There has been no fundamental change in India’s attitude towards Pakistan. It has never seriously engaged with Pakistan on conflict resolution.
This was one of the points made by Riaz Khokhar, former Ambassador and Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, on 29 January 2020 in his keynote address in the inaugural session of a two-day conference on ‘Kashmir, the Way Forward’, organised by The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). Mr Khokhar started his speech by saying that the subject could not be looked at in isolation because it involved a number of factors: the situation in South Asia in the geopolitical and economic context, the world order was in flux, the rise of China, Russia reasserting itself, the US still believing in its superiority as an exceptional power, the US-India strategic partnership and flashpoints such as Afghanistan and the Middle East. He rejected the notion that the Pakistan government was caught napping when Modi made his move [in Kashmir]. “We were following his election very carefully, and there was a genuine understanding that if he was to return with a massive majority then we should expect him to do things. The Pakistani government did handle the first phase of the problem coolly.” Watch Video
Mr Khokhar said in order to analyse the situation we needed to see what Modi did: he basically abolished articles 370 and 35(A). And why at this time? There were several reasons, he argued. First, as the leader of the BJP and a deeply committed RSS man, he was committed to the concept of Hindutva. Secondly, he was convinced that if he did that, it would be a popular move [among Hindus]. Thirdly, he was convinced that the international community was not with Pakistan. Fourth, after the February 2019 skirmish he was convinced that Pakistan was not entirely strong –– he saw it politically fractured, economically weak, but militarily strong. He also realised that Pakistan was financially in a difficult situation; if there was a war we would have difficulty in financing it.
Mr Khokhar said there’s no change in India’s fundamental attitude towards Pakistan. We’d had wars, conflicts, confrontations and rounds of talks, but what’s the end result: when it came to crucial issues, it’s zero. India had just used its weight and had never seriously engaged with Pakistan in conflict resolution. “India has been taking Pakistan for a ride for a long time.”
Mr Khokhar said Modi’s decision was a shock not just to the Hurriyat but also to the pro-India Kashmiri leaders such as Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. The question was: could these people work together. “It seems not,” he said. The pro-India leaders couldn’t be trusted, and on the other side the Hurriyat leader, Ali Shah Geelani, was quite old (95 years of age), and Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq were committed. He said:
My own feeling is that the movement has moved on, it is no longer in their hands. The real problem is we don’t know who the new, upcoming leaders are. You can see they have challenged India’s crackdown. This is the great strategic mistake that Modi has made in Kashmir. A man who is so ruthless, he will go to any length to ensure that his clampdown works.
The movement that you see now in India has nothing to do with Kashmir. The CAA and the NRC is a completely different thing. It’s nice to see that there’s a certain attack on Modi’s overall political confidence. I can’t say he’s shaken, but he’s certainly worried because the movement has gathered momentum. The international media has given it wide coverage and India’s secularism is questioned.
Options for Pakistan
After that Mr Khokhar talked about the options for Pakistan on the issue in which he touched upon the diplomatic options, going to the ICJ, ICC, OIC, media strategy etc.
Earlier, Justice S.A. Sarwana inaugurated the conference. President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Masood Khan was supposed to do that but he fell sick and couldn’t make it to the moot. PIIA chairperson Masuma Hasan read out Mr Khan’s message and the AJK president reminded the world of atrocities being perpetrated in India-held Kashmir
In his message he said the occupied Jammu and Kashmir had been under lockdown and communication blockade for the past 179 days. Some 900,000 Indian forces invaded and laid siege to the territory on Aug 5, 2019 and have been brutalising its people with impunity ever since.
Mr Khan said the entire pro-freedom movement leadership was under detention. Thousands of young boys have been abducted by the occupation forces and according to Indian CDS Bipin Rawat, they are being kept in concentration camps, reminiscent of the concentration camps that were set up by Adolf Hitler.
Armed death squads of the Sangh Parivar and Bajrang Dal were prowling in Jammu, threatening Muslims. Young men are being killed every day in cordon and search operations.
Mr Khan said we are witnessing in the state the most serious human rights and humanitarian crisis in the world. The Genocide Watch has issued an alert warning that the IOK had entered the eighth (out of 10) stage of genocide. The next two stages are annihilation and denial.
Mr Khan said the world reaction to India’s illegal steps was mixed. Most recently, however, the European Parliament had moved six resolutions in which its members, recalling the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir, had called for their implementation by holding a referendum to determine the will of the Kashmiri people. He also gave suggestions some of which are:
The doors that have opened in the international forums should not be closed; the international media has crafted a true and authentic narrative on Kashmir –– Kashmiri and Pakistani media persons should interface with the international media to shine a light on Indian atrocities; make appeals to the world to stress that the most urgent task is to stop impending carnage and genocide in IOK; if President Trump wants to help, then the first priority is to save the Kashmiris from mass killings and land grab; do not entertain offers of bilateral talks or backdoor diplomacy unless India first restores the disputed status of the state; India is threatening to use force against Pakistan and Azad Kashmir –– we too should ensure full military preparedness; make Pakistan a strong nation economically; and focus on youth.
Masuma Hasan spoke on the objectives of the conference. Dr Tanweer Khalid delivered the vote of thanks.
Asking Trump to mediate between Pakistan and India a bad move, says ex-foreign secretary
During these extremely difficult times of oppression, the people of Indian-held Kashmir see Pakistan and the international community as their only hope. Though Pakistan has been active for the Kashmiris since the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in India revoked the special status of Kashmir in the constitution of India in August 2019, these efforts do not seem enough as more pressure needs to be exerted on India.
Former foreign secretary Riaz Hussain Khokhar, who also served as the high commissioner of Pakistan in India, said this on Wednesday as he spoke as the keynote speaker at the inauguration of a two-day conference on Kashmir, titled ‘Conference on Kashmir: The Way Forward’, organised by the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA).
Being the keynote speaker, Khokhar summarised the position of various global stakeholders on Kashmir, especially after the constitutional amendment in India, and brought up many points for the conference to look into. He said that being a staunch proponent of Hindutva ideology, what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did to Kashmiris was not surprising but one needed to understand the calculated timing of the decision.
Khokhar said India changed the articles 370 and 35A of its constitution in August 2019 when Eidul Azha was near. He added that due to the overwhelming victory of his party in the elections, Modi was also convinced that his move would be very popular as 88 per cent of the population of India comprised Hindus and Modi thought most of the Hindus would have no problem with his annexation of Kashmir.
The former foreign secretary was of the view that India had also this impression that the global powers would not listen to Pakistan if it deprived Kashmir of its special status. Moreover, India also knew that many influential countries of the Organisation of Islamic Conference would also not support Pakistan due to their economic ties with India, he said.
Khokhar remarked that the weak economy of Pakistan was also a factor that Indian had likely considered before it ordered the clampdown in Kashmir. He said India knew Pakistan would not prefer a war with it, especially when its economy was in trouble.
He said India had always wanted settlements with Pakistan on its own terms. Referring to the past, he said India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who had told the United Nations that India was committed to holding a plebiscite in Kashmir so that its people could exercise their right to self-determination, did not intend to keep his promise. In fact, his own daughter Indira Gandhi once remarked that Nehru was not serious when he talked about plebiscite in Kashmir, the speaker maintained.
According to Khokhar, this impression was wrong that Pakistan had not been following India, and Modi’s act of annexing Kashmir was a surprise to us. He said that though he was not formally part of the government, he knew the Pakistani government had been keeping a weather eye on India.
He said that more than the Hurriyat leaders in Kashmir, the pro-Indian leaders of Kashmir such as Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah were shocked by the Indian government’s decision. However, he ruled out the possibility of such leaders working in collaboration with the Hurriyat leaders against the Indian government.
Another interesting remark made by Khokhar was that the leadership of anti-Indian Kashmiris had passed on from veteran Hurriyat leaders such as Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik. Yet he said he did not know who the new leaders of the oppressed people of the Indian-held Kashmir were.
He was full of praise for some Indians such as Arundhati Roy who wrote against the Indian oppression in Kashmir in a more effective manner than Pakistani writers did.
Commenting on the ongoing turmoil in India after the new citizenship law was promulgated there, Khokhar said the ongoing protests had nothing to do with the Kashmir issue, though they had shocked the Indian government and prompted the West to question the secularism in India.
Regarding the possible options for Pakistan, Khokhar said war was definitely not an option. “People don’t understand what a nuclear war is,” he said, adding that we should realise that when we cannot handle a bus accident in this city, handling a nuclear war is something beyond our imagination.
He, however, asserted that we should not be afraid of war in case India opts for it. If war happens, it needs to be India’s initiative, he remarked.
Khokhar said the United Nations Security Council was reluctant to play its role as the United States (US), United Kingdom and France did not want to go against India. Approaching the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court could also be Pakistan’s options, he said, adding that but many formalities were required before these institutions could be involved. He also stressed the need for a massive worldwide campaign to highlight the Indian violations of human rights in Kashmir. In the speaker’s words, such a campaign “is yet to be launched”.
He also lamented the role of the OIC, saying that all it did on the Kashmir issue was coming up with pathetic statements. “I do not know what will energise the OIC.”
The former foreign secretary also advised against using backchannels for diplomacy, saying that they mostly caused misunderstandings. He recalled the use of backchannel diplomacy during Musharraf’s era which eventually resulted in both the countries accepting the status quo on Kashmir. “It is best to only involve formal channels [of diplomacy].”
Khokhar also dismissed the idea of asking US President Donald Trump to mediate between Pakistan and India. He said no one took Trump seriously, including the deep state within the US. He added that in the present times, India was a strategic partner of the US against China, and if the US acted as a mediator, it would pressure Pakistan into accepting the status quo.
The speaker ended his speech with stressing the role of the media. He said Pakistan needed to make a media strategy to make the world aware of Indian transgressions. He said the news stories published in New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian and other reputed papers made the world aware of the situation in Kashmir.