Kashmir, Pakistan /Asia/Pacific
Kashmir - Finding the Way Forward - Asia/Pacific

Kashmir - Finding the Way Forward

Posted by Aneela Shahzad on

This is an analysis of the Kashmir Issue and the possible ways to deal with it. Viewing the Issue from several matrixes, the analysis tends to put forth a comprehensive layout of the matter, suggesting possible future scenarios and the best ways forward from Pakistan's point of view. 


More than seven decades have passed the Partition of the Subcontinent and the creation of Pakistan. Two months after this creation, Maharaja Hari Singh joined Kashmir with India through the unlawful use of the Instrument of Accession. In these 7decades a lot has come to pass in both Pakistan and the Occupied Kashmir, and Pakistan has tried a variety of pursuits to resolve the dispute in the true essence of the Instrument of Accession, but the dispute remains.

Time has only served to make the Kashmir Dispute more complex and multiplex, making it imperative for today’s policy makers to ascertain the Kashmir Issue in the multifarious paradigms accumulating in and around it.

This analysis will be laid down in the following framework:

-         The Paradigms

  • Global, Regional and Local
  • Humanitarian and Religious
  • Pakistan and Kashmir’s Internal
  • Historical and Contemporary
  • The United Nations 

-         Aggression and Diplomacy

  • Methods of Aggression
    • Direct Attack
    • LOC
    • Supporting Militants 
  • Methods of Diplomacy
    • National Narrative
    • CBMs with Kashmir
    • Public Diplomacy
    • Power Politics
    • Internationalization 

-         Our Way Forward

  • Isolationism
  • Interventionism
  • Pragmatism 

-         A Doctrine for Pakistan


The Paradigms

Among the paradigms that present disparate but crucial ways of looking at the Kashmir Dispute, the first set is in viewing the Dispute in the Global, the Regional and the Local matrixes.

At the Global scale, Kashmir is seen as a trouble-spot between two nuclear powers that could potentially initiate disaster at the global level. Like in the Palestine Issue, all aggrieved sides in the Kashmir Issue remain continuously agitated and at the fringe of war – making it a cause of concern for all global stakeholders. The global scale is also the Humanitarian scale, wherein in the 21st century, a nation of people is being kept from their right of self-determination and is being subjugated by an oppressive regime that exercises Special Powers (AFSPA), curfews, summery shootings and other such adversities to control them.

In the Regional context, Kashmir can be seen as the pivot between China, India and Pakistan. The Gilgit-Baltistan, a part of the ‘Greater Kashmir’ that as a whole constitutes the Kashmir Issue in the UN, is the gateway for China into Pakistan, right up to the warm waters of Gawadar, and therefore the lifeline of CPEC, a major interest of China. Moreover, the threat that India exerts upon China’s maritime trade and strategic interest in the Indian Ocean is reciprocated by China, in part, by backing Pakistan in the Kashmir Issue and by sitting right next to Pakistani Forces stationed at Siachen, in the adjacent Shaksgam Valley and Aksai Chin. As a strategic partners, Pakistan can rely on China to intimidate India over the flow of its rivers that originate from Tibet when India threatens Pakistani waters coming from Occupied Kashmir, like it happened in 2016.

In the Local terms two paradigms have to be uncovered, Pakistan’s national scenario and Occupied Kashmir’s internal scenario and how they are interrelated. Pakistan’s national narrative on Kashmir is based on the Religious oneness of the two people of Pakistan and Kashmir – this religious oneness is the basis of the Two Nation Theory upon which the whole struggle of independence went forth. India’s forceful occupation of Kashmir means that the struggle for independence of the Kashmiri people is yet to be realized. For the Kashmiris this struggle is thus not just related to Pakistan but goes back, in Historical terms to the invasion of Kashmir by Ranjeet Singh and following that the oppressive Dogra Rule. 

Kashmir’s internal context is primary in the matter, as Kashmir’s self-determination depends upon the ‘will of the Kashmiri people’. In the 70 years of control, India has had ample room to implant pro-India lobbying and buy the loyalties of many via lucrative opportunities, scholarships in Indian Universities and through induction in the political framework. This and increased awareness with entering the digital age has indeed brought up a generation that argues between joining Pakistan and complete independence. Policy givers in Pakistan have to therefore be sensitive towards both the masses of Kashmir that still look towards Pakistan as their only hope and rescue, and an informed sector of the society that has become skeptical about this option.

Another ‘international’ paradigm is the United Nations, which has so far been impotent in the resolution of Kashmir. The Security Council intervened in the Kashmir Issue with Resolution 47, adopted on April 21, 1948, which asked for a plebiscite to decide the fate of Kashmir. The resolution was reaffirmed in 1957, but a resolution that is ‘non-binding and had no mandatory enforceability’ has only given India more time to entrench into J&K. Nevertheless, defending the Issue at this biggest international forum has a moral/diplomatic value even if not a result-oriented one.

In this backdrop, in contrast to the historical canvas, the Contemporary picture in Pakistan and Kashmir has to be taken into account too. Since 1947, over frustration on Kashmir, Pakistan has engaged with India in the 1947 War, the 1965 War, the Kargil War (1999) and the Siachen Conflict (2003), showing an aggressive stance throughout the decades. After 1998, when Pakistan became a nuclear state, the possibility of a conventional war to liberate Kashmir has become increasingly impossible, however Pakistan continues to voice its ‘diplomatic, moral and political support to the Kashmiris’.

In 1964, India, overriding the Article 370, which grants special status/autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, abolished the ‘Sadr e Riasat’ post, substituting it with a Governor and Chief Minister appointed by the Central Govt., increasing tensions that led to the 1965 War.

In the 1987 Elections, wherein Farooq Abdullah won, the Muslim United Front (MUF) alleged the elections to be rigged. Large dissatisfaction in the political framework led to the creation of Hizb ul Mujahidin and the militant wing of JKLF – this was a turning point from where the Kashmir Insurgency started in an organized way and continues to this day. Baffled with the impetus of the renewed freedom-struggle, in Jan 1990, India appointed ill-famed, ex-RAW general, Jagmohan as governor of Kashmir, followed by several incidents of mass slaughter of unarmed protesters. On 1st March, an estimated one million took to the streets in Srinagar carrying placards for UN to intervene and were shot upon.

Militant groups have not ceased from that time, though they may go to hiding for months or years following Indian Army’s repressive measures. Today, Indian Forces using AFSPA, ambush and kill young suspects of militancy as a daily routine, generating as much protests and demonstrations – the blood of Kashmiri youth spilled every day is watering the Freedom Struggle on and on.

Past Experience – Aggression and Diplomacy

In the past 70 years Pakistan has tried all means for resolution of Kashmir, but the goal has been so far unachieved. Before proceeding to a new policy, past strategies must be studied.


Methods of Aggression

-  Direct Attack – as discussed above Pakistan has resorted to direct warfare with India on Kashmir’s account 4 times. Though these wars have had little in territorial victory, nevertheless they profoundly assert Pakistan’s earnestness for Kashmir and accrue the trust and bondage of a brethren held forcefully across the fence. Yet for the future any such possibility is unthinkable between two nuclear powers.

-  LOC – skirmishes at the Line of Control are an ongoing norm, which are used by both India and Pakistan to assert their strength upon the other and make case of unprovoked aggression upon the opponent. This low intensity warfare serves Pakistan’s purpose of keeping the issue alive, while the other side perpetually uses these events to malign Pakistan for intruding in the assumed Indian boundary.

-  Supporting Militants – Pakistan has not only given moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmir cause but active militant support has been a natural phenomenon starting from the first Pashtun volunteers that entered Jammu in October 1947 once the news of Hari Singh’s betrayal and the onslaught of the Dogra Army on unarmed locals surfaced. Later, when the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan, several Mujahedeen diverted themselves towards Kashmir. Rise of insurgency among Kashmiri youth in the 1980s resulted in 1000s of Kashmiri youth crossing into the Pakistan Administered Kashmir, where they could find training and arms support in local sympathizers. But achieving any end-goal through militant activity against the behemoth Armed Forces of India are again a faraway, which will keep the Issue alive but never prove to be decisive.


Methods of Diplomacy

-   National Narrative – the first step in diplomacy is creating a consensus at home. In 7decades Pakistan has had to change sides in international politics several times, switching from US to the Soviets and back, wanting to stay non-aligned and yet failing to do so. These and other factors like cultural/social effects of globalization, India’s relentless defaming of Pakistan locally and on international fronts, and lobbies at home that favor indifference to the Kashmir Issue, require a full-scale organized Anti-Propaganda. 

In the face of the huge thrust of negative imaging from the other side, the same volume is needed here based on truth-values that are naturally acceptable by majority consensus. The narrative that Kashmir is vital for Pakistan for its waters, is secondary to the humanitarian reasons, and must be crushed.

Weak refutation of India’s persistent revision of blaming Pakistan for Parliament Attack (2001), the Mumbai Attacks (2008), Pathankot Attack (2016) etc., especially at international forums, creates moral disgrace among our populace. This need to be un-done by strengthening the Foreign Ministry and augmenting its reach.

Many in Pakistan, because of not experiencing the plights of Kashmiris first hand, and also because events happening to them are usually blackened out in media, tend to put the Issue in oblivion. This dangerous tendency should be countered by engaging our news outlets in giving broader/frequent coverage to event happening in J&K.

It can be observed that while our Foreign Ministry reciprocates Indian allegations all the time, but its voice is deafened by opposing voices that come from the highest ranks of the Indian side, usually the PM himself. This needs to be countered by having the same in Pakistani leadership.


-  CBMs with Kashmir – following the neocolonial style, India generously invites Kashmiri youth for scholarships in Indian universities. This allows India to produce the interlocuteur evolue elite, that would serve as the new pro-India puppet rulers of Kashmir. This method has been by far a successful one in most third world countries and has to be countered by a strength of resolve.

As Pakistan does not have open access to public in J&K, we need to device Confidence Building Measures with the Kashmiri community and especially the youth via unconventional methods including Social Media and connecting with Kashmiri youth in friendly third countries. Pro-Pakistan and pro-plebiscite slogans should be made popular in J&K and person to person contact with cross-border visitors has to be made meaningful.


-  Public Diplomacy – India has developed Public Diplomacy as a faculty of its External Affairs Ministry. Public Diplomacy means establishing communication and propaganda in the general public of a foreign country to create consensus/influence for an idea. By programs like ‘Aman Ki Asha’, through its multibillion dollar Movie Industry and other economic and underground tie-ups, India has been relentless in passing ‘love for India’ in our public. Tough friendly bilateral relations with all neighbors are a priority but this cannot be done at the price of betraying the Kashmir Issue and its final settlement.

To counter this hazard, Pakistan needs to construct its own Public Diplomacy Section in its Foreign Ministry. This new war of voices and impressions may as well prove to be more successful then conventional war and may create a strong willingness in India’s general public against the Occupation and in time, may force their politicians to change their way of thinking.

With stronger voices, Public Diplomacy should also focus on the wider global audience by creating more awareness on the issue – especially at international and bilateral forums, where decision-makers meet.


-  Power Politics – in today’s world, global and regional alliances play a major role in determining the foreign policies of states. Pakistan is fortunate to be in a growing alliance with China and Russia at a point of time when US failures in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are being seen as an end of US control over global event. China sees India as a regional contender in both economic and territorial terms and a potential obstructer of its maritime trade routes. China’s economic pivoting in Pakistan’s CPEC make its interests in Pakistan permanent. The Russia-Iranian alliance over the Syrian War, have also brought them closer to Pakistan for its natural opposition of the US and India in both Afghanistan and Kashmir – Russia’s support for the CPEC and for Pakistan to become member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group – all this make a prospect of two veto powers standing behind Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir in near future.

Two countries, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh require our focus as possible allies to counter India and thus its Kashmir policy. Sri Lanka is already a friend and ally and a Belt and Road partner, but Bangladesh has been diplomatically forsaken by Pakistan since 1971. From being two parts of the same body, today Pakistan treats Bangladesh as a step brother, never paying one another a visit. Policy makers must understand the strategic potential of Bangladesh; if both Pakistan and Bangladesh coalesce their strategic interests, together they can create a strong bulwark against India’s intention over both the countries. 

Thus, an intelligent foreign policy and a strong will of leadership can circumvent regional forces to an outcome for Kashmir and bring the matter to a natural final settlement.


Internationalization current Indian PM Modi has left no chance of maligning Pakistan as a terror-exporter and abettor of Kashmiri militancy. He is sure to malign Pakistan in this context in every regional and international forum he reaches. Even with a foul past, he has maintained a very strong voice for the Indian stance on Kashmir.

Unfortunately, a meek stance from our side makes us look like criminals in the international community. To counter this, we need leadership that should reach every worthy platform and internationalize the Issue in favor of legit Kashmiri aspirations to the maximum.

The narrative that by agreeing to bilateralism and forsaking third-party involvement in the Tashkent, Shimla and Lahore declarations, considered as India’s diplomatic victory, must also be replaced by the Internationalization of the Issue.  

As the option of a conventional war is clearly struck off from our list of possibilities, we are essentially left with the diplomacy option. But as elaborated above, diplomacy has many weapons and can be more result-yielding then tanks and missiles. So what options do we have?


Our Way Forward

An internally weak government, having difficult time in dealing with internal crises, tends to be meek on foreign policy matters, leading to an isolationism. In the globally competitive world, the weak and the meek swiftly lose their right to survival. In order to make Pakistan a leader in the global front, a savior of humanity not a victim itself – a strong internal situation added with diplomatic activism should replace isolationism. Not only on the Kashmir Issue, rather Pakistan has to generate strong voice on other humanitarian issues like the Palestinians, the Rohingya and others on humanitarian grounds in order to gain a truly altruistic global image. Pakistan should not hesitate to raise the Kashmir Issue and should counter India’s anti-Pakistan propaganda at all bilateral and international forums.

Though all-out war is not on the table anymore, but Pakistan, having a person-to-person contact with Kashmiris across the LOC and with families and friends living on both sides, inevitably has attracted a moral and compassionate inclination towards the afflicted brethren. In this line, local sanctuaries for freedom-fighters have oft been discovered, though Pakistan outrightly refuses to have patronized any such group, but they have also not been systematically eradicated. The reasons for this allowance are firstly to help keep the Kashmir Issue alive and burning and secondly to not sever contact with the Kashmiri brethren to the extent of creating the sense of abandonment.

This sort of low-intensity localized Interventionism has its purpose but is not result-yielding. But a politico economic interventionism on a larger scale via alliances with big powers and friends that surround India, locally or strategically, in forming economic ties with them can lesson India’s weight in the regional balance of power, forcing it to comply in certain ways. Therefore, instead of aggression, only an ‘aggressive posture’ added to result-oriented international Pragmatism, already beset in the issuance of the CPEC, should be our way forward.

Pakistan’s success is the Kashmir Dispute is not only in its settlement as per the will of the Kashmiri people but also in using this Issue as a basis for its international leadership in upholding the higher human values and championing the weak and the suppressed. And this high benchmark is only set in the hope that Pakistan should yield in its near future, a leadership that bears a strong voice of truth – because a voice of truth has a reach beyond borders.


The Pakistan Doctrine

In cognizance of a swiftly changing global scenario, where Russia and China are getting an edge on US and its allies including India, and a regional prospect wherein projects like the IP gas-pipeline, the TAPI gas-pipeline and CPEC are signaling economic superiority of Pakistan over India in many ways in the near future – Pakistan may find itself in a pocket of time where it has a part to play in geopolitical scenarios around the globe.

In this context, this broad -base analysis concludes a proposed Pakistan Doctrine of setting the following priority for progress in the Kashmir Dispute:

-  To become the international voice for the Kashmiri people and use the international community to pressurize India to immediately repeal AFSPA, to demilitarize J&K by substantially decreasing Armed Forces presence in J&K, to restrain from repealing Article 35A (regarding ownership of property in J&K) until a final settlement, to allow international humanitarian orgs to enter Kashmir for independent inquiries and observation and to immediately stop killing the Kashmiri people in the name of counter-terrorism.

-  To ensure the pro-Kashmir narrative inside Pakistan, build confidence with the Kashmiri people and use Public Diplomacy in India and around the world.

-  And to align with Russia and China, two veto powers, and other friends in the globe for the purpose of encircling India diplomatically and economically to gain above mentioned concessions for the Kashmiris, bringing the Kashmir Dispute into visible progression.

The proposed Pakistan Doctrine can be restated in short as ‘building a strong Kashmir Narrative in Pakistan, Kashmir and India and around the globe, and using international diplomacy and global economic ties to pressurize India to concede phase-wise to the legit demands of the Kashmiri people, leading to the final settlement’

also read short version at Kashmir - Finding the Way Forward