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Diplomacy as a Sword Arm
With the conclusive establishment of Pakistani intelligence’s complicity in both the September 11 and December 13 terrorist attacks, Pervez Musharraf was forced to reveal, however reluctantly and discreetly, that the ISI’s ‘Kashmir Cell’ is being downsized and that instead of terrorist tactics of the past, Pakistan would now launch a diplomatic offensive to highlight the ‘plight’ of Kashmir under “Indian occupation.” The instrument of this new strategy, National Kashmir Committee (NKC), was inaugurated with much fanfare on January 9 and has since hogged headline coverage by Pakistan’s top dailies which were either suborned into the publicity campaign or physically intimidated, as is the wont of the military junta. Unsurprisingly, NKC has not enamoured non-Pakistani media or governments beyond a point, and latest missives from the US State Department continue to stress the need for Musharraf to ‘do more’ about curtailing jihad. So, is NKC just a rhetorical banality behind which old cross-border terrorism and ethnic cleansing continue? Should India ignore NKC? This essay adopts a Yes and No approach to the questions and focuses on how India must step on the diplomatic accelerator to unravel the miasma of lies, propaganda and hypocrisy that NKC aims to disseminate around the world.
Musharraf’s choice of Sardar Qayyum as the President of NKC is intended to symbolically convey to the international community that Pakistan is serious about shifting tack in its Kashmir policy from ‘armed struggle’ to ‘moral and diplomatic support’. Qayyum’s reputation as a moderate Muslim who opposes external support to the ‘indigenous Kashmiri movement’ (read Afghan and Arab jihadis who constitute 70 % or more of the active fighters currently operating) is being bandied about as the surest sign that Pakistan has finally mended its ways and is turning over a new leaf. Hitherto, Qayyum, a Kashmiri, was consistently victimised and sidelined from various puppet Assemblies of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, and his resuscitation at the helm of the Committee is also considered a fresh initiative that will finally address grievous human rights abuses and deprivation of Kashmiris in Punjabised Gilgit-Baltistan.
In reality, there has been little evidence of a let-up in jihadi attacks on civilians and military men in Jammu & Kashmir or of a relaxation of the reign of terror in PoK. The frequency of grenade throwing, ambushing and ethnic cleansing in J&K has not eased one bit in the last two months and is expected to peak to record levels once the snows melt. There are murmurs that Musharraf has deliberately included old hardliners like Gohar Ayub Khan in NKC to ensure that Qayyum does not seriously implement his mission of distancing the ISI and jihadis from ‘the cause’. Like all of the General’s shibboleths, NKC too appears to be a farce masquerading as reform.
Whatever be the internal rumblings of leadership and constitution of NKC, the more lethal and important dimension is its external diplomatic mandate. The Committee, in the words of Islamabad, “will project the Kashmir cause at the international level and mobilise world opinion for settlement of the dispute in accordance with relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.” According Dawn, it would angle for “international support for the freedom struggle and highlight the violations of human rights by the occupation forces.” Within months of its birth, NKC has already approached the UN Secretary General and several powerful heads of state appealing for the dead letter UN Security Council Resolutions of 1948 to be implemented. While it is a known fact that the first part of the Resolutions have never been honoured by Pakistan and that the second part (calling for a plebiscite in undivided Kashmir) has been annulled by violent shocks in the territorial, demographic and political status quo of Kashmir, Qayyum’s state-subsidised minions are fanning out to various corners of the earth posing as messengers of peace, self-determination and human rights. Since Pakistan has always wanted third party mediation and intervention in Kashmir, NKC members are exploiting proclivities of New York and various western capitals to have their ‘good offices’ being sought for conflict resolution.
The cancerous unit-by-unit burgeoning of NKC ‘goodwill delegations’ is cause for serious concern to the people and government of India. Indian diplomacy and lobbying on Kashmir have often lagged behind due to naïve smugness that truth and justice are on its side and that there is nothing more to be proved by diplomatic proselytism. General K. Sundarji mentions in his memoirs the impression he got on numerous UN missions and foreign postings that Pakistan always stole a march over India when it came to Kashmir diplomacy and broadcasting. Considerable diplomatic mileage and solidarity could have been harnessed among democracies in the aftermath of the December 13 attacks on Indian parliament, but feeble and haphazard efforts were made to send out emissaries to convince countries on the urgency of getting Pakistan declared a terrorist state. Envoys were selected on religious grounds (Omar Abdullah, Najma Heptullah and Ghulam Nabi Azad) and no quarter given to merit or the individual’s depth of knowledge and ability to communicate. Delhi’s preference of venues was also Quixotic, with the prime target audience being zealots in the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), who have traditionally supported Pakistan’s standpoint on the irrational plank of Islamic fraternity and who cannot be won over except in a daydream.
India is yet to evolve a coherent tactic of selectively identifying and approaching important middle ranking countries that are undecided, neutral or plain apathetic to the Kashmir issue. There is an old saying that in multilateral diplomacy, the grey areas matter. India must systematically brief and influence powers falling in zones of uncertainty about the realities of Pakistan being the Ground Zero of global jihad and the flawed historical narrative that NKC is marketing under the ruse of human rights. Simply wishing that the world would not treat Kashmir as a disputed territory and declaring that it is an integral part of India is puerile and counter-productive when the opponent is expending phenomenal energy and resources to malign India at global forums. Past negligence has cost India dearly, with falsities becoming ensconced that Delhi has ‘something to hide’ in Kashmir and that the will of the people has never been ascertained in J&K. One only has to recall the tactful precedent set by Indira Gandhi in the months preceding the Bangladesh war, when experts and seasoned scholars on India-Pakistan problems were dispatched to major and middling capitals and visible international sympathy was generated for victims of Pakistani brutalities. This diplomatic spadework laid the foundation for the surgical and successful military operation that slivered Pakistan in late 1971.
Timely and proactive
diplomacy is a prerequisite for dealing with a cunning enemy which wears
the mask of freedom struggle while actually nursing 10,000 ready-to-die
fidayeen and half a million battle-hardened ‘soldiers of god’.
NKC is definitely a façade behind which Pakistan’s unabated infiltration
and cross-border terrorism are flourishing. But in an impressible
world where facades can pass off for reality when they are skillfully
disguised, the just and righteous party has to expose the criminality of
such shenanigans by employing diplomacy as a sword arm of policy.
Blessed with unrivalled dialecticians and constitutional savants on
Kashmir like Justice Adarsh Sein Anand, Chandrashekhar Dasgupta and
Karan Singh, India has the diplomatic ammunition to decisively turn
world opinion in its favour. The steady groundwork these scholars can
lay will solve half the problem and leave India unfettered to exercise
all possible means to save Kashmir from any eventuality.