By Manzoor Ahmad
The world community has poured cold water over Pakistan’s protests at India’s action accepting notionally that it is strictly “internal matter.”
This, at least, is the initial picture as Pakistan prepares to approach the United Nations, especially the UN Security Council (UNSC).
As for the UN, its own experts are not hopeful of anything earth-shaking. All that the UN would to is to appeal to all sides concerned to “exercise restraint,” Khurram Hussain said, writing in Dawn newspaper.
Islamabad is hoping that the UNSC might do something since the dispute was taken there in 1948 when the resolutions were passed. Pakistan tells the world how India had not implemented those resolutions that pertain to plebiscite, but never tells how it had scuttled the process. But the world is not ignorant.
Pakistan is desperately hoping that China, a UNSC permanent member, would help since India’s action of revoking Article 370 of its own Constitution and affecting administrative changes have affected Beijing’s ambitious plans on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and India has also reiterated its sovereignty over Aksai Chin ceded by Pakistan to China and parts of Ladakh that the Chinese grabbed during the 1962 conflict.
Predictable though, the Chinese is the only adverse response to India’s action. The other nations are lukewarm, if not cold and do not want the issue to escalate into an armed conflict.
Even at home, after all the brouhaha, all that Imran Khan could offer in the National Assembly during the heated debate was an angry speech attacking India.
Exasperated by taunts and accusations from the Opposition benches, he asked the Leader of the Opposition, Shahbaz Sharif: “What do you want me to do? Attack India?”
All that Sharif could muster up was to seek a “strong speech” from Khan that would “inspire the nation” at this critical juncture.
“Sure, and then what,” Hussain wondered as he surmised that that this exchange, “revealed all the helplessness with which Pakistan’s government stood and stared at India.”
The answer from Sharif, or any other quarter, is symbolic of the expression of impotent anger that Pakistan is limited to, as of now.
Among South Asian neighbours, Sri Lankan envoy to New Delhi has tacitly supported the Indian action. From among Pakistan’s West Asian friends, the UAE envoy in New Delhi has also favoured the Indian action. Islamabad realizes that these two countries are fine when it comes to trade and other such matters, but not for diplomacy on a vexed, but worthless issue like Kashmir.Pakistan watchers say the steps Pakistan announced after its National Security Council meeting are notional at best and do not add up to a concrete action.
Downgrading ties with India and recalling diplomats are not going to set the Indus or the Jamuna on fire. Cutting off bilateral trade only goes against Pakistan’s interests. In any case, India-Pakistan bilateral trade is nothing compared to, say, what both trade with China or Russia or Europe. Pakistan has never accepted India’s unilateral most favoured nation (MFN) offer since it fears, right so, that its market would be swamped by Indian goods.
In the new situation, any trade on Bollywood cinema, for instance, on which Pakistani cinema halls survive, is ruled out. Pakistani actors also cannot hope to work in Bollywood films.
To return to diplomacy, New Delhi is unlikely to flinch even if there is a UNSC debate and resolution.
Khurram Hussain points out that even those who have commented on the Indian action have said nothing in favour of the Pakistani standpoint on Kashmir issue.
China issued a strongly-worded statement, but kept the focus on Ladakh, where it has territorial claims. “China is always opposed to India’s inclusion of the Chinese territory in the western sector of the China-India boundary into its administrative jurisdiction,” the statement issued by China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, read.
Regarding Pakistan’s concerns, the statement acknowledged the disputed nature of Kashmir, and said only that “[t]he relevant sides need to exercise restraint and act prudently. In particular, they should refrain from taking actions that will unilaterally change the status quo and escalate tensions”.
The UAE, as reported in Gulf News mentioned that the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates basically welcomed the Indian move. “He commented that from his understanding the reorganisation of states is not a unique incident in the history of independent India and that it was mainly aimed at reducing regional disparity and improving efficiency. He viewed this latest decision related to the state of Jammu & Kashmir as an internal matter as stipulated by the Indian Constitution,” the report said.
Again, there was no reference to Pakistan’s case.
The official Saudi Arabian news agency said on Aug 6 that the crown prince “received a telephone call today from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. During the call, they discussed the development of the situation in the region and efforts exerted towards it. HRH the Crown Prince was also briefed by the Pakistani Prime Minister on the latest developments in Kashmir.”
That was it, Hussain surmises.
Turkey’s President Erdogan went a little further, but even here the language was restrained. According to the release from the president’s Directorate of Communications, “Erdogan called on Pakistan and India to strengthen the dialogue process” and “Erdogan also shared his concerns over the situation and assured Khan of Turkey’s ‘steadfast support in this regard’.”
There is no indication by Turkey of what “steadfast support” means. It ignored Pakistan NSC’s announcement.
Hussain concludes from that: “It is doubtful that Turkey will put its own trade or diplomatic relations with India on the line.” The same goes for other Islamic countries, all members of the OIC on which Pakistan often depends to hit out at India.
After US President Donald Trump’s twice-made offer of mediating between India and Pakistan, that India has steadfastly rejected, the State Department first acknowledged the situation, then simply said “[w]e note that the Indian government has described these actions as strictly an internal matter”.
Mr Trump’s Kashmir offer is perceived as being linked to his desire to get Pakistan to play a positive role in Afghan peace process. On the contrary, his special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was talking to Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar on the day India acted on Kashmir. Khalilzad tweeted a picture of himself with Jaishankar, saying: “#India has an important role to play in helping deliver & sustain a durable peace in #Afghanistan”.
It is obvious the US is focused on Afghan peace process and has no time and stomach to deal with Kashmir.