Consistency in Kashmir policy
IN the new offers for talks with India, Prime Minister Imran Khan has demonstrated an astonishing flexibility.
As per Reuters, dated June 4, 2021, Prime Minister Khan said that, Pakistan is ready to talk with India, provided it (India) gives a roadmap for the restoration of pre August 5, 2019 status of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
Earlier, Mr Imran Khan ruled out any possibility of bilateral talks between Pakistan and India, until India restores the special status of IIOJK, as it was before August 5, 2019.
This unusual change of stance by Prime Minister is quite shocking and alarming for the people of Pakistan and the Kashmiris of IIOJK, fighting against occupation Indian forces since 1990.
Nevertheless, this flexible statement of Imran Khan indicates that, either Prime Minister is unaware of national stance of Pakistan over Kashmir or else there is no consistency in the Kashmir Policy of Pakistan.
The Kashmir dispute is an issue of national security of Pakistan and cannot be dealt casually through hasty and impulsive statements by the top-most leadership of the country.
In any case the Prime Minister of Pakistan must have consulted the Foreign Office before making any such statement over the sensitive issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Indeed, just a few weeks earlier, PM Imran Khan was found very possessive and concerned over the talks with India on Kashmir.
While responding telephonic questions of the people, PM Khan said in a loud and clear tone that, talking to India without reinstatement of its special status would be amounting to compromise over the blood of Kashmiris.
He said that, if India “go back to the August 5 state [regarding Kashmir] then we can talk to them… we stand by the Kashmiris and we are aware of their sacrifices.” Earlier he also rejected the trade with India stating a similar stance.
“We cannot improve our trade with New Delhi at the cost of the blood of the Kashmiris spilt by the Indian forces.” This statement of PM Khan was based on logic and it was highly appreciated by the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistani masses.
Prime Minister Imran must be aware of the sudden change of stance; however, the statement indicates that, there is an inconsistency in Pakistan’s policy over Kashmir dispute and chief executives of the country can handle the issue at will.
Tracing the history of Kashmir dispute, there has been consistency in the national stance of Pakistan ever since 1947. A doubt was created in 1972, after the SimlaAccord between Pakistan and India, where an element of bilateralism was added for the resolution of bilateral disputes.
Nevertheless, the veiled status of Kashmir dispute remained unchanged until there came some new proposals for the resolution of Kashmir dispute from President General Pervaiz Musharraf (2003-2007).
President Musharaf was so flexible on Kashmir that he once said, if India take one step towards resolution of Kashmir, Pakistan will take ten steps.
India did not budge from its stance rather took the advantage of 2003 ceasefire agreement and fenced entire area of Line of Control and Working Boundary without any opposition.
This was an effort of unilaterally changing the status of Kashmir, in fact a violation of Simla Accord-1972.
Article-2 (clause-b) of Simla Accord-1972 states, “That the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them.
Pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation and both shall prevent the organization, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peaceful and harmonious relations”.
Contrary to the spirit of Simla Accord-1972, India unilaterally altered the situation in Kashmir by fencing the LoC and working boundary from 2003 to 2008 and later by altering the legal status of the IIOJK on August 5, 2019. Question arise, is the Simla Accord still a valid agreement for negotiations at bilateral level. It has been repeatedly violated by New Delhi unilaterally with quietness from Islamabad.
What would be the new framework for the bilateral talks; Simla Accord or any new terms and conditions for negotiations? Then, what to talk; the resolution of Kashmir dispute, stoppage of genocide in IIOJK or restoration of pre August 5, 2019 status of IIOJK? Each time India has been setting new Milestones for Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute starting from water issues-1948, Siachen-1984, fencing of LoC and latest being, the undoing the special status of IIOJK.
It should be remembered that, (though illegal) India maintained a constant stance over Jammu and Kashmir dispute from mid 1050s.
But, despite being legal and true representatives of Kashmiris, there remained inconsistencies over Kashmir dispute by various ruling elites in Pakistan.
Apparently, wisdom does not prevail over the changed stance of Prime Minister Imran Khan for talks with India over Kashmir.
On its part, New Delhi did not show any flexibility, indeed it has never responded positively to the earlier offers for talks and it is yet mum over the new flexible offers of Premier Imran Khan.
The logical query arises, why Islamabad is so anxious and in ahaste to talk to New Delhi over Kashmir.
After all, the security of Pakistan lies in entire Jammu and Kashmir and Kashmiris want to be become part of Pakistan.
Is Pakistan so sure to get IIOJK from India through talks? As a way forward, let’s formulate a permanent and inflexible Kashmir policy through a Parliamentary debate before engaging in any future talks with India.
A well debated Kashmir policy prepared by Parliament of Pakistan will provide strength to Foreign Office and future governments to pursue the Kashmir dispute logically, consistently with clarity leaving no space for the personal whims of any individual (s).
— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.