M Fazal Elahi
PAKISTAN took the burning Kashmir issue to the
UN Security Council (UNSC). That the UNSC
took a decision to take up the Kashmir conflict for debate in a closed-door session on Friday, August 16, 2019, for the first time in the last 50 years, was very encouraging. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to say that it was a significant triumph for Pakistan, and a serious discomfiture for India which tried its level best and put all its resources into play to stop this meeting from taking place. As reported in the national and international media, the UNSC in its meeting held on Friday, August 16 said Kashmir is a global dispute. It emphasized that the Kashmir conundrum would be addressed in line with the UN Charter and UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions in a peaceful manner. The statement further lucidly said that Kashmir was not an internal matter of India. It, in fact, was a matter of world peace and security which had come under discussion within the UN ambit after 1965.
Having said all that, the fact remains that, except China, major countries of the world resorted to usual diplomatic parlance vis-à-vis the prevalent horrendous situation in India-occupied Kashmir (IoK). China, because of its longstanding and venerable relations with Pakistan and traditionally abysmal relations with ever-belligerent India came out vociferously on the issue and strongly supported Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir. In view of the foregoing scenario, it wouldn’t be inappropriate to conclude that global reaction to the sombre Kashmir situation has largely been non-critical of India. In this context, response of the Islamic world merits particular mention. To appreciate why has the response of the Islamic countries towards the Kashmir imbroglio been so muted we would need to examine the reasons behind this? Primarily, strong economic ties of the Arab and other Islamic countries of the world with India seem to be the reason. According a research report recently published in a leading national English Daily of the country, the volume of trade between India and the Muslim countries is about $100 billion. If that is true, one shouldn’t be flabbergasted at all if the response of the Arab countries, which reportedly accommodate some seven million Indian workers, has not been as vociferous on the Kashmir issue as it should have been. Contrary to India’s strong economic bond with the Islamic world, Pakistan’s total bilateral trade with the Islamic countries is considerably less. As reported, Pakistan’s total bilateral trade with the Islamic countries between 2007 and 2009 had amounted to $44.262 billion, and has not grown much since then. Turkey’s trade volume with India rests at around $7 billion. On the contrary, Pakistan’s total bilateral trade with Turkey was barely $596.08 million for the year 2017. The bilateral trade between India and Saudi Arabia has been far greater. It is said that the Indo-Saudi bilateral trade shot up to US $27.48 billion in financial year 2017–18, from US $25.1 billion in the previous year. On the other hand, the two-way trade volume between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is just US$ 3.6 billion, a vast difference indeed.
Pakistan’s total bilateral trade with Malaysia was just over $1.27 billion in 2017, while India’s bilateral trade with Malaysia was appreciably large. How good is Pakistan’s trade relations with neighbouring Iran can be gauged from the report of Financial Tribune (FT) published on 26 August 2019. According to FT Report trade between Pakistan and Iran is at the lowest ebb, as Pakistan’s exports alarmingly plunged to $318 million in 2015-16 from $1.32 billion in 2008-09. Pakistan’s imports from Iran stand at about $280 million, according a senior Pakistani official at Economic Affairs Division. On the contrary, Iran, which is the immediate neighbouring country, has the trade volume of $18 billion with India even in the presence of US sanctions. What makes things more disappointing for Pakistan is that the Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman did not appear to have issued any statements on the crisis. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), in fact went a step further by ostensibly siding with India, terming India’s ruling to downgrade the special status of Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) as its internal matter. UAE’s feeble response to the Kashmir catastrophe is not without reason. It is an established fact that the Gulf Arab states are abode to more than seven million Indian expats. They contribute significantly towards growth of the region’s economy. Having taken stock of the response of the world body – The United Nations and the countries representing the Islamic world the question that arises is: What should Pakistan then do to effectively deal with the ghastly Kashmir conundrum and win unrivalled support of the international community, including countries belonging to the Islamic world, for resolution of the Kashmir problem forthwith.
Pakistan must launch a very strong and sustained diplomatic offensive to convince the international community, the international human rights organizations, and its friends in the Islamic world that the Kashmir issue has grown out of proportion. India is ruthlessly killing innocent men, women and children in the occupied valley. It is planning to annihilate the people of occupied Kashmir to attain its ulterior motives. The people of occupied Kashmir are being held incommunicado in total defiance of international law and rights to freedom of speech and communication. The civilized world in general and the powers that be in particular must be made to realize that time is running out fast vis-à-vis the Kashmir imbroglio and that they must act quickly to resolve this grave problem.
The two nuclear powers India and Pakistan are now on a confrontational mode, which is extremely dangerous. The recent dastardly statement of the Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh that India’s policy on using nuclear weapons may change in future, depending on circumstances, and that India’s ‘No First Use’ nuclear policy may not hold for long is highly irresponsible and makes the situation more vulnerable to a catastrophic nuclear war between the two nuclear powers of the region. The government of Pakistan has termed the statement of the Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh as grave threat to world peace. It has cautioned the world community about the magnitude of this impending threat. How seriously and responsibly the world reacts to Pakistan’s concerns remains to be seen in the days and weeks to come.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.