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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Pakistan’s Kashmir policy and the way forward

Our Kashmir policy, which is closely related to our India policy, cannot be considered a success. In every way, our position on Kashmir vis-à-vis India is worse than what it was in the early stages of Pakistan’s history. In the 1940s and 1950s, we could get the UN Security Council to pass resolutions on Kashmir to our satisfaction.

After this foray into history, let’s step into the present for a moment. The Kashmir issue remains unsolved after 75 years. Indian visceral hatred of Pakistan, its tyranny in IOK, and its determination to dominate the whole sub-continent with an eye on the eventual destination of “Akhand Bharat” have remained constant in these 75 years. Much else has changed in these years though. India has greatly increased its military power as compared to Pakistan.

Pakistan got vivisected in 1971, and India went through a paradigm economic shift in the 1990s and became an economy about 11 times the size of Pakistan. It also voided Article 370/ Article 35-A and seems poised to bring demographic change in Kashmir on the Israeli model. India seems bent on taking the fascist route to glory via the Hindutva highway which is turning into mortal danger for the whole region.

Read more: How the voting rights granted to non-Kashmiris reinforce the Hindutva agenda

In these tumultuous times, what should we do about Kashmir?

Should we just show pragmatism and accept that we can’t force India on Kashmir and back off? It has been argued that all our struggle for Kashmir has largely been fruitless with India firmly in possession of the IOK since 1971. So, now when India seems to be on the ascendant, we should just ditch the Kashmir baggage, limit ourselves to lip service in order to soothe the public, and just focus on Pakistan alone. Let’s think “geo-economically”, and embrace “Sab se pehle Pakistan” and forget Kashmir”.

First, let’s ask some more questions to examine the context. Why does Pakistan back the freedom struggle in IOK? Is it just because we have expansionist ambitions? Let’s remember what is Pakistan and why it was made. Pakistan was supposed to be a homeland for Muslims of the sub-continent so that they could escape Hindu domination and build a model Islamic welfare state in peace. India on the other hand never wanted Pakistan from day one because of fear.

The fear of an Islamic country on the Western border might start churning out Ghaznavids and Ghauris. The hope of an Akhand Bharat stretching from Kabul to Rangoon. So, would India just “back off” after we say, “Please keep Kashmir, and let us build our country via geo-economics!”. Such behavior would only confirm India’s assessment of Pakistan as a weak enemy ripe for destruction. After all, we did try to say these things at Simla in 1972. The Indian response came in the form of nuclear tests and the Indira-Sheikh accords (a clear violation of the Simla agreement by unilaterally trying to change the status of Kashmir).

Why don’t we stop living in a fool’s paradise, and accept the fact that by creating Pakistan in 1947, we entered into a cosmic conflict with the modern state of India?

Read more: How Kashmir remains a pawn for the BJP’s political engineering?

So, even if we disown Kashmir our security and strategic position wouldn’t improve at all. But we will lose heavily on the moral front. If I dare paraphrase Sun Tzu, our “moral law” will take a mortal blow. We will add another nail into the coffin of Pakistan’s ideology. We will tell the whole world and our own people that we are a country with no purpose, no ideology, no past, and no future. We will firmly attach the labels of unreliable, selfish, indolent, morally bankrupt, short-sighted opportunist, and defeatist to our foreheads. So, abandoning Kashmir will be a step toward national suicide. We shouldn’t forget that nations aren’t composed of lands, gold and weapons rather they are forged by ideas and people who believe in those ideas. Destroying the idea is synonymous with destroying the nation.

“Subservience to spontaneity must be shunned so that success can be secured in stellar schemes.”


Now that we have resolved that we can’t abandon Kashmir, we need to recognize the fact that apart from lip service, all our efforts regarding Kashmir have been half-hearted or spasmodic at best. Our slavish mentality has mostly led us to believe that “somebody else” be it the UN, Kennedy, Clinton, or Bush will solve the Kashmir issue for us. Now another dangerous trend is developing in which some people are hoping China will be the grand liberator. We need to bury this “waiting for a savior” complex forever. It only leads to disappointment, and it slackens our own will to make an effort. This “waiting for a savior” complex is nothing more than an overt manifestation of our covert inferiority complex and a lack of self-belief.

As far as our own efforts are concerned, they have been lacking careful and long-term planning, an unshakeable resolve, confidence blended with diligence, and a willingness to explore uncharted territory and accept unprecedented losses in service of the cause. That is why, in Lenin’s words, a “subservience to spontaneity” has been seen wherein we suddenly embark on lofty adventures in the heat of the moment. These “spasms” resulted in debacles like Gibraltar and Kargil (which were preceded by years of slovenly inactivity). We need a cool, calculated, sustainable approach to succeed in stellar schemes like IOK’s liberation.

We can learn from the Vietnamese in this regard

Vietnamese planned for years, then they fought a guerilla war for years, then they fought a combined guerilla-conventional conflict with the USA for years. They saw their cities getting leveled. They received more bombs than all the nations in WW2 combined. But they didn’t slacken. They did not falter. Their will was augmented with each blow. They even turned setbacks like the Tet Offensive of 1968 into a victory. They fought an unrestricted total war in which the whole nation was mobilized in fighting all kinds of war ranging from air combat to information warfare.

Read more: BJP forcing Indians and Kashmiris to buy flag

The death of Ho Chi Minh couldn’t stop them. The escalation by Lyndon Johnson couldn’t deter them. The massive aerial bombings of Nixon couldn’t budge them. Foes like Kissinger and patrons like Mao Zedong couldn’t convince them to let go of their dream of a united Vietnam. Such willpower and dedication were bound to be rewarded, and they were. But the proponents of “geo-economics” may have argued after the unification of Vietnam in 1975 that what good it was to unify a country that was ruined and desolate throughout its length and breadth? What good is “freedom” when you are one of the poorest nations in the world when your fields are barren due to agent orange when your industrial cities are naught but smoking bombed-out ruins?

The answer is: “It’s the spirit that matters, not the material you unimaginative slavish imbeciles!” Material prosperity, without a sustainable basis, is always transient but the spirit and resilience learned and internalized by a whole nation could always be channeled from war-making into national development after the advent of peace. After all, a soldier who diligently spent months inside a trench could be expected to work diligently for eight hours daily inside a factory as well. A doctor treating war wounded sixteen hours a day could be expected to treat malaria patients as well.

A political leader living and working in a hut for months could be expected to austerely serve the nation. So, the Vietnamese started getting up slowly at first but quickened their pace with each passing year. In 1965, Pakistan was way ahead of Vietnam in all social and economic indicators. Today, we remain slaves to would-be saviors, and Kashmir remains shackled by India. But Saigon is now Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam is ahead of Pakistan by a margin in all those indicators. Vietnam did way better than us in “geo-economics” because:

“Not gold, but only men can make a people great and strong,

Men who for truth and honor’s sake, stand fast and suffer long.”

The way forward for Pakistan is clear

We can keep cloaking defeatism, indolence, and inferiority complex under terms like “geo-economics” but we can’t hide from the fact that our ever-malevolent enemy is hell-bent on gobbling us up starting from Kashmir. There is only one path if we are to give our nation a chance of survival, and that path is of “Blood and Iron” with blood representing both the sacrifices to be made (bloodshed), and the vitality of our youthful population embarking zealously on the path charted by Iqbal (flowing blood), and iron representing both the abstract (iron will) and the material (industry and economic self-reliance).

Read more: 1965 Kashmir War: The Political Dimension

First, we need to declare the liberation of Kashmir as a non-negotiable national goal. An apt response to India’s abrogation of Articles 370/35-A in August 2019 would have been a bipartisan constitutional amendment that would include our commitment to Kashmir’s liberation in the constitution. This should be done as a symbolic step. Then, more importantly, we need to direct all our energies in the fields of military, economy, education, science, technology, information, etc towards this national goal tirelessly. No amount of international arm-twisting, economic privation, or war-mongering by Indians and their allies should be able to dissuade us.

The Kashmir cause should be used to instill a revolutionary “Iqbalistic” fervor in our nation. Planning should be done for all contingencies including diplomatic maneuvers, the building of economic resilience without foreign aid, technological revolution, and military planning for both conventional and unconventional activities regarding Kashmir and India. It needs to be ensured that the road maps developed through this plan would be kept outside the realm of political point-scoring and that the change of government wouldn’t hinder the progress prescribed by these road maps. After thorough planning, practical activities should be started and incrementally but relentlessly increased.

Initially, more focus should be on readying the Pakistani and Kashmiri people for a struggle that might last continuously for decades. This would be the pivotal step and could only be completed successfully through revolutionary efforts in the field of education which must include ideological training as well as military training for a large proportion of the youth. India is seven times more populous, and it can never be subdued by a conventional army alone which shares most of its heritage and values with the Indian army through the common lineage of the British Indian army.

A new national army, divorced from the colonial past and rooted in the people and Pakistan’s ideology is the only fitting answer to India’s military might. The Vietnamese won their war through the “People’s war” against the global superpower USA. We can surely best India (a second-rate power internationally) if we apply the People’s war methods over several years in Kashmir.

Read more: Demographic and Political Engineering of Kashmir

But, this must be kept in mind that there would be no going back

Fear is the toughest opponent to be conquered here, and we can only defeat it if we internalize the truth that sooner or later, for better or for ill, we will share the fate of Kashmiris, be it liberation and honor, or slavery and humiliation.

In this game of relentless struggles there can’t be any retreats like Gibraltar 65, there can’t be any surrenders like Dhaka 71, and there can’t be any fiascos like Kargil 99. Either we will face defeat with honor like Tipu Sultan at Sarangapatam or we will triumph like Ghauri at Tara’s. This is a road that will undoubtedly be tough, but rest assured, slavery will be much more painful and demeaning in the long run.

Beggary always precedes slavery.

Cowardice always precedes defeat.

Faithlessness always precedes treachery.

Self-belief always precedes independence.

Persistence always precedes invincibility.

Patience always precedes victory.

“Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere.” (Al-Baqarah: 155)



The writer is a doctor and an avid reader of history. His columns have been published in the Urdu daily “Nawa-e-Waqt” and “Global Village Space”. He also runs a social media channel “Tarikh aur Tajziya” which is dedicated to the study of history and current affairs. Currently, he heads the India Desk at South Asia Times, Islamabad.

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.