Some Reflections on Pakistan’s troubled Kashmir Policy – Success has many fathers and claimants but usually no one is prepared to own up a failure. While in changed global circumstances Pakistan’s Kashmir Policy or actions in 1990’s look absurd, and one can argue with hindsight that Pakistani decision-makers should have more foresight, it remains important to understand a few things about what Pakistan was doing and why; especially for new generation of Pakistanis who are now in their 20’s and 30’s and were either born or in school in early 1990’s.
In supporting insurgency in Kashmir, or letting Kashmiris and their supporters use Azad-Kashmir territory Pakistan was not doing anything unusual or different than what every other country had been doing across the world. US and Europeans had been doing that throughout 20th century, it is abundantly documented across Latin America where US supported rebels or guerillas against the left wing governments were provided space in neighboring countries. Indo-China in 1950-1970’s and Afghan mujahedeen being hosted, trained and supported by the US/Europeans from within Pakistani space against the soviets in Afghanistan is a classic example but there is no dearth of other such examples. Everyone was doing it; US, Europeans, China and Soviets and smaller countries all across world; India itself created training camps for Bengali insurgents and rebels from former East-Pakistan inside India under a clear plan of creating a secessionist movement in a region that was then Pakistan proper and was never historically disputed.
While in changed global circumstances Pakistan’s Kashmir Policy or actions in 1990’s look absurd, and one can argue with hindsight that Pakistani decision makers should have more foresight
Coming back to Kashmir, insurgency was indigenous and more than the events of Afghanistan (as Indian propagandists keep harping) it was influenced by world wide pulse of freedom and autonomy generated by the movements across Eastern Europe where west was helping former soviet controlled states to assert their independence. Kashmiris and their Pakistani supporters wanted to exploit that but totally misjudged that west will never support a Muslim autonomy movement against Indian interests. Geo strategic interests don’t change over-night, preservation of India was American goal even in 1960’s when US stopped Pakistan following the Chinese advice of settling issues with India in Kashmir. Bottom line is west would have never supported Kashmiri freedom movement for it was against their regional interests.
The other complication was and is that Pakistan too never really believed in autonomy of Kashmiris; for it saw threats in it for its hold on almost 33,000 sq miles of Azad Kashmir, and Northern areas. An independent Kashmir would inevitably raise questions about these areas. (in the hypothetical case of were India ever willing to grant independence to whole of Kashmir). So Pakistani support for Kashmiri insurgency was always exploratory in nature, increasing pressure on India for some concessions or solutions that may emerge by international notice and mediation. I seriously suspect if Pakistani decision makers in 1990’s ever had a clear idea of where they want to take it. They wanted to build this as a human rights issue, and Kashmiri fight for self-determination but unlike India in 1970 (insurgency in East Pakistan) Pakistanis only wanted world to intervene, without a clear plan how that will happen.
one must appreciate that India kept changing its tactics with changing world realities of which perceptions are an important part. If one state has benefitted in net, from 9/11, without paying any price then that is India.
India, being the status quo power in Kashmir, had a simple clear goal that it must fight to preserve the status quo. It fought the Kashmiri insurgents, penetrated JKLF and other groups and created “Kashmiri renegades” that were being paid by the Indian agencies but for worldly opinions they represented various Kashmiri groups doing violent fighting among themselves and doing horrible acts. Most violence that initially took place – including attacks on Hindu Pundits, Sikhs and Muslim population or Human Right Activists was part of that Indian strategy that worked very well for them for it started to change the nature of struggle which initially was targeted against Indian military and para-military forces and their logistics.
If Pakistanis wanted world to perceive Kashmiri problem as a human rights issue, Indian strategists wanted to turn it into a mindless militancy later called terrorism. Al Faran episode in 1995 when western tourists were abducted and killed was part of the Indian strategy and it worked very well. Many such incidents had to follow. Most Indigenous Kashmiri struggle collapsed in early 1990’s and Pakistanis tried sustaining it by sending non-Kashmiri militants into Kashmir. That was a huge blunder. Even if they had not been “Islamists” in character this represented a cultural clash (like the presence of Indian military in Kashmir itself from other parts of India) but their Islamist character was very helpful to Indian planners who from the very beginning tried the movement to become Islamist or communal against other religious groups rather than that of Kashmiris being suppressed by an occupying power ie Delhi.
This subject is long and tedious; my only purpose was to remind you that what is now described as “vile Pakistani policy” was pretty much a norm across the world, every state was doing it including India. And most, even in Pakistan, who keep on talking against Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, have no historical perspective; they are applying current definitions post 9/11 on past developments. Pakistan in 1980-90’s was openly supporting Kashmiris, as per its historic policy since 1947/48.
However one must appreciate that India kept changing its tactics with changing world realities of which perceptions are an important part. If one state has benefitted in net, from 9/11, without paying any price then that is India. The false flag operation against Indian Parliament immediately after 9/11 is another brilliant example of Indian understanding of what they wanted and how to do it. Why? because Indian bureaucracy and its internal think tanks were far more clued and connected to the world, they knew how to exploit a changing world order and most in Pakistan are simply unable to understand the world and how it continues to change or what will come next.
Pakistan too never really believed in autonomy of Kashmiris; for it saw threats in it for its hold on almost 33,000 sq miles of Azad Kashmir, and Northern areas. An independent Kashmir would inevitably raise questions about these areas.
Most so called liberal Pakistanis are men and women devoid of self respect, mental stooges, who try to say things to please west – even the lowly place embassy staffers – or now even Indians. These cerebrally challenged idiots don’t understand that sucking up does not help; what you need is “understanding”. Those of you who follow this page for sometimes will remember the “Devyani Khobragarde Affair” when I had supported the Indian foreign office and BJP’s position pointing out that strong Indo-US relations will emerge out of Indian assertiveness.
But whereas Pakistan did various blunders in its quest to support Kashmiri self-determination, which to it represents an existential conflict. India’s conceptual failure is much bigger. It continues to believe that Kashmir will go away. Not realizing that by finding an amiable mutual solution of Kashmir with Pakistan, India wins whole of South Asia securing a different future for everyone. This vision is lacking in New Delhi.
Moeed Pirzada is prominent TV Anchor & commentator; he studied international relations at Columbia Univ, New York and law at London School of Economics. Twitter: MoeedNj. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy. This piece was first published in Moeed Pirzada’s official page. It has been reproduced with permission.