India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads over Kashmir since Independence. The movement of militia from Wazirabad into Kashmir was the commencement of the first IndoPak war. Four wars, including Kargil, have been fought and in not one has Pakistan succeeded in any of its aims. Nehru’s insistence on going to the UN, despite military advice in 1948, brought Kashmir into prominence.
With Pakistan failing to accept the UN resolution of 1949 and withdrawing its troops from the region prior to the conduct of the plebiscite, the resolution died a natural death. To claim thereafter that Kashmir can be resolved via plebiscite is meaningless. The Shimla agreement made the Kashmir issue bilateral and out of the scope of any mediation. Post 1965 and 1971 there were agreements leading to peace, but none resolve Kashmir. Kashmir was always left for future dialogue. This was because no mediator felt it could be resolved easily. Despite India having had all advantages post 1971, the Shimla agreement did not end the fight over Kashmir. Reasons and compulsions for the same have been discussed by historians; however Kashmir remained unresolved.
Pakistan has from its birth been claiming ownership of Kashmir, which was always denied and its failure in every war only added to its frustrations. Apart from religious affinity, as claimed by Pakistan, the major reason is that Kashmir is from where waters for both India and Pakistan originate. Thus, with the state under the control of India, there is always a fear within Pakistan of India shutting the tap, in case it crosses limits.
In desperation, Pakistan’s strongest military dictator, Zia-ulHaq, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, launched his strategy of bleeding India with a thousand cuts. The USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan was an ideal period for Pakistan as it allied with the US. It received immense funds, some of which it could divert to this strategy, while building its nuclear arsenal under the nose of the US, and thus denying India the ability to threaten it with a nuclear strike. Pakistan became a breeding ground for jihadists, many of whom were diverted to Kashmir. These networks continue to flourish and threaten peace and stability in the entire region.
Over the years, despite large scale attacks on Indian cities and even the Indian Parliament, there was no military retaliation against Pakistan, which only emboldened it. India only called on world bodies to rope Pakistan in, which led to cosmetic action. Pakistan felt that this approach in the long term could bring India to the negotiating table, without any change in Islamabad’s policies. Meetings between the political leaderships of the two nations in the last almost two decades point to this. The last two-three years have witnessed a strong retaliation by India to Pakistan’s misadventures, which have left it scarred. The two strikes across the border, one close-by and the other at Balakote have left Pakistan looking for options.
Support to anti-India terrorist groups, providing them freedom to act against India and making their leaders appear as national heroes has prevented Pakistan from changing its policy. Its twisting of history to change defeat into victory in every war has led its public to believe that freedom for Kashmir is around the corner, while its leadership knows the truth.
Despite the Modi government adopting a policy of ‘terror and talks are not bedfellows’ Pakistan continues to call for talks. Their foreign and prime ministers have repeatedly made requests for talks to the extent of being insulted in their own senate. Senator Abdul Qayyum, a retired Lt General and at present a senator, criticised Prime Minister Imran Khan for making repeated attempts to speak with Indian premier Narendra Modi and said it amounted to national humiliation. India has only reiterated that for talks to happen there has to be an ‘environment of trust, free of terror, violence and hostility.’ This is not possible at present.
The reality is that Pakistan can neither give up its support to terrorism nor stop being desperate for talks on multiple issues, including Kashmir. It is aware that neither militarily nor by supporting terrorism can it regain the valley. It may create a selfsustaining militancy, but that would not be of any major benefit and would remain confined to a small region. On the other hand, in case India decides to provide open support, financial, material and diplomatic to all antiPakistan movements within Pakistan, they would be in doldrums.
The Pakistan army has gained the maximum by adopting this policy. It has twisted history and engulfed its population with the belief that India is an eternal enemy and seeks to destroy them. Thus, its budget, strength and power has grown stronger over the years. Its manipulation of all institutions including media, judiciary and government has ensured that the nation believes it to be the only saviour from annihilation by India. Regaining Kashmir has been driven deep into the minds of common Pakistanis.
The Pakistani military leadership believes that once it stops export of terrorism and reduces the only leverage it has on India, there may be no reason for India to come forward to negotiate on Kashmir. This feeling has been compounded by the fact that despite all wars and subsequent ceasefires there was no discussion on resolving Kashmir. Their only hope remains that if terrorism rises to the level that it can hurt Indian interests, India may accept talks. In this case, it would be Pakistan which would talk from a position of strength.
This concept is the opposite of Indian thinking. India would never be willing to come for discussions from a position of weakness. It may be willing to discuss from a position of strength. Thus, with opposite views and the inability of the Pakistani deep state to reverse its stand on Kashmir and terrorist groups, there may be ups and downs, but there would not be any resolution on Kashmir in the near future.
The writer is a retired Major-General of the Indian Army.