious issue exists then isn’t there an urgent requirement for both Islamabad and the Hurriyat to introspect on this matter because of which the international community is distancing itself from the Kashmir issue? Isn’t there a need for Islamabad to also crack down on terror groups based in Pakistan which by indulging in reckless acts of terror like the Uri attack are attracting adverse international opinion and hurting the Kashmir cause? In case Islamabad wants its voice on Kashmir to be heard by the international community then the bottom line is that it has to completely abandon its belief in the ‘good terrorists’ theory.
Similarly, the Hurriyat too needs to rethink its hartal strategy as this hasn’t materially helped the movement for the ‘right to self determination’ in any way. Hartals invariably result in clashes causing civilian casualties and thus there should be some very compelling reasons for continuously programming protests by extending hartal calls. The aim of protests should be to draw attention of all concerned towards specific grievances and must not keep lingering on. When this happens, the international community gradually loses interest in it as no country has the patience to continuously monitor an agitation that lingers on indefinitely without any purpose. Moreover, since the public is greatly inconvenienced due to hartals frequently prolonging its duration also conveys an impression the democratic right of expressing dissent or airing grievances through mass agitation is being misused by its the organisers for furthering some other agenda.
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