Pakistan saw a splendid opportunity to internationalise the Kashmir issue when India revoked Article 370 last month. Since Jammu and Kashmir was supposedly a “disputed territory,” India should not have unilaterally changed its status, thought Pakistan and China. With this argument, China called for a meeting of the Security Council, but an informal meeting of the Council refused to take any action as it was convinced by the Indian argument that the action taken by India was an internal matter. As for any differences between the two countries, they should be solved through bilateral discussions.
Pakistan appears to be following a three-pronged approach to exploit the abrogation of Article 370 to strengthen its claims. The first is to raise the matter at every international meet to embarrass India. Although there was no outcome from the informal consultations in the Security Council, news has leaked that the UK was also inclined to support Pakistan, though it made no public statement. Hopefully, we have protested to the UK. Perhaps, the present Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has his own unorthodox views on India even after PM Modi met him recently. China is likely to call for another meeting of the Security Council if the situation inside Kashmir does not return to normal. This despite an assertion by a top Pakistani lawyer at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that it would be impossible to isolate India on the Kashmir issue. He may have been consulted about the possibility of raising the issue in ICJ.
The second track Pakistan is following is of a peace inititiative with India to show how reasonable it has been. After the debacle in the Security Council, Prime Minister Imran Khan has spoken alternately of war and peace, all for getting global attention. Following some provocative missile tests to warn India, he turned to some words of peace."We will never ever start the war. Both Pakistan and India are nuclear powers and if tension escalates the world will face danger," Khan said while addressing a gathering of the Sikh community in Pakistan. He said that war is not a solution to any problem. "I want to tell India that war is not a solution to any problem. The winner in war is also a loser. War gives birth to host of other issues," he said. Though the words were about peace, this was a threat of war and a call for peace rolled in one.
The most surprising statement from Imran Khan was that Pakistan would not use nuclear weapons first. “We both are nuclear-armed countries. If these tensions increase, the world could be in danger”, Khan said, addressing members of the Sikh religious community in the eastern city of Lahore. “There will be no first use from our side ever”, he said. This is contrary to the Pakistani nuclear doctrine, which has asserted that it did not have a No First Use (NFU) policy as it will need to multiply its forces against India. Imran Khan could not have made that statement without authorisation from his bosses, the army. Coming as it did after the Indian Defence Minister said that India’s NFU policy was not written in stone, makes Pakistan appear to be retreating, while India was raising the threat level. But apparently, Pakistan’s new theory is that the use of tactical weapons, which are small and capable of limited damage, are really not nuclear weapons. Was Imran Khan playing with words? In any case, India has made it clear to Pakistan that the use of tactical weapons will result in a massive retaliation with nuclear weapons.
Another part of Imran Khan’s peace offensive is the continuation of the discussion on the Kartarpur corridor, a dream come true for Indian Sikhs, even while he is threatening to close the entire air corridor over Pakistan to India. The corridor is meant to facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will have to obtain a permit to visit Darbar Sahib, built at the spot where Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, spent the last years of his life. India had earlier proposed dates in the first week of September to finalise the agreement on the Kartarpur corridor in time for the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in November. The corridor, spanning nearly 5 km from the border, will link Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district to Darbar Sahib gurdwara at Kartarpur in Pakistan. India was surprised that Pakistan agreed to continue the discussions to keep the November deadline despite the deterioration of bilateral relations. Since this is a matter of importance to the Sikh community in other parts of the world, Pakistan must have decided to be reasonable on the Kartarpur corridor.
In another peace initiative, Islamabad gave consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was given a death sentence on alleged charges of spying by a Pakistani military court. The International Court of Justice had asked Pakistan to review the verdict in mid-July. Pursuant to the ICJ decision, Pakistan provided consular access to him. But the Indian Deputy High Commissioner, who met him, reported that Jadhav appeared to be under extreme pressure to parrot a false narrative to bolster Pakistan’s untenable claims. India said that Delhi would wait for a detailed report to determine the extent of conformity to the ICJ directives. A statement by Pakistan said, however, that at India’s request, there was no restriction on the language of communication and the access was recorded, which continued for two hours.
The third track that Pakistan follows is to malign India about the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir. In a New York Times op-ed on August 30, Imran Khan wrote: “If the world does nothing to stop the Indian assault on Kashmir and its people, there will be consequences for the whole world as two nuclear-armed states get ever closer to a direct military confrontation. India’s defense minister has issued a not-so-veiled nuclear threat to Pakistan by saying that the future of India’s “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons will “depend on circumstances.”
Pakistan’s offensive at every forum continued in the Maldives Parliament also. The heated exchanges between Indian and Pakistani delegates were telecast live. The longer we take to bring normalcy to the state, the louder these complaints would become. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar did an outstanding job in allaying fears of the European nations, but the Pakistani allegations found some traction in the US. Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders hit out at India at an Islamic rally for alleged human rights violations, aiming at the vote bank. President Trump may have to match the Democrats by tweeting about human rights.
Whether it is the threat of nuclear war, peace initiatives or allegations of human rights violations, Pakistan’s effort is to internationalise the issue of Kashmir on the pretext of questioning the actions taken by India. Normalisation of the situation in J&K assumes urgency and importance in the face of Pakistani propaganda.