‘Internationalisation’ has become the new buzzword in the post-Kargil environment in Pakistan. Government spokesmen miss no opportunity to put the most positive spin on the Washington Agreement that prime minister Nawaz Sharif was humiliatingly forced into on July 4. Government ministers claim a success because the Washington Agreement, they say, ‘intenationalized the Kashmir issue.
The ‘internationalisation’ argument is predicated on several assumptions. First, it is stated that India and Pakistan are unable to resolve their disputes, at the core of which lies the future of Kashmir, bilaterally. Meetings between their foreign secretaries, foreign ministers and even prime ministers on numerous occasions have failed to move either side from their stated positions. In fact, India has adamantly refused to discuss the Kashmir dispute seriously. At such meetings, it has made the ridiculous demand that Pakistan should vacate its side of Kashmir. The fact that there is no uprising in Azad (Free) Kashmir, and never has been in 50 years because the people there are happy to be part of Pakistan, is ignored by Delhi. There have been repeated uprisings in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
The people of Kashmir do not wish to be part of India. This much is absolutely clear from the latest uprising, which has continued for 10 years. At least 70,000 people have been killed by the Indian army of occupation, whose strength has seldom fallen below 600,000. The number of women raped by the Indian soldiers and paramilitary forces runs into the tens of thousands. The Kashmiris’ hatred towards India is such that they would prefer death to such humiliation. India, in short, has no case in Kashmir except the logic of brute force. That is why it refuses to honour, or even acknowledge, its promise of a plebiscite made at the UN in 1948 and 1949, and repeated by Indian leaders, including its first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, until 1954.
On the face of it, then, "internationalisation" of the Kashmir issue would appear logical. But it is important to review the pitfalls inherent in this approach. First and foremost, the means must be kept distinct from the end. Successive Pakistani governments have tended to confuse the two, making "internationalisation" of the issue an end in itself.
Second, one needs to be wary of the mindset that prevails at the international level. First, the international community (i.e. those countries that determine policy for the rest of the world - essentially the US, Britain and perhaps one or two other members of the European Union) generally wish to maintain the status quo. They disturb this only when it suits their purposes. The breakup of former East Pakistan from Pakistan through Indian military aggression and the proposed referendum in East Timor (but no referendum in Aceh-Sumatra) in Indonesia stand as ready examples.
In Kashmir’s case, international opinion overwhelmingly favours maintaining the status quo and turning the current Line of Control into an international boundary. This would secure and legitimise India’s control over the territory, which is why it was supported by J. N. Dixit, a former Indian diplomat, at a press-conference in Washington on August 5 at the conclusion of his US tour to project India’s official position in the aftermath of the Kargil episode.
The other assumption of the "internationalisation" argument is that the international community will deal with the Kashmir dispute fairly. Unfortunately international policy is not conducted on the basis of fairness. Too many people, most of them Muslims, have paid a high price for making this assumption-the Kashmiris, Palestinians, Kurds, Bosniaks, Kosovars, Achenese... the list goes on. Nor is this simply a matter of not getting involved; the west’s slaughter of Iraqis through ‘international sanctions’ is proof enough of that.
Another mitigating factor against the Kashmiris getting a fair deal is the international community’s current anti-Islamic binge. The anti-Muslim venom pouring forth from their mouths pales into insignificance compared with what their hearts conceal, as Allah warns us in the noble Qur’an (3:118). It would be very naive for Muslims to put their faith in the present international order/community to resolve their problems in a just manner. The Palestinians’ case is clear-cut: they have been targeted and slaughtered for more than 50 years with the active support and help of the so-called international community.
Washington’s involvement in the Kashmir dispute is fraught with other dangers too. At present, US policy is aimed at containing China for which it needs India’s help. American officials and policy intellectuals - Madeleine Albright, Robin Raphel, Karl Inderfurth, Matthew Daley, and others - have all made clear that they do not intend to treat India and Pakistan as equals. Further, Albright specifically used the politically-loaded word ‘terrorism’ while referring to the mujahideen’s operations last month, a clear sign of Washington siding with India. She would never use such an expression for Israeli operations in South Lebanon. But international politics are not about truth or justice.
A more important factor in Washington thinking is probably economic. Given India’s huge size - its population has just passed the one billion mark - and its vast middle class of 350 million people, it is a market that America’s capitalists cannot afford to ignore. That there are also 350 million people living below the poverty level is not Washington’s concern. Delhi’s rulers do not care for them, so why should anyone else?
All this raises the question of what Pakistan and the Kashmiris should do. The answer is apparent from events around the world. No aggressor has ever voluntarily vacated any land or territory occupied by force. South Lebanon, Afghanistan and Chechenya offer the most striking recent examples. Aggressors have to be resisted and driven out. If the Pakistan army cannot take on the Indian army directly, then there has to be a change of strategy. There is no point in pouring billions of dollars into a policy that fails in the very act which it is meant to prevent.
India will be driven out of Kashmir when the price of its occupation is escalated to a point beyond that it can afford to pay. The Kashmiris’ successes in Kargil inspired an upsurge in the mujahideen’s operations in other parts of India. Pakistan’s weakness must not prevent the Kashmiris from continuing - and, if possible, broadening and intensifying their current, ten-year uprising against Indian rule. This is a duty the Kashmiris must fulfil; they will get nowhere simply by telling the world that the honour of their sisters and daughters is being violated.
Muslimedia: August 16-31, 1999