Pakistan certainly deserves appreciation for its unstinted support to the Kashmir cause and the separatist leaders have done well by conveying the same on the occasion of ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’. However, it seems that while doing so they apparently got so carried away that some of them said certain things which could prove counterproductive and actually help New Delhi’s case on Kashmir.
Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani has thanked the government and people of Pakistan and its army for their “political, moral and unflinching support to the people of J&K.” While expressing gratitude to the government and people of Pakistan is understandable, extending the same to Pakistan army raises questions. In democracies, armies function under the government and are never considered to be independent identities. Therefore, once Geelani sahib expressed gratitude to the government of Pakistan, to mention the Pakistan army as a benefactor is superfluous. Moreover, how is the Pakistan army which only has military power at its disposal providing “political and moral support” to the Kashmir cause?
It may be argued that by resurrecting the “jugular vein” slogan former Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif has given a boost to the ongoing movement for the ‘right to self determination’ in Kashmir. However, it needs to be understood that though this slogan arouses strong emotions, it is an idea which presupposes Kashmir being a part of Pakistan and this is not what the fundamental issue of ‘self determination’ is all about. In fact, by making such statements the Pakistan army is putting the cart before the horse and these could be used by New Delhi to buttress its allegation that the Pakistan army is sponsoring ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. This is certainly not good for the indigenous image of the ‘self determination’ movement!
Moreover, when the Government of Pakistan has already declared its unstinted support for the ‘right to self determination’ in Kashmir, for the army to issue politically charged statements of similar intent but with menacing undertones like Kashmir being an “unfinished agenda” of Partition is liable to convey the impression of a jingoistic approach to this issue. This becomes all the more worrying as government of Pakistan has declared that it is seeking a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. So, with its past history of attempting to seek a military solution to the Kashmir issue, I leave it to the reader to decide whether Pakistan army’s statements on Kashmir help or harm the Kashmir cause.
When the Government of Pakistan has already declared its unstinted support for the ‘right to self determination’ in Kashmir, for the army to issue politically charged statements of similar intent but with menacing undertones like Kashmir being an “unfinished agenda” of Partition is liable to convey the impression of a jingoistic approach to this issue. This becomes all the more worrying as government of Pakistan has declared that it is seeking a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. So, with its past history of attempting to seek a military solution to the Kashmir issue, I leave it to the reader to decide whether Pakistan army’s statements on Kashmir help or harm the Kashmir cause.
While thanking Pakistan, Geelani sahib has said that “Pakistan is the only country that acknowledges our right to self determination and extends its persistent support.” While this is certainly a big compliment, but it is also an admission that despite all its efforts, Islamabad has failed to garner support of the international community on the Kashmir issue. And besides being a sad commentary on the near seven decade old diplomatic Kashmir offensive undertaken by Islamabad, it also raises questions on the efficacy of our leaders’ decision to place all eggs in Pakistan’s basket.
Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has expressed gratitude for Islamabad’s support but while doing so he has also mentioned something that could send out very wrong signals. In his statement the Mirwaiz has said, “we appreciate the government of Pakistan and its leadership who for the past seven decades, despite difficult and testing times for the country itself, have always extended all possible support to our political movement for the resolution of Kashmir issue in accordance with our aspirations and to end uncertainty and discord in the region.” Two issues in what the Mirwaiz has said merit attention.
The first is his mentioning that Islamabad has continued supporting the Kashmir cause “despite difficult and testing times for the country itself.” Irrespective whether it was a democratically elected government or a military man running the country, Pakistan’s stand on the Kashmir issue has always been remarkably consistent. So, the question that arises is what were these “difficult and testing times” for Islamabad? New Delhi can always interpret this as a reference to situations when Islamabad faced sanctions for not taking action against Pakistan based militant groups fighting in Kashmir and could revive the ‘keeping snakes in the backyard’ debate.
The next point is the observation made by the Hurrriyat (M) chairman that Pakistan has “always extended all possible support to our political movement for the resolution of Kashmir issue in accordance with our aspirations.” While the Mirwaiz may have said this just in order to further qualify his appreciation, his statement contradicts Pakistan’s official position on Kashmir. Though Islamabad recognises the Hurriyat as the ‘true representatives’ of the Kashmiris, it has never demanded (in words of the Mirwaiz), “resolution of Kashmir issue in accordance with our (Hurriyat’s) aspirations.”
Here again it could be argued that when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has gone on record to say that “we are waiting for the day Kashmir becomes (part of) Pakistan,” what is wrong with the Mirwaiz expressing the same sentiment? However, what needs to be remembered that Sharif had made this statement in an internal context during a public gathering after his party PML-N swept the 2016 elections in Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK). Officially, Islamabad seeks implementation of UN resolutions on Kashmir and the Mirwaiz’s claim that Pakistan has “played a leading role in helping Kashmir’s resistance movement by providing every possible political and diplomatic support,” only gives New Delhi more ammunition to project the Hurriyat as Pakistan’s ‘proxy’ in Kashmir.
A humble request to our leaders - Pakistan undoubtedly deserves lavish praise and appreciation for its stand on the Kashmir issue. However, while doing so due care must be taken to ensure that what is said by way of gratitude unwittingly doesn’t harm the ongoing movement for the ‘right to self determination’ or embarrass Islamabad and the Pakistan army. It must not be forgotten that while the international community may not appear interested as far as resolving the Kashmir imbroglio is concerned, it is nevertheless carefully analysing each statement concerning it that comes out from Kashmir, New Delhi and Islamabad.
Many believe that besides wit, brevity is also ‘the soul of diplomacy’ and our leaders could learn some lessons on the virtues of this modern day idiom from New Delhi.