The position (or lack thereof) taken by India and Pakistan on the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a reminder that both countries are morally inconsistent. Rights violations are taking place in Ukraine following Russia’s aggression, but India and Pakistan have refrained from condemning the invasion. This reeks of double standards: Pakistan has been raising concerns on human rights violations in Kashmir and has been clamouring for support from the international community. Strangely, on one hand it expects support for its pet issues, on the other it ignores the plight of people making their last stand in Ukraine.
Similarly, Pakistan avers that the BLA (Balochistan Liberation Army) is stoked by India to destabilise the country. If stoking separatists is objectionable, then on what basis does it ignore the Russian stoking of separatists in the Donbas region?
Likewise, India is concerned about separatists in Kashmir. It is also concerned about Chinese territorial incursion in the Ladakh region. Thus, on what moral basis does it remain neutral on Ukraine when it does not like the same for itself?
In 2014, ignoring the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea. He also stoked separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, which are part of the Donbas region of Ukraine. Currently, flouting all international norms, he has inflicted a full-scale war on Ukraine. In response, both Pakistan and India have remained largely neutral.
The question is how many Pakistanis and Indians would like the same neutrality for their respective concerns.
What allows Pakistan and India to remain neutral on Ukraine is that they are complicit in human rights violations. Pakistan has stoked Kashmiri separatists and denies the plight of the Uyghurs, just as India has inflicted human rights violations in Kashmir.
Many Indians and Pakistanis have immigrated to the West, and have become successful professionals, including medical doctors, engineers, and CEOs, whose average incomes surpass that of Hispanics and white and black Americans. Unfortunately, just as the Afghan refugees experience discrimination in Pakistan, and as Biharis in northern India, immigrant children face racism in the West. To address their identity issues and deep-rooted hurts, they either join social justice movements on the left or uber Islamic networks on the right. It is this group of people that is raising concerns on double standards of the West on Ukrainian refugees. They remain respectively quiet when Pakistan denies plight of the Uyghurs and India inflicts human rights violations in Kashmir.
This is because both the countries are less moved by morality than by self-interest. All this talk of human rights violations is a sham. What allows Pakistan and India to remain neutral on Ukraine is that they are complicit in human rights violations. Pakistan has stoked Kashmiri separatists and rejects the plight of the Uyghurs, just as India has inflicted human rights violations in Kashmir.
As noted earlier, the same moral inconsistency mars the Pakistani and Indian immigrants in the West who make tremendous economic gains only to point out the failures of the West than those of the countries of their respective origins. This takes us back to the Urdu quip, “iss hamam main saray nangay hain” (everybody is equally naked in this bathhouse).
Such double standards are not confined to Pakistanis and Indians in the West. They extend to the governments of Pakistan and India. To be fair, neither country gains from siding with the West. Pakistan feels that the US is a fair-weather ally, and it is putting all its eggs in China. That such a strategy will haunt them in the future merits a separate discussion.
India is looking at its own interest of accessing cheap gas and Russian weapons given Chinese incursion in the Ladakh region. Both know how the West has treated places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria by stoking conflicts through sales of arms, promising support for their allies, but then leaving them to fend for themselves. Thus, both Pakistan and India have every right to not be drawn into the conflicts of the West that has already stoked two world wars.