The futility of taking the Kashmir issue abroad

Ideally, Pakistani efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue should draw big yawns — not just from India but also the international community itself. After all, this is a script

that has played out before, and except for a short period in the early 1990s, it hardly gains any traction in international forums. But because of the recent ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC), the ratcheting up of rhetoric from both sides, the Pakistani approach to the UN to intervene and now, the 26 October ‘million man’ march in London, the issue of the internationalisation of Kashmir has started drawing a little more than passing interest.

For India, Pakistani efforts to once again internationalise Kashmir is nothing more than a needless distraction. But instead of reacting either with fury or fluster, India should use this as an opportunity to show the world Pakistan’s perfidy and puerility.

In a way, Pakistan might be doing India a favour by trying to internationalise Kashmir, more so at this particular time. To not put too fine a point on it, Pakistan is today all but an international pariah, not to mention an international ‘migraine’. India, on the other hand, is once again being looked at with great interest by the international community and is on the verge of becoming ‘the toast of the town’. And yet, strangely enough, Pakistan is strutting, full of confidence that it will gain by making Kashmir an international issue, while India remains chary over the Pakistani ploy.
There is nothing new or novel in Pakistan’s tactic this time around that it hasn’t tried in the past. Whether it is the nonsense about tensions between two nuclear weapon states, o

r the exaggerated and mostly false accounts of human rights violations, the ‘stifling’ presence of the Indian security forces, or even allegations of India violating the ceasefire, it has all been done before. And unfortunately for Pakistan, the world has seen through its game of starting the fire and then running to the international community asking for intervention. The only new tack Pakistan is trying to sell this time is that while it is fighting to save the rest of the world from terrorism — via Operation Zarb-e-Azb — India is creating problems by responding with uncharacteristic ferocity to ceasefire violations.

But the world knows that rather than being a victim of terrorism, Pakistan is like that arsonist who sets fire to his own establishment and then tries to claim the insurance money. Of course, given Pakistan’s nuisance value, the world will lend it an ear (which as is its wont, Pakistan will misconstrue) and appeal to both sides to show restraint and start a dialogue. If this is the sum and substance of Pakistani efforts to internationalise Kashmir, then it won’t be long before the very mention of the word Kashmir draws yawns once again.

Pakistan probably understands this and therefore it will try and further raise the temperature on the border, holding out thinly veiled threats of a possible nuclear conflagration. Normally when this happens the world tends to lean upon India — seen as the nice and reasonable party — to back down and start dialogue. But the last time this happened — in Kargil — India dug in its heels and refused to let Pakistan get away with its blatant and brazen brinkmanship. This led to the pressure rebounding on Pakistan, which was then forced to withdraw unceremoniously and with utter humiliation from the heights they had occupied.

For Pakistan, this is probably the last chance to internationalise Kashmir. They have a small window of opportunity till 2016 when the presence of US and other foreign forces give Pakistan some leverage as they control the logistic and supply routes. Pakistan would like to use this opportunity to get some concession on Kashmir because it knows things will be very different post 2016 and it won’t be able to exercise blackmail against Afghanist

India could react in two ways: first, ignore Pakistan with contempt and refuse to dignify their propaganda by responding to it forcefully. The problem with this option is that India will leave the field open for Pakistan to feed all sorts of self-serving lies to their western interlocutors. Worse, India could start being perceived as arrogant, haughty and with something to hide or be embarrassed about. an anymore. This means Pakistan will do everything to stir the Kashmir pot — rekindle violence in the state, heat up the LoC, send delegations to Western capitals to drum up international support, and organise marches, like the one in London, at which only Pakistanis will be in attendance.

The second option is to engage the international community and take the initiative to explain why anything that Pakistan says is a lie: pointing to Pakistan’s past record of perfidy and worse; undertaking hectic public diplomacy to expose Pakistan — remember Ghulam Nabi Fai and his ISI-funded jamborees? — and making it clear to all countries that their indulgence of Pakistan or any attempt on their part to either interfere or mediate in Kashmir will not be seen as a friendly act by India.

If India plays its cards well, then this ‘internationalisation’ gambit of Pakistan could in fact work in India’s favour because if, after having tried both open and proxy wars, Pakistan’s internationalisation effort also comes a cropper, then there is an outside chance that Pakistan could become amenable to a lasting solution on the Kashmir issue.

— Sushant Sareen
(Senior Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation)