Negation of US commitment to human rights: M Ziauddin

Muhammad Ziauddin

CEASEFIRES don’t happen at the snap of fingers. Not at least, at the level of Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) when the matter relates to an India-Pakistan shoot-out, especially at Kashmir’s perpetually hot Line of Control (LoC).

More so, when it is being carried out to divert the attention of the world from gross violations of human rights by India against the occupied people of the occupied part of disputed Kashmir territory.

And even more so when the two combatants in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation are not even on talking terms since at least August 5, 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India did away with his country’s constitutional obligations enshrined under Articles 370 and 35A robbing in the process the disputed territory of its autonomy and subsuming it into the Indian Union bringing it under the direct control of New Delhi.

For the same reason, foreign policy pundits in Pakistan had already cancelled the possibility of the ceasefire being the result of back-channel efforts.

So, in all fairness the ceasefire seems, indeed, to have happened at the snap of fingers—the American ones! And the US did not lose much time in claiming the credit as Washington welcomed within 24 hours of the release of the joint statement stating that senior military commanders of India and Pakistan have agreed to strictly observe all agreements, understandings and ceasefire along the LoC and other sectors, with effect from midnight on Wednesday. In the same breath, the US has urged India and Pakistan to hold direct talks on Kashmir.

The element of surprise over the question ‘why?’ was quickly replaced by the logic in the question ‘why not?’.

With the snap of its fingers, the US has tried to save India (whom it is building up as its proxy against a rising China) from a two-front situation as New Delhi was caught in a war-like setting at the Line of Actual Control across the Chinese borders in the north and liberate at the same time Pakistan (whom it needs for resolving its Afghan imbroglio) from its involvement at the Line of Control (LoC) so that Islamabad could focus wholeheartedly on Afghanistan without all the time having to be looking over its shoulders watching the LoC defences.

It should be crystal clear by now to Pakistani policymakers that the US’ interest in Pakistan continues to remain transactional and nothing more; and that in the context of its dispute with India over Kashmir the US would be willing to intervene only if we agree to accept the LoC as a permanent border.

Welcoming the ceasefire, state department spokesman Ned Price had said: “When it comes to the US role, we continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern,”. Price said that he and other officials of the Biden administration have been urging the two neighbouring countries to reduce their tensions since Jan 20, when Biden took oath as the new US president.

“You’ve heard me say from this podium and others from this administration say that we had called on the parties to reduce tensions along the LoC by returning to that 2003 ceasefire agreement,” he said.

“We have been very clear that we condemn the terrorists who seek to infiltrate across the LoC.” The US official also referred to Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace talks, as Washington expects Islamabad to stay engaged with the Taliban for restoring peace to the war-ravaged country.

But in all these uttering there never was even a hint that the US was concerned about the continuing human rights violations in the ‘conquered’ part of occupied Kashmir.

The spokesman did refer to terrorism echoing the Indian version of the dispute but there was no reference to the almost 17 months-long oppressive state of affairs inside the ‘conquered state’ which was a total negation of the commitment for democracy and human rights President Biden made on inauguration day.

Perhaps the preamble for the joint ceasefire statement could be noticed in Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa’s statement made earlier this month ostensibly for resolving tensions in the region. Speaking at the PAF Academy, he had said: “It is time to extend the hand of peace in all directions.” Going by the way the US diplomacy works traditionally one cannot reject out of hand the notion that Bajwa’s statement too was made at the behest of Washington for the purposes of breaking the ice.

Another significance of the agreement is that perhaps the Pakistan government has come around to engaging with India despite setting the conditions that it would not do so until and unless India cancelled the annexation of occupied Kashmir and ended the human rights violations there.

The Foreign Office on Friday, however, insisted that there was no change in the government’s policy on the Kashmir dispute.

“There is no change in Pakistan’s principled and long-held position on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute,” FO spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said at the weekly media briefing while replying to questions about the agreement reached with India following the ‘hotline contact’ between directors general of military operations (DGMOs) of the two countries.

Pakistan government had earlier laid down conditions for engaging with India, which specifically included the reversal of the August 2019 action of annexing occupied Jammu and Kashmir and ending of human rights violations and atrocities against Kashmiri people.

There has been no major forward movement on any of the engagement conditions set by Pakistan as neither annexation of held Kashmir has been revoked nor have human rights violations cease.

Therefore, holding the DGMOs’ talks did come as a surprise. But one does dance at the snap of fingers by the Americans; doesn’t one? However, all said and done, we are certainly greatly relieved by the LoC ceasefire accord.

We are now in a better position to deal with the bloody crisis in North Waziristan where in recent weeks we have paid a heavy price in men and material to terrorism exported from across the Durand Line with Indian blessings.

— The writer is a veteran journalist and a former editor based in Islamabad.