Gaining moral high-ground on Kashmir crisis


This past week has seen both Pakistan and India launch a hectic diplomatic push on the sidelines of the annual United Nations (UN) General Assembly session. Analysts on both sides of the border are still wrangling over the significance of their respective prime ministers’ interaction with world leaders, and what this interaction implies in terms of the international community’s position on ongoing developments in our part of the world, including the precarious situation in Kashmir.

Indian Prime Minister Modi began his charm offensive in Texas, with United States (US) President Trump in attendance. Besides positioning India as the largest democracy in the world, a growing superpower and natural ally of the US, PM Modi emphasised on the voting power of the large Indian-American community for President Trump’s re-election. Modi also defended his government’s decision to revoke the special status of Kashmir being motivated by the desire to rid the region from the scourge of terrorism and to boost development. He portrayed restiveness in Kashmir to being largely caused by its troubling neighbour, Pakistan.

Conversely, PM Imran Khan had termed his week-long US trip to attend the UN moot as a “Kashmir mission” which would highlight the increasingly fraught human rights situation in the region following the revocation of Article 370. Besides addressing the UN General Assembly (which had yet to take place till the writing of this article), Khan had a second face-to-face meeting with President Trump in three months, in addition to meeting members of the Congress, other world leaders and human rights groups. During Khan’s meeting with President Trump, we saw the latter walk back from his July offer to mediate the Kashmir issue. The realpolitik appeal of closer ties with India seems to have taken precedence over President Trump’s desire to broker a deal over one of the most protracted and dangerous conflicts in the world.

With the major power-broker (i.e. the US) reluctant to pressure India to roll back its annexation move, drawing more attention to the human rights situation in the valley is the only other option available, barring the slippery-slope option of engaging in violent conflict. The Indian move to annex Kashmir has created a window of opportunity to internationalise the plight of the Kashmiris.

Besides highlighting the danger of a potential conflict triggered by India’s move to annex Kashmir, and how this situation may impede Pakistan’s attention from helping resolve the Afghan imbroglio, PM Khan is also trying to position himself as the spokesman for the Kashmiri people aiming to highlight their humanitarian plight. Some weeks ago, Khan even called upon the UNHRC to set up an independent commission to probe human rights abuses in IOK, as recommended by two recent reports on Kashmir produced by the OHCHR.

While asking for implementation of UN-endorsed recommendations to launch a human rights probe into IOK is a sensible move, objectively speaking, Pakistan can do much more to boost its own international credibility vis-à-vis the Kashmir situation. While the UN and other human rights entities squarely point to disproportionately brutal atrocities on IOK, they also note human rights violations on the Pakistani side.

Besides addressing the above concerns, PM Khan can also give the OHCHR access to Pakistan’s side of the Line of Control, rather than continuing to make this access contingent on India doing the same (which is what kept happening over the past two years when the OHCHR prepared the above-mentioned reports). India has much more to fear from the glare of international scrutiny than Pakistan does. Moreover, addressing human rights concerns on its side would help Pakistan demonstrate to the world that its support for the Kashmiris is based on genuine concern for their welfare and well-being, rather than any ulterior motives.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2019.

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    Original news : https://tribune.com.pk/story/2066071/6-gaining-moral-high-ground-kashmir-crisis/