In the midst of escalating political tensions between the two old and notorious adversaries of South Asia, Pakistan and India, once again Kashmir dispute has sown the seeds of enmity and has further exacerbated the situation. Kashmir has been a bone of contention between the two states. With that, it has also been a battleground of political manoeuvring where Kashmir is used as a tool to achieve certain political objectives domestically. Adding to the dilemma is the fact that no serious considerations have been given to Kashmir by the international community.
In the wake of recent uprising in Kashmir, the dispute has captured the attention of the international community. The authorities in the international institutions have started to realize the need to be vigilant and the fact that neglecting Kashmir would bring South Asia on the brink of a nuclear war.
Domestic Politics and Kashmir
Let’s have an overview how Kashmir has been used to extend internal political agendas in India and Pakistan. In the past, Kashmir issue has been dealt on international front in the light of domestic political agendas and in contemporary scenario it has been used by the BJP government for domestic political interests. Pakistan has been at war with India thrice over Kashmir and petty LOC skirmishes are a matter of daily routine, but this time the right wing extremist political leader of India’s largest political party, Bhartiya Janta Party, for the sake of securing the massive right wing vote-bank, created a havoc and mayhem on the line of control by infuriating the Western neighbor, compelling it to retaliate. On the other side of the LOC, Pakistanis too were zealous and enthusiastic to retaliate and show their military muscle to the rival. On both sides, support for the armed forces and political will to retaliate were at peak. Also, to maintain the strategic equation of balance in South Asia, the display of military might was the need of hour.
Kashmir is more than a piece of territory to both the states
The Kashmir dispute has also been used as a tool by the politicians on both sides of the border to emblaze their popularity. It’s not the first time that Kashmir has been used by politicians of both state to boost their political standing. In India’s case, the internal politics compelled Modi to create a melodrama of strikes against Pakistan and make his public figure eminent right before elections.
Prime Minister Khan, who is steering the machinery of government for the first time, was being criticized in his patria for inefficient governance, but the offensive by PM Modi benefited PM Khan who managed to regain his lost persona and emerged as a national hero with all his stalwarts bragging and cherishing his decision of retaliation. Moreover, throughout the episode, the reaction from Pakistani side was calm and Pakistan successfully orchestrated a soft image on the international stage where Pakistan was appreciated.
Adjusting the post-Pulwama crisis in the framework of India’s foreign policy, it can be scrutinized that it led to a debacle, which portrayed India on the international arena as an aggressive state. Such myopic step taken by India put its position in peril. This extended the domestic politics of India to regional level, where India is competing to become regional hegemon and miscalculated that such an offensive would strengthen its position in South Asia. All these miscalculations gave an advantage to its adversary, Pakistan.
In the contemporary scenario Kashmir issue has been used by the BJP government for domestic political interests
However, the biggest concern is that the International Community has not taken any practical step to put pressure on India regarding the recent blatant offensive. This is not the first time that the international community has acted passively. History is replete with instances reflecting sluggish and careless attitude of the international community thus procrastinating the resolution of Kashmir issue.
Back to The Drawing Board
It has been witnessed in retrospect that in Pakistan’s case, the very basic component of foreign policy “realpolitik” i.e. prioritizing national interest is not much reflected. From Tashkent declaration to Kargil Conflict, Pakistan’s policies and calculations have been quite naive and ambivalent. In Tashkent Declaration, Pakistan compromised on its national interest and surrendered all the occupied territory before India without making advancement towards resolution of Kashmir. Similarly, in Kargil conflict, tensions between the then PM and COAS, led towards fiasco. The condition in 1948 was not much different either when an unorganized mob from the then North West Frontier Province intruded into Kashmir and due to lack of management and planning, had to withdraw. Pakistan needs to redraw its Kashmir policy. It has been dealing with Kashmir since its preliminary stages but has not been able to successfully articulate a well-crafted Kashmir policy to persuade other states for cracking a multilateral dialogue.
In Retrospect, the very basic component of foreign policy “realpolitik” is not much reflected in Pakistan’s Kashmir Diplomacy
Kashmir would be a hard nut to crack for both the states because of the geopolitical interests and ideological affiliation. Kashmir is more than a piece of territory to both states. Homogenous cultural or religious affiliations are a part of the big picture painted by the water politics. Both states rely heavily on Kashmir for water resources. Pakistan is lower water riparian and India is upper water riparian and in such an already unfavourable condition, Pakistan cannot afford to rely on India to channel its share of waters. Compromising a part of Kashmir to India would mean undermining the core national interest of Pakistan. Moreover, a compromise on Kashmir will have devastating impact on the economic vitality of the country. Pakistan is an agrarian economy and allowing India the control of Kashmir’s waters equates to providing India control over former’s economy.
Kashmir would be a hard nut to crack for both the states because of the geopolitical interests and ideological affiliation.
Pulwama is the recent case study to understand the importance of Kashmir in domestic politics of both the states as well as their diplomatic wrangling in the international arena. From 1948 till date, direct or indirect skirmishes between Indian and Pakistan have been either the result of domestic politics or naive leadership. The role of international community is not active and there is a dearth of discourse among states on this issue to promote multilateral dialogue. Both states need to review their policies regarding Kashmir to better formulate their foreign policy and avoid such confrontations in future.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale-47.