Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Kashmir Conundrum

Time to come out of silence and add to the confusion of the Kashmir Conundrum. How does Pakistan view the changed status and what can it do about it? How do the Indians, largest democracy on earth, view it?  First and foremost, what’s happened in Kashmir is not on account of any deliberate policy implemented by any political party, so to go forward we need to stop scoring political points at home and thus focus on the issue rather than waste time in dramatic rhetoric. Second, is the philosophy of the new buzz word; ‘there is no military solution’. Tell this to the Taliban and ask them to sweet talk their way through the present negotiations if the solution lies in just talks. I would draw one’s attention to the fact that it was the Taliban military prowess in the field that led to these negotiations; neither did they ask for these negotiations nor are they in any hurry to conclude them. Why would the Taliban forfeit their only strength and agree to a ceasefire where they will lose out on the negotiating table; I think anyone can see this. 

The evolution of the environment unfolded with a rejection to the offer of talks proposed by the Taliban (The US said it would never negotiate with terrorists) this was followed by an ‘integrated’ approach - it failed, then a ‘reconciliation strategy’; that failed as well, then to force the Taliban to the negotiating table (slap them to the table is what they said). Yet something changed on the ground for the US to abandon the sitting government and begin unilateral talk with the Taliban. Let me assure all it was not an outcome of political discussions. If the Taliban agree to negotiations after a ceasefire, they will be ousted from power in any future setup; an obvious outcome.

So similarly, if anyone feels that political and diplomatic steps will free Kashmir from Indian intent, I can assure them, this is not going to happen in the near or distant future. It’s as if someone occupies a bedroom in your house, is living comfortably with nothing to disturb them and you begin to negotiate with them to leave, trying to convince them that it is better for them to give up the room. This will never happen till the pain you impose on the intruder is more than the comfort he is enjoying. Without the pain being there the normal term for the situation is ‘appeasement’, ‘surrender’, ‘capitulation’ or ‘indifference’ but it would never be defined as an activity leading to some sort of an end through a political solution. Thus there are struggles and there are causes but one needs to understand what is the definition of Freedom Struggle. 

I certainly am not privy to what our government is doing nor what it is planning to do but I do know that whatever it is - it cannot be debated on the street and that these are not matters that are discussed in public. Yet I am confident of the Government as well as the Establishment that something is afoot and that we shall learn of it in the times to come. Kashmir, as it stands now, is not a done deal and there is much more to come. When it does, we should all stand by the Government and the Armed Forces, whatever their choice of instrument, method and conduct and hope for a favourable outcome.

In my limited understanding, the Indian Supreme Court, remains a valve that can release the pressure. In my understanding the Modi Government is still testing the water and if given a proper response, may even encourage the Supreme Court to reverse BJP’s decision. This would allow them some political mileage which they are always in search of, i.e. ‘after all they tried but the Supreme Court was a hurdle’. The question is can we apply that pressure, through all channels, diplomatic, political, administrative, resistance movements and military escalation –  and are we even willing?

So whereas, I am not recommending a war though that too might be an option, nevertheless, we need to do more. Our diplomatic initiatives are good and must continue, our political stance is correct and must be pursued but where is the pain? One understands the international position on non-state actors and freedom fighters etc. – but which is one and not the other? One needs to bring up this matter up at the Security Council, as to when does society and a population get up and resist a human rights matter, suppression, genocide, rape and ethnic cleansing? Does the Security Council want such nations to just roll over and die?  If not what then remains the manner of resistance in the face of 500,000 armed troops or should there be a resistance at all? Should there be any resistance where communication, mobility and political activity and free speech are denied under the barrel of the gun?  What should the security council do if the United Nation Resolutions are violated and how should these be implemented if they are? Does Pakistan have a moral right to intervene physically and if not, what is the alternative? Is there a timeline and an end state or will this aberration hold the region hostage forever? One thing is certain, the United Nations and Security Council have never respected the meek or those who try to invoke decisions based on sympathy and self-pity. Remember, it is famously said, sovereignty is defined as the things one is willing to fight for; the rest is not sovereign - just rhetoric!

I understand that these arguments are an appeal to the moral and ethical values that the world may have; they may be a lonely cry for justice from the international community and that the world is neither obliged nor affected enough to respond to in any way. In fact, history has shown that the United Nation always sides with might and not with the propriety of the issue. What happened to the War Crimes committee that was denied entry to the US, or what was the outcome of the false claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Thus nothing will happen here as well regardless of what diplomacy we do or what political solution we discover. The pain must be there - could be the oil movement or could be the right to self-determination snatched by force or even a Sikh Separatist chaos. For giving pain to the globe, the ocean lies before us to disrupt trade. In the event of supporting a legal separatist movement, dividing the Indian occupation forces in to penny packets in a mountainous area, paralyzing communication and entrapping troops in isolated pockets, is the most feasible option. 

The more Indian troops, the merrier and greater the imbalances in the South along the international border which must be exploited with full force and determination by total mobilization and assembly of forces. After all Sri Lanka expelled India too, just as Vietnam did to the US, the freedom fighters did to the Soviets and the Taliban have done to the US. I have failed to see the political solution in any of these resistances and I would strongly recommend that lets not pursue a line because it sounds good – it is simply not realistic. People will talk of economy, others of international isolation but no one was as devoid of economy as the Afghans or isolated as the Taliban. Arguments must be universal and not selected pieces of wisdom. 

The matter of Kashmir needs to be resolved, the world needs to be put on notice that matters will go forward and that we have very little to lose -  is the world willing to bear the cost and does India have the will and determination to stand up to such a resistance?..

About the Author :

Lieutenant General Tariq Khan (Retired), Hilal-i-Imtiaz (Military), winner of the Sword of Honour from Pakistan Military Academy and is a graduate of the prestigious National Defense University of Pakistan and has a long experience of fighting the War on Terror in the tribal areas of Pakistan and along the Pakistan- Afghanistan border. He has extensive interaction with the allied commanders employed in Afghanistan and working with top  military elite at CENTCOM. He has been one of the few Pakistan Army officers awarded with the Legion of Merit by the USA. He also has the honour of commanding one of the strike corps of Pakistan Army. He is a well read military analyst who often shares his view points, incisive and thought provoking analysis on national and international affairs.

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