With Pakistan bitterly divided from within and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration determined to crush the Opposition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India thought it fit to redefine history and its relationship with Pakistan by unilaterally annexing the state of Jammu and Kashmir and by scrapping Article 370 and 35-A from the Indian constitution.
This happened right after the mysterious defeat of the opposition alliance last week; on August 1, 64 standing votes of the opposition turned out to be 50 in a secret ballot count.
Only last week the PTI government led by PM Khan was celebrating the “success” of his trip to the United States. They were bragging about mediation offered on the Kashmir dispute by president of USA. Soon after that, and only a day before Modi’s moment, President Trump in Ohio repeated his offer, this time toning it down a bit. He said he was ready to mediate if both countries wanted it.
If somebody was planning to hit Pakistan at a weak moment in its history, August 5 was probably the best time. Pakistan’s international isolation is evident; when India announced to formally annex Jammu and Kashmir and end its special status as promised by the founding fathers of India, there was no country in the world except China willing to speak up. China, while urging both Pakistan and India to show restraint and remain neutral, criticised India on including Ladakh as a union territory as it affected the national sovereignty of China.
With the exception of Turkey, no country came out solidly behind Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. It is a moment of extreme isolation
As if that was not enough, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates and current chairman of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), Ahmad al Banna had these words on the annexation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir: “We expect that the changes will improve social justice and security and confidence of the people in the local governance and will encourage further stability and peace.”
With the exception of Turkey, no country came out solidly behind Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. It is a moment of extreme isolation.
Even though the offer by President Trump to mediate in Kashmir is still fresh, there was no word of sympathy from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, except perhaps a note of caution by the State Department on communication meltdown and arrests in the valley. We don’t know what other support for Pakistan will come on the issue but one thing is clear: either the Pakistani administration was completely ignorant of what was going to happen or they were complicit in the design.
For months, there appeared to be major troop deployment in the valley and along the Line of Control (LoC). Even though Indian authorities denied any major development affecting the constitutional status of Kashmir, many people were publically predicating that this was likely to soon.
When Amit Shah in the Indian Rajya Sabha made the announcement, it took Pakistan by complete surprise. Had Pakistan known, its permanent representative Dr Maleeha Lodhi would not be out of her station and the country’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi would not be in Saudi Arabia offering Haj. The Twitter happy prime minister was conspicuous by his silence for a good 24 hours. The joint session of the parliament was convened on Tuesday at the request of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The government was so ill prepared that the agenda calling for discussion on the issue did not even mention the scrapping of Article 370 from the Indian constitution.
The joint session of the parliament ended in a shouting match between the government and opposition leaders, with demands from both sides to break diplomatic relations with India and sealing of the eastern air corridor. On Wednesday, the second meeting of the cabinet committee on national security was held. The meeting decided to downgrade diplomatic relations, suspending commercial ties, reviewing all treaties with India and approaching international bodies, including the UN Security Council. Earlier on Tuesday, the corps commanders meeting at the GHQ resolved to go to any extent to support the Kashmiris.
Even during the crisis, the witch hunt against the opposition continued. On Wednesday, former finance minister Miftah Ismail was arrested and the accountability Czar Shahzad Akbar appeared in a press conference levelling fresh accusations against the Sharifs which were broadcast live on national TV.
During the entire crisis there was no soul searching on why Modi’s administration felt so empowered to take an action which had been left unaddressed for many years. Did India make a move at a time when Pakistani polity was extremely polarized, national economy in shambles and the diplomatic isolation almost complete?
While India made this move in complete disregard of its commitments to the Kashmiri people, Pakistan’s options are limited and actions only symbolic.
The only hope is the legal recourse in the Indian Supreme Court, solidarity of the Indian opposition and the resistance of the Kashmiris. With the sword of Damocles of grey and possibly black list by FATF hanging over Pakistan, the last thing the country can afford is to encourage non-state actors to cause any trouble in India.
Pakistan needs to learn from this debacle and move on. We must accept that there is no such thing as conscience, morality and brotherhood in international statecraft. It is all about hard and soft powers your state carries. Our permanent rulers have weakened Pakistan economically and politically to unprecedented proportions. There are no quick fixes, no magic wands and no short cuts.
The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad