At the corps commander meeting held yesterday, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif stated that the international community must help in resolving the Kashmir dispute, and Pakistan should raise this issue in all world forums. This statement from the army chief comes amidst a new wave of violence in Kashmir in which around 35 people have been killed and more than 1,300 hundred injured, with many people having suffered eye injuries because of pellet guns used by the security forces. The brazen use of force by Indian authorities has even resulted in the deaths of some civilians who were inside their homes, falling victim to stray bullets of Indian security forces. In light of these excesses of the Indian forces it is pertinent to highlight the issue at international forums, and General Sharif is correct in pointing it out. However, there exists a vacuum in Pakistan’s foreign policy, and a substantial effort is required to fill this vacuum by the civilian government so that the pressing challenges of today can be adequately dealt with. Most notably, Pakistan needs a full-time foreign minister to articulate its demands and policies, and strive for them at the international stage.
Kashmir for Pakistan has historically been a region whose plight has resonated with millions in the country. The issue of Kashmir for most Pakistanis is a story of subjugation of innocent Kashmiris by Indian authorities, and the region’s rightful place considered to be with Pakistan. Admittedly, however, Pakistan’s policy towards Kashmir in the past has been counterproductive, and has, in fact, greatly delegitimised the indigenous movement for freedom in Kashmir. Support for jihadist outfits in Kashmir by Pakistan has not only given India an excuse to deem all insurgencies in Kashmir to be the work of Pakistan, but in the eyes of the world, it has also made Pakistan appear as a state that backs insurgent groups. Consequently, Pakistan’s image has been tarnished through this policy, and most of its appeals now largely fall on deaf ears.
The way forward for Pakistan is to make it clear to the world that it has completely disengaged itself from the use of proxies and support for militant groups in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. As Pakistan is itself plagued with the menace of terrorism and the people of Pakistan have suffered tremendously from it, there should not be any reason to believe that Pakistan’s military operation against these terrorists is not accompanied with the abandoning of the past policy of proxy warfare. However, this does not mean that Pakistan should forsake Kashmir. On the contrary, it should highlight the excesses of the Indian army in Kashmir, and provide all the moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people so that their demand for self-determination is able to bear fruit.
It must not be forgotten that in Kashmir there actually is a great deal of resentment towards their heavy-handed treatment by India. The system of oppression in Kashmir that masquerades as democracy has radicalised the Kashmiri youth, and these protests and spates of violence are testament to their being indigenous. After all, it would be absurd to believe that Pakistan can create such a widespread movement in Kashmir. And as India continually masks over the violence in Kashmir, it is the moral responsibility of the international community to pressurise India into mending its ways and bring the issue of Kashmir to the forefront. *
(editorial-Daily Times-July 15, 2016)