The past week at its fag end fed a flurry of news on Kashmir, with an exhibit of global concern, however it remains bereft of solution. It may be noted that none is in sight either, in spite of mounting concern. ‘House of Commons’ bracketed ‘K’ with Brexit, suggesting an identical vote. The outgoing US administration expressed concern, voiced by Susan Rice—national security adviser. Incoming UN Secretary General’s initial expressions concerned Kashmir. The concern is abiding, heightened by India and Pakistan drifting apart, notches added with every passing day. Across the world, from Washington to London the drift is watched with piling notes of concern.
The countries across the South Asian divide armed with nukes and piling-up conventional weapons of all hues continue to stick to stated positions. And, in the process maintaining the status quo remains the mantra. The forces bent upon maintaining the status quo hardly realize that the problem can never be the solution. It is the status quo which is the problem, facing the challenge of forces resisting it. It includes overwhelming majority of people of Jammu and Kashmir, across the LoC divide. Yet, the vote to test what the people desire is lost in flurry of arguments and counter arguments. The vote in line with universally accepted principle of self-determination is in fact the international agreement devised to provide the solution. It hangs in precarious balance over seven decades—the count continues. Voicing dissent over such a vote on the plea of changed circumstances has however failed to provide meaningful alternatives. Status quo thus remains the mantra, however unsustainable it might be in the long run.
Susan Rice on a departing note openly listed global concerns in a manner, which she would have otherwise treated and treaded with caution, given the diplomatic sensitivities involved. Kashmir and Indo-Pak skirmishes over its unresolved status topped the list, apart from some Russian actions, as also Syria and North Korea. On an official note US administration puts in the routine line that India and Pakistan should stay engaged. Occasionally while taking a note of Pakistan’s anti-terrorist operations that Zarb-e-Azab entails, Pakistan is advised to do more. It translates to address Indian and Afghanistan’s concerns. However Susan Rice’s note underlines the priority that unresolved Kashmir takes in the list of concerns on the table of national security adviser. To prioritise Kashmir is not in sync with forces opting for status quo, hence the usual caution exercised by spokespersons of White House and state department. Caution is exercised lest the forces of status quo take it as an interference hurting their interests. Third party intervention, even a casual hint of it remains an anathema.
Susan Rice’s concern on nuclear powered India and Pakistan staying in a state of persistent conflict points to the fact of global concern on Kashmir dispute being a nuclear flashpoint. It remains tied to US interests, as the global superpower would like retain influence in both the countries, particularly with growing Sino-Pakistan partnership resulting in an economic corridor—CPEC. It is weighed with Indian economy on rise calling for global partnerships. USA has shown a willingness to widen its partnership with India. US President Donald Trump has gone to great lengths to underline it. Pakistan’s strategic location nevertheless, added to its nuclear arsenal marks it as a state that stays on global chessboard, entailing engagement. Balancing strategic concerns in South Asia could be a tight ropewalking exercise. USA has over the years managed it, short of streamlining ‘K’ resolution. Susan Rice’s note however makes it clear that US hasn’t thrown in the towel and given up. Kashmir remains a concern.
London like Washington shared the concern as ‘House of Commons’ put in some novel notes. Like Susan Rice’s note, UK Parliament warned against escalation of violence in the region. UK parliament debated the issues involved, urging the UK government to encourage India and Pakistan to commence negotiations and establish a long term solution to the dispute (read Kashmir). Britain is home to India and Pakistani diaspora, and that includes influx of scores of families from Pakistan administered Kashmir. The settlements of such families are now running into third generation, and they exert influence in quite a few constituencies. The electoral calculations prompt MP’s from these constituencies to voice pro-Kashmiri sentiment. There is an Indian lobby as well, hence Indo-Pak chasm gets reflected in British Parliament, where quite a few debates past and present—the latest last week were initiated.
What made the latest debate interesting were Tories David Nuttall and Philip Davies suggesting that Kashmiris should be afforded the same right to self-determination as was given to the British people in the form of the Brexit vote. Nuttall incidentally is the chairman of all party parliamentary group on Kashmir. He calibrated his statement by putting in that he appreciated the Government needed to “tread a careful path” to avoiding harming relations with India or Pakistan. “But a candid and true friend is one who sometimes says things that the other friend may find unpalatable,” added Nuttall. Nuttall obviously had the forces of status quo in mind, though he didn’t state the obvious.
It remains to be seen whether global notes of concern are registered by forces of status quo.
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival] (The author is doctor in medicine, a social activist, and a senior columnist)