Yes, India has finally annexed Kashmir. Yes, it is truly devastating for our diplomacy in the short term. It is a gross violation of international morals, treaties and human rights. But is it really our problem to begin with?
What must be explored from the outset is the influence of a movement that began gaining traction in the 1970s. The Middle Eastern countries exhibited an oil blockade against America for Palestine, Iran witnessed a popular revolution by the Islamists and Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union. These movements were exacerbated further in the aftermath of 9/11; the fall of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt inter alia, other revolutions. Yet, despite continued efforts by the Arab republics in Palestine, the Pakistani state in Kashmir and the Iranian efforts in Middle East more broadly, pan-Islamism has been a complete and utter failure.
The only Muslim countries that turned away from this ethno-religious philosophy – namely Malaysia, Turkey, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Turkmenistan – have had any successes in developing their economies. While we may not like nationalism, we must accept it as the dominant philosophy of the modern state. Westphalian peace in Europe transformed small countries of the tiny continent into great colonial powers. The ability to avoid war with your neighbours was vital for the colonial project to bloom. Yet, after years of rallying around pan-Islamist concepts, Pakistan fails to appreciate the importance of regional peace.
We must understand that politics of a nation state outside our borders, be it India, Israel or America, is of no material concern to the starving, struggling and impoverished populace of Pakistan. Despite our cry for a plebiscite in Kashmir for over seven decades, the only realistic solution to the problem was to keep the borders at their current levels. Neither India, nor Pakistan was ever going to agree to a solution requiring them to cede territory that for seven decades was claimed as part of their nation state. As far as the notion of an Independent Kashmir, pseudo liberals must understand that a small nation such as Kashmir, being in charge of the entire Pakistani water supply, would never be acceptable to the Pakistan either. Moreover, if gross violations against minority Muslim populations was really an issue, why are we silent on Turkey’s persecution of the Kurds, the Chinese atrocities against Uighur’s in Xinjiang, the annexation of Kalat, Syrian tyranny under Assad and the Hazara genocide in our own backyard? Do Muslims only get persecuted when the perpetrator is an unfriendly nation?
In Pakistan’s struggle for Kashmir, we have fought over three wars in 1947, 1965 and 1999 to no avail. In order to maintain that struggle, and our enmity against India, we spend over a fifth of our total budget on the military (highest percentage in the world, as recorded by the World Bank). Over seventy years, this never-ending cycle has impoverished our population. On a per capita basis, we are now officially poorer than Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Nigeria, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, and Egypt. Due to the Pakistani state’s soft hand on Kashmir, we have gained a reputation for funding terrorism, wooing away any possibility of significant foreign investment and trade. Finally, instead of imparting education, the Pakistani state has relentlessly continued a campaign of supporting militant camps under the guise of seminaries, in order to assist in an impossible war.
Finally, let us see what Kashmir ever really gained out of these actions. The average Kashmiri, residing in AJK or GB, has no memory of a united Kashmir. History of this ideal is now as ancient as the fate of the mentally retarded in Manto’sToba Tek Singh. The Kashmiri, who has unofficially been a part of Pakistan since 1947, has no right under the current Pakistani constitution – unless he moves out of Kashmir – to determine federal policy because he has no representation in the National Assembly. Kashmiris have not had the ability to develop as a province of the country by virtue of hanging in a limbo, holding on to the promise of a united Kashmir. To be very candid, Kashmir was not the only province/state split up by the partition. Over 10 million Punjabi and Bengali families were separated by an artificial divide. But no one really ever brings up visitation rights to Jalandhar or Calcutta.
That said, Pakistan has a strategic interest in maintaining control over the water ways which run through Kashmir. Any effects of annexation must be neutral in their impact towards the Indus Water Treaty. Since this is a real national interest concern, the Pakistani government should obtain guarantees from the international community, the United States, India and China specifically to protect the water flows which cultivate our economy. Additionally, we should appeal to the UNHCR in order to make arrangements for much anticipated mass migrations into AJK and other parts of Pakistan. If we are serious about our commitments to help Kashmir, we cannot accomplish them without opening our borders to those fleeing Indian persecution.
In our stubborn struggle to support the pan-Islamist fight for a larger Kashmiri freedom, we have denied democracy and development to over 6 million people that have inhabited our own country. Instead of continuing to fight a battle that we will most definitely never win, let us start fixing the things that we can. While Indian annexation might be a violation of human rights, there is a huge silver lining missed in all the fuss: the possibility of long-lasting peace in the subcontinent.