Kashmir issue is an uncommon challenge. It has a legal dimension, it has an ethical dimension and of course it has a political dimension. However, the most striking aspect is that it has lacked ownership inside Kashmir and at the global level. Within India it is treated as topic that has nuisance value and thus most Kashmiri leadership is treated as a minor irritant. At election time, some political leaders are wooed over in return for their obedience for reining in Kashmir. Globally, Kashmir has been an occasional reminder of the many UN resolutions being treated with open disregard and disdain. As a consequence, the lack of leadership has caused Kashmir and Kashmiris to reach a stage where Modi has stampeded its special status and is literally surprised at why such a fuss is being made by Pakistan over it.
The vacuum in leadership of stature in Kashmir has led to this unfortunate annexation and oppression of the Kashmiris. In this context, Prime Minister Imran Khan's herculean effort to fight for literally imprisoned 8 million Kashmiris has astounded not only Modi but the Kashmiris themselves. The build-up to UNGA contained hectic diplomacy and UNGA itself became a buzz of who will win this round of international attention and action for Kashmiris. The two speeches by the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers told the story. While Modi talked about general issues he skirted the topic of Kashmir showing his defensiveness and discomfort. Prime Minister Imran Khan took the bull by the horn and made a hard hitting factual, legal yet highly charged speech which made the Indians squirm into a petulant response reflecting their inability to defend Kashmir on any grounds.
In many matters of global significance these forums do provide a voice for the ignored but it takes real and committed leadership to go beyond these forums and sustain the momentum for months and years to make the real difference. For indigenous leadership it is rare that pitched against an aggressor like Modi they put up an impactful resistance and for leadership outside the country and that too from a conflict zone country, sustaining a movement that may take forever, becomes almost unreal. However what has been achieved so far to highlight Kashmir is also virtual unreality. Never before has Kashmir been taken that seriously in Pakistan; never before has Kashmir been taken meaningfully by the Islamic world; never before has the super power, the US, talked so much about Kashmir being an issue that needs immediate resolution.
There are two major challenges confronting Pakistan. Firstly, to keep the pressure up internationally on Kashmir and secondly to avert a triggering reaction in India on inciting a war as they did in February. The challenges to the first issue are that India is a seven times bigger market and perceived as a much safer country that is growing steadily. For Pakistan to balance this huge comparative Indianadvantage it needs to do the following:
1 Narrative building on a self Interest level - As we say in business the customer only buys your product or idea if it answers WIFM question ie, What's in it for him. Thus we need to consider what's in it for America; what's in it for Saudi Arab and so forth. We have to create that self-interest buy in to make them interested in curbing Modi in India. For the US the main interest is Afghan Taliban dialogue. President Trump may have ceased them but he needs them for his election campaign. Pakistan has and should continue facilitating resumption without it seeming at the behest of the US. Similarly, Iran is a tricky customer for the US. Pakistan's role in making the communication between Iran, Saudi Arab and the US less acrimonious is tough but can create a reciprocity from the US to support Pakistan in easing curfew in Kashmir at the least.
2 Shared Vision Networking - The meetings on the sidelines of the UN also require prioritization in actions and follow ups. Top most priority should be given to the tri-alliance between Malaysia, Turkey and Pakistan. They developed a great understanding to introduce a TV channel on the lines of BBC but it should be enhanced to develop a Strategic Communication Plan for creating perception, propaganda and positioning of not just the true spirit of Islam but of the potential in the various markets of the regions.
3 Develop Key Events to keep the pressure up - It is important to have OTRs (Occasions to Reinforce) the pressure. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have a calendar of events that can be planned and if need be generated specially on this topic to increase foreign delegates coming in to the country and having platforms to raise voice on the Kashmir Issue. Regional conferences and seminars are indeed platforms to address the issue at international level.
The idea is to have milestones stretched out like the 60-day curfew can be marked and 27th October as a Kashmir Black protest day should be targeted to highlight the continued oppression. The human right organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights watch along with the UN observer group can be invited to Azad Kashmir to monitor the situation and put pressure on the Indians to do the same.
The struggle to get Kashmiris free from this siege and oppression like all movements is long term, testing and taxing. The world has very little appetite for old news and thus the game Modi is playing is to wait till the news loses its audience, pressure is let off, and he can claim victory thereon. That is why movements are so hard to maintain especially when they are not from within a country. But history says movements have no deadline and the only option in the movement is to move. Like the game of chess every move may not succeed and cost a lot, but move we must, as not moving is a cost that can cost the life and futures of 8 million people of Kashmir.
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])