Pakistan’s Kashmir policy is a double-edged sword

On February the 5th, the people of Pakistan and Kashmir will be commemorating Kashmir day. The annual remembrance is intended to demonstrate Pakistan’s solidarity with the plight of the Kashmiri people living under Indian rule. Whilst displays of unity are abound amongst the Pakistani people the same cannot be said for the Musharraf government.

Ever since September 11, 2001 Pakistan has conceded much in the hope that India will eventually reciprocate–” put an end to the sixty-year-old dispute and hasten the normalisation process between the two countries.

Pakistan has abandoned the Jihadi groups, dismantled militant camps and imprisoned militant leaders. The result is that the number of attacks in Indian occupied Kashmir has dropped to its lowest since 2001. Yet, India still insists that Pakistan is not doing enough to stop infiltration.

On the political front, the Musharraf government ditched Pakistan’s principle stand of self determination for Kashmiris in accordance with UN resolutions, advocated a formula which allows India to retain control of occupied Kashmir, encouraged the rise of a moderate faction of the AHPC which is ready to strike a deal with New Delhi, and tolerated Indian intelligence officers in Afghanistan who continue to stoke the insurgency in Balochistan.

But so far the Indians basking in the warmth of their relationship with America have refused to budge on the Kashmir issue. It is true that America’s preference for India over Pakistan, as her principal agent in South Asia has hardened New Delhi’s position over Kashmir, but there is an underlying reason that provides a better explanation of India’s intransigence over Kashmir.

India is plagued by a score of secessionist groups that enjoy wide support from their people–”any concessions to one group would encourage others to demand greater autonomy and re-enforce the perception that the government at the centre is weak and unable to hold the country together.

Indian politicians are extremely sensitive to the demands of the indigenous secessionist movements and do their utmost to avoid any word or deed that may lead to India’s implosion. It is within this context that the farther of the Congress Party, Nehru formulated his Kashmir doctrine i.e. Kashmir is an integral part of India. This doctrine has become the bedrock of India’s relations with Pakistan over Kashmir, and has influenced a plethora of Indian politicians.

So while Indian politicians–”especially those affiliated with Congress–” seek to strengthen India and settle the Kashmir issue within the parameters of this doctrine, the Pakistani politicians–”irrespective of their civil or military orientation–” have not displayed such tenacity. Rather their lack of opposition to Musharraf’s Kashmir policy combined with their partisan politics and power grab culture is indicative of the political malaise that runs deep in Pakistani politics. The focus on the uniform issue above all else is ample proof that Pakistani politicians are driven by the lust for power as opposed to policies and principles.

This has not gone unnoticed amongst Pakistan’s secessionist movements. The concessions made by Pakistan to India over Kashmir, and the preoccupation of Pakistani politicians with their self-interests have only emboldened such movements. These movements clearly sense that if the federal government is unable to stand up to India for the rights of Kashmiris then the Pakistan is poorly placed to safeguard the rights of Balochs, Pathans and Sindhis too. This rational has led some of these movements to take up arms against Islamabad and also to enlist Indian assistance in their quest for independence.

In September 2001, Musharraf assured the Pakistani nation that the only way of protecting Pakistan and its stance on the Kashmir was to join America’s war on terror. Six years of this unflinching support has only strengthened India’s grip over Kashmir, weakened India’s secessionist movements and allowed India to preserve her integrity. But just the opposite has occurred in Pakistan. Kashmir is all but gone, and the secessionist movements in Balochistan and FATA are advancing the break up of Pakistan.

The Musharraf government’s mantra of ‘Pakistan first’ has in reality been replaced by ‘America and India first’. But most alarming is that those who seek to replace Musharraf are no better and will follow the same Kashmir policy.