Bilateral ties between India and Pakistan have not moved beyond the status quo. During the United Nations 70th General Assembly meet, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif launched the familiar line of how his country is a victim of terrorism and of the need to “demilitarise” India-Occupied Kashmir and give the State its right to self-determination. In response, the Indian establishment said that the Pakistan state must stop sponsoring cross-border terrorism and vacate the part of Kashmir it has occupied. The latter half of the response, according to strategic experts, has laid down a new paradigm for any resolution of the issue.
“Pakistan is not primary victim of terrorism but its policies. It is, in fact, the prime sponsor of terrorism. Pakistan’s instability arises from its breeding of terrorists. Blaming neighbours is not a solution,’’ Spokesman of India’s Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup said in a series of tweets on Wednesday. In response to Sharif’s statement that ‘’many generations of Kashmiris have lived their lives under occupation,’’ Swarup said, ‘’Pakistani PM gets foreign occupation right, occupier wrong. We urge early vacation of Pakistan occupied Kashmir.’’ External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, meanwhile, made it clear that Pakistan must “give up terror” if talks are to resume.
The current impasse between both sides has its origins in history. The United Nations Security Council Resolution, adopted on April 21, 1948, recommended that in order to ensure the impartiality of the plebiscite in Kashmir, Pakistan must withdraw all tribesmen and nationals who entered the region for the purpose of fighting and that India leave only the minimum number of troops needed to maintain civil order. Pakistan ignored the UN mandate, did not withdraw its troops and claimed the withdrawal of Indian forces was a prerequisite as per this resolution. India’s claim is that subsequently Pakistan refused to implement the plebiscite until India acceded to it and continued holding onto the portion of Kashmir under its control. Ever since the resolution, it has been a case of one step forward and two steps back. Fast forward to 2015 and both countries remain where they are on the issue.
Commentators, however, point out to the distinct change in the position taken by the current Indian government from previous ruling dispensations, when it comes to dealing with Pakistan. The narrative presented before the domestic audience back home is that Indian governments in the past had been reluctant to call out Pakistan so publicly before the world community, preferring to engage in discreet peace initiatives. Moreover, the narrative goes on to suggest how the Modi government has decided to divert the oft-repeated narrative, proclaimed by Pakistan on various occasions of unrest only in Jammu and Kashmir, by highlighting the atrocities and the discontent prevalent in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. With India’s response, the Pakistani establishment has been clearly pushed on to the back foot. It becomes harder for the Pakistani establishment to subvert the narrative, since media houses back home have time and again highlighted how the state harbours its terrorists. In the midst of this narrative, however, certain nuances are not lost on the discerning public. It is imperative to establish a certain context to the current scenario in Pakistan.
The very term ‘Pakistani establishment’ is slightly misleading. While the civilian government has proclaimed that it will not differentiate between the good and bad Taliban, the military and intelligence establishment have continued to back terror groups to achieve its geopolitical and military objectives.
Pakistan’s reputation as a safe haven for terrorists, however, has its seeds in the American intervention during the late 1970s. “Lest we forget, the CIA gave birth to Osama Bin Laden and breastfed his organisation during the 1980s. Former British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, told the House of Commons that Al Qaeda was unquestionably a product of Western intelligence agencies. Mr. Cook explained that Al Qaeda, which literally means an abbreviation of ‘the database’ in Arabic, was originally the computer database of the thousands of Islamist extremists, who were trained by the CIA and funded by the Saudis, in order to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan,” says Garikai Chengu, a scholar at Harvard University.
Besides the Al-Qaeda, however, the American intelligence agency was instrumental in the creation of the Taliban. The Americans, in collusion with the then Pakistani establishment, provided a safe haven for these fighters. However, after the same groups turned on their previous backers, the Americans invaded Afghanistan in 2001, seeking to dismantle the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks. The war in Afghanistan saw the return of terror elements back into Pakistan. Since then, many of its offshoots have left a trail of bloodshed and violence in the country, besides causing immeasurable harm to American interests.
Coming back to the Kashmir issue, the Obama administration has maintained that it is a bilateral issue that both sides must sort out for themselves. It is a rather convenient position to take, considering the role the Americans played in harbouring terrorism through its misguided policies. The fact is that America bears some responsibility for the current state of Pakistan. Meanwhile, things are back to where they were 70 years ago between India and Pakistan.