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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2677

Kashmir Conflict: serious setback suffered by Pakistan in the absence of self-reliance

Hemantha Yapa Abeywardena writes from London…

At the zenith of her power, Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, once said, “There is no such a thing as society; there are just individual men women and their families.”

Not only did that brief comment, more or less, define her legacy, but also kept haunting her even after retirement from politics, right up to her death.

If we look at what goes around us without the aid of prism of politics, it is pretty clear that she was right; judging by the endless controversies that splash across newspapers on regular basis, it is blatantly obvious that everybody is after individual interests, be it in charity, politics or even in religion; society in this context, is just a springboard to advance the propagation of the process of reaching individual goals.

Mrs Thatcher stuck to her guns until her death; her stubborn aversion to be part of the European Project, perhaps, may have stemmed from the same core, personal belief.

If we extend the flexible boundaries of what Mrs Thatcher termed as ‘society’ little further to encompass nations, the existence of true alliances, be it military, political or religious, is a myth too.

For example, Pakistan learnt that bitter lesson this week, when its arch-rival, India, scrapped Article 370 that used to give Jammu and Kashmir special status, while carving the problematic state into two union territories.

As usual, Pakistan first turned to the Islamic world for support, especially from the wealthy Middle East, but to no avail.

Islamic counties in the SAARC alliance, such as Maldives, Afghanistan and Bangladesh just brushed it aside as an internal matter of India; United Arab Emirates supported India’s right to exercise what it did; most of the countries of the OIC – Organization of Islamic Cooperation – just asked both sides to exercise restraint.

Adding insult to the injury, a day later Saudi Arabia terminated the contracts of hundreds of Pakistani doctors who hold MS and MD qualification, citing lack of necessary clinical experience; as soon as Saudis took the decision, Qatar and UAE followed suit, leaving hundreds of doctors and their families in a precarious lurch; much to Pakistan’s horror, Qatar and its foes in the Middle East, on this occasion, saw eye to eye on this issue.

Even Pakistan’s all-weather friend, China, was cautious in condemning the issue. The EU and the US, as usual, chose the familiar cliché.

Having observed the colossal failure on the diplomatic front, respected Pakistani journalists accurately predicted what the UN would say on the issue: “asking for exercising restrain from both sides.”

That’s exactly what happened the next day; the Secretary General of the UN issued the exact statement – word for word!

As someone who has lots of friends in both camps, I have been on an enviable spot to follow the conflict as a neutral man.

Of course, it’s true that Indian has been heavy handed in dealing with Kashmiri protesters, their own citizens, especially the use of pellet guns as a way of crowd control, which resulted in lots of young protesters being blinded.

Pakistani politicians, meanwhile, disproportionately focus on Kashmir issue as if the rest of the country is free from problems: the economy is in the doldrums; there is a serious water-shortage issue; population is growing exponentially as religious mullahs call the shots, giving encouragement to men and women, especially in the rural areas, saying that the Providence will provide them with necessities; as for transport, it was revealed recently - after a series of deadly accidents - that some of the main railway tracks, laid out by the British in 1861, haven’t been repaired since then.

Pakistanis have begun to understand how the convenient distraction, based on the misplaced sentiments over the Kashmir issue, let the corruption grow unabated in the rest of the country; a former president is in remand and a former prime minister is already in jail over the corruption. A separate investigation, meanwhile, is underway over the way British aid money given to earthquake victims found a channel back to certain bank accounts of influential Pakistanis in Britain.

Kashmiris on the Pakistani side have grievances too; they complain that the Pakistani government did not help them construct bunkers as promised; they have been forced to do it themselves, while bearing the brunt of the Indian shelling.

Even Imran Khan surprised the international community by emulating his predecessors over Kashmir issue; he even tried to get President Trump involved in order to solve the issue during his time in office – over-simplifying the complex issue that has been lingering over seven decades. His critics at home say that Mr Khan’s recent visit to the US and what he asked the US to do on behalf of Pakistan, hastened India’s move.

The statements made by Mr Khan in the aftermath of the Indian move clearly show he is still on a steep learning curve, when it comes to politics: he said that there would be a genocide in the Indian-administered Kashmir soon; then, he predicted a suicide attack in India and the latter would blame it on Pakistan and there would be a war, afterwards.

In a hastily-arranged joint-session of parliament, when the opposition leader accused Mr Khan of the debacle, the latter shot back asking him bluntly, “What do you want me to do? Attack India.”

Although Mr Khan has been direct with his position, that’s not the language that the elected leaders of a democracy usually use at critical moments – for obvious reasons.

With the shocking response that Pakistan got from the international community, it’s high time Pakistan deviated from the well-trodden path that it has been travelling, when it comes to dealing with its bigger neighbor. Self-reliance is the key.

Although India has its many flows, it makes progress in many areas that the international community truly admire: the intense crackdown on loan defaulters regardless of their connections, the zero tolerance on corruption, cutting down bureaucrats to their size, launching infrastructure projects across the country, no name but a few.

Even Imran Khan recently compared the Indian railways with that of Pakistan in a positive way; he said how India brought down the losses and made it profitable, while Pakistan still has to run it at a huge loss.

As a true friend of both nations, I sincerely hope that both Pakistan and India get on well, leaving behind decades of hostilities, while focussing on the things that they can agree upon. Since they have a shared culture on many fronts, the friction involving religion can be minimized to achieve that goal, no matter how distant it appears to be at present.

In this context, Imran Khan has a great opportunity to break the ice and move on. His countrymen pin their hopes on him to rectify the past ills and he cannot let them down; otherwise, they may turn back to the only-properly-functioning institution in the country – the army – for their salvation, if they are forced to stare at the lingering stagnation on multiple fronts.

- Asian Tribune -

Kashmir Conflict: serious setback suffered by Pakistan in the absence of self-reliance
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