Pakistan finds international support on Kashmir waning India vs disinformation 16 Apr 2024 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar


Pakistan finds international support on Kashmir waning India vs disinformation 16 Apr 2024

          The Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan has lingered since independence. Both nations accuse the other of being in illegal possession of their parts of Kashmir as also perceive solutions to it differently. Pakistan insists on adherence to UNSC resolutions and welcomes third-party mediation, while India, post the Shimla accord and Lahore declaration, reiterates the subject is bilateral.

Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed growth, development and peace, while Pakistan Occupied J and K (POJK), including Gilgit Baltistan, face suppression from Rawalpindi as also extreme poverty with zero development. Historically, whenever a dignitary visited either New Delhi or Islamabad, Kashmir was always mentioned, in the joint declaration. The statement varied based on the nation’s view. The other country waited to counter.

In recent years India has outgrown Pakistan’s claims on Kashmir aware that no global entity can push India to accept what it does not desire. Further, Indian development and diplomacy has risen to such heights that it is now involved in resolving major global crisis, considering Pakistan a pinprick. As Jaishankar mentioned, ‘No major issue in the world is decided without some consultation with India.’  

Added is the Indian economy, which is 10 times that of Pakistan. Hence, neither Pakistan nor POJK is mentioned in any joint communique issued after any visit to India, which occurs frequently. The opposite is the story of Pakistan, where visits are rare, since the country has nothing to offer.

Having fed its populace with a false narrative of repression in Kashmir and the desire of Kashmiris to merge with Pakistan on religious grounds, no joint declaration is complete without a mention of Kashmir and UNSC resolutions. The same theme is adopted whenever the Pak PM visits abroad. The reality is that Pakistan is sinking in its own morass of debt and mismanagement of economy.

Pakistan had historically banked on Middle East nations for financial as also diplomatic support on Kashmir. However, much has changed in the past few years.

In Feb 2019, five days after the Pulwama attack, the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, visited Islamabad. He was scheduled to visit India next. The joint communique issued on his Islamabad visit mentioned, ‘(Saudi Arabia) praised efforts of PM Imran Khan for dialogue with India and the opening of the Kartarpur corridor…. Stressing that dialogue is the only way to ensure peace and stability in the region to resolve outstanding issues.’ Direct dialogue was mentioned, possibly for the first time, without a reference to UNSC resolutions and third-party mediation.  

Regional tensions were then at a peak, with Balakote strike on the cards. The crown prince had to return to Riyadh for a day, prior to flying to India, thereby displaying that the two visits were not interconnected. The joint declaration issued in Delhi mentioned, ‘(PM Modi and the Crown Prince) condemned in the strongest terms, the recent terrorist attack on Indian security forces on 14 February 2019, in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir. Both sides called up on all countries to renounce the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy.’

It also included, similar to the comment in Pakistan, ‘appreciated consistent efforts made by PM Modi since May 2014 including Prime Minister’s personal initiatives to have friendly relations with Pakistan.’ Saudi Arabia had then been attempting to balance its ties with both nations. It promised a USD 5 Billion investment to Pakistan while a USD 100 Billion to India. A lot has changed since then.    

In Jan 2023, Shehbaz Sharif visited Abu Dhabi. The joint statement, released by UAE, made no mention of Kashmir. Shehbaz Sharif commented on return to Islamabad, ‘I have requested Mohammed bin Zayed to bring the two countries on the talking table and I gave my word of honour that we will be talking to Indians with sincerity of purpose.’ Whether this was actually discussed remains unknown. This visit was the turning point in ties of India and Pak with West Asia.

Saudi Arabia representatives did not attend the G 20 preliminary meeting in Srinagar last year, however, its private tourism representatives were present. It gave no reason for its absence. Representatives of UAE and Oman attended. In Apr last year, UAE stated its intent to invest in developing shopping malls and office infrastructure in Srinagar. The same would add thousands of jobs for the region. India welcomed this announcement.

For Pakistan, UAE investing in Kashmir was a diplomatic setback. Writing for the Middle East Eye, Sal Ahmed from Karachi echoed Pakistan’s concerns by mentioning, ‘Many believe Kashmir is set to meet a fate similar to Palestine’s, with some Arab and Islamic countries withdrawing their support for the Muslim population’s cause in order to build better economic and diplomatic relations with India.’

The joint statement issued post the visit of Shehbaz to Riyadh last week is another indicator of changing equations. It mentioned, ‘The two sides (Riyadh and Islamabad) stressed on the importance of dialogue between Pakistan and India to resolve the outstanding issues between the two countries, especially the J and K dispute to ensure peace and stability in the region.’ The statement backed the Indian approach of the Kashmir issue being bilateral.  

Pakistan media chose to downplay the joint statement, highlighting the Saudi promise of investing USD 5 billion into their collapsing economy. The fact remains that Pakistan realizes that its traditional support base has eroded.

Pakistan has always been backed on Kashmir by Turkey, China and the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation). Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has even raised resolution of Kashmir in his address at the UN General Assembly.

In Oct 2023, the caretaker Pak PM, Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, visited China. The joint statement issued post the visit, by the Chinese foreign ministry, mentioned, ‘The Chinese side reiterated that Kashmir is a long-standing dispute left from history that should be properly and peacefully resolved in accordance with the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.’ India rejected the joint statement as it had done earlier, insisting the issue is bilateral.

           The OIC, headed by Riyadh, has always supported Pakistan. This is largely due to Pak insistence. The OIC’s support and individual country’s comments have invariably been at variance. In Dec last year, it adversely commented on the Supreme Court judgement accepting the validity of removal of article 370, demanding that India must roll back ‘all illegal and unilateral measures taken since 5 August 2019 aimed at changing the internationally recognised disputed status.’ India rejected the statement claiming it had been issued ‘at the behest of a serial violator of human rights and an unrepentant promoter of cross-border terrorism (Pakistan).’   

          Pakistan’s traditional support base has eroded over the years. Simultaneously, India has outgrown Pakistan and its claims on Kashmir. India raises global issues while Islamabad has nothing to offer, hence harps on Kashmir. New Delhi resolutely rebukes any communique mentioning Kashmir as a routine.  

           Interestingly, the only other country in the region, desperate to gain global support for its fake territorial claims, akin to Islamabad, is China. It desires that every financially indebted visitor to Beijing accept Taiwan as a part of China and promise to adhere to the ‘one-China’ policy. Simplistically put, birds of a feather flock together. No wonder China backs Pakistan.