Pakistan’s Kashmir policy needs to begin at home 

Pakistan’s Kashmir policy needs to begin at home 

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Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relations are multi-faceted, long-standing and mutually beneficial, and have enjoyed public and government support for decades, especially in Pakistan. Historically as global politics, regional dynamics and political leadership in both countries have evolved so have the relations. This required some readjustment periodically but the two countries by and large handled the challenge well without going public with their differences. 

In the past decade or so the regional contexts in which the two countries operate have changed significantly. Globally there is a whole new world out there. And there is a new style of leadership in both countries. It has not been easy to handle the differences, but Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi chose a wrong issue to highlight them. He touched on some critical sensitivities of Saudi Arabia regarding challenges to its leadership in the Islamic world and its public image in Pakistan. 

The minister’s remarks also implied that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was becoming obsolete in solving the Kashmir dispute. However, other than annoying Saudi Arabia and gaining some dubious publicity at home, these comments achieved little.  

While Pakistan-Saudi relations will likely be rehabilitated, Pakistan must learn a lesson. Before criticizing the OIC, Islamabad needs to ponder if it has managed to successfully challenge the Indian annexation of Kashmir. The truth is that its efforts have made little difference. And it is not OIC’s fault. Apart from some mild international criticism India has paid no price and is unlikely to walk back. 

To meet the Kashmir challenge successfully Pakistan needs an India policy that knows the India it is dealing with, a foreign policy that understands the world Pakistan lives in, and a national policy that prioritizes the interests of the country and its people.  

The minister’s remarks also implied that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was becoming obsolete in solving the Kashmir dispute. However, other than annoying Saudi Arabia and gaining some dubious publicity at home, these comments achieved little.  


Touqir Hussain  

With the rise of multipolarity, international politics is becoming regionalized. Rising powers are taking things in their own hands in a fragmented world where resurgent populism, nationalism, and authoritarianism are threatening traditions, institutions and the framework of international peace and cooperation. India is a beneficiary as well as contributor to this emerging global milieu.  

Indian Prime Minister Modi has embarked on a very aggressive Pakistan policy aimed at making both Islamabad and international community irrelevant to the Kashmir dispute. It is not the same India that Pakistan has dealt with for 70 years. Not just the importance of India has risen in the eyes of other countries, the profile of Pakistan has diminished, in part due to its neighbor's malign efforts, and in part owing to its own failings. Pakistan is a weakened state addicted to external help. Pakistan’s friends can give it financial help or support on Kashmir, not both. 

Pakistan has a good professional army and nuclear capability. But defense capability is only one element of a nation’s strength, which also needs a good foreign policy. Pakistan’s foreign policy, unfortunately, is a function of national weakness more than its strength. 

The country has great strengths but these are serving an elitist system that has strengthened the elite by weakening the state. National policies, including the foreign policy, are utilizing the country’s great assets like enviable geopolitical location, potentially capable human resources, functioning institutions, including a well reputed Foreign Service, ample natural resources and national resilience, to advance the interests of dominant social groups — civilian and military alike. 

These policies neglect the health of the federation and have created an enabling environment for forces of disunity, destabilization and extremism. All this has become a cause and effect of poor governance, inducing borrowing with abandon and suppressing any urge for standing on its own. 

As so much of Pakistan’s foreign policy, including the India policy that shapes its approach to Kashmir, is largely focused on safeguarding of the system, its impact on Kashmir has been minimal leaving its future to the valor of Kashmiris and India’s unforced errors.   

A better option for Pakistan is to strengthen itself to have a leverage on India and thus on Kashmir. That will require structural changes, a system overhaul and a new organizing idea. And Pakistan can do it. Only that will give Pakistan a strength that India cannot ignore.   

The fact is Pakistan’s India and Kashmir policy, good or bad, begins at home. Only what will work for Pakistan will work for Kashmir. Rhetoric, new maps, and OIC will not. 

*Touqir Hussain is a former ambassador teaching at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins University and a senior visiting research fellow at the National University of Singapore.

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