With regard to the Kashmir conundrum, Pakistan had pinned its hopes all along on third-party mediation. But as indicated by PM Modi and President Trump in France on the sidelines of the G7, the prospects of a formal mediation by the West that can lead to the Pakistani goal of plebiscite under the 1948 resolutions, are all but over. And India’s and the West’s intolerance for jihad means that Pakistan will have to put its own survival at stake, if it wants to carry on with its old policy.
In the case of Kashmir, the path to peace was paved by a parade of tireless souls, who over the years, relentlessly tried but failed to keep all the parties happy on the final outcome. Alexei Kosygin, and Shastri, Bhutto and Indira Gandhi, Zia-ul-Haq and Rajiv Gandhi, Musharraf and Vajpayee, Musharraf and Manmohan Singh — all tried but failed.
The Role Kashmir Study Group & Its Ilk Played
The relative equation of strengths and weaknesses of the parties, a key factor in brokering peace, were not favouring a possible deal. Peace after war is easy to negotiate, because the war lays bare the power equations, but negotiating peace after an insurgency coupled with political dissent, is tricky business. That’s why all previous efforts to achieve peace in Kashmir failed, because the strength-weakness assessments were not decisive enough, and it was a hard sell.
It reminds me of the role the Kashmir Study Group played over the years to negotiate peace, and then began a long and frustrating season of Track IIs, culminating in the last process that started around 2016 — and finally sealed the deal.
US’s Increased ‘Involvement’ In Kashmir Issue
In all these efforts, successive US administrations, starting from Bush senior to Trump, have been at the forefront and played key roles. By 1987, the US started to get seriously involved in the Kashmir process as the first Afghan Jihad was winding down because Washington wanted to close down the permanent presence of jihad projects run and funded by the ISI. Washington tolerated the franchising of jihad under which the money and arms given to fight against the Soviets were funnelled into jihad in Kashmir till the time the Soviets were out. But after that, when Pakistan achieved nuclear threshold in 1987-88, it added dangerous strategic dimensions for the US.
However, the US packed and left anyway, leaving ISI and the Mujahideen who, by then, had built their own home-grown narco-economy to fund jihad.
A mistake indeed, because had the jihad project closed down completely then, possibly there would have been no 9/11 and no insurgency in Kashmir, that started soon after the first Afghan Jihad was over. After the war on terror started, the old game of taking funds and arms and diverting it to Kashmir started again, and the US was desperate this time that ISI focus stays on Al Qaeda and Taliban alone.
Meanwhile the nuclear detonations of 1998 had introduced a new factor to the mix. What if the Pakistan Army, that was highly radicalised by then, leaked nukes to jihadis? So a sense of urgency dawned, to close down the jihad project completely, as it was warranted by the Kargil incursion. The administrations in Washington wanted peace between these two nuclear nations desperately, because they were closely watching Beijing and Tehran. One was breaking through for westward expansion with the help of Pakistan, and the other was a nightmare in destabilising the Gulf region. That provided a catalyst to start a comprehensive peace process in 2004 between the two neighbours.
Pakistan On The Back Foot?
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s military ruler Pervez Musharraf almost agreed to make the LoC international border and to demilitarise the valley in India and Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, and to make the border porous. But an inside job from Pakistani intelligence agencies in Mumbai in 2008 wrecked the whole plan for good. Peace with India was not acceptable to a large radicalised faction of the army that turned against Musharraf as well. The attacks in Mumbai just proved what the CIA and the Pentagon knew for a long time. The lesson learnt was that it was futile to trust the ISI — either they were too complicit and radicalised or they were powerless against hardcore Jihadis within.
Now, the question is: what changed since 2008 that the Modi government felt confident enough to make a move of this magnitude – making the LoC irrelevant?
Especially under the circumstances that the jihad project is still under the umbrella of nuclear weapons.
Three factors – not necessarily in order of importance.
One, Pakistan is going through a serious economic meltdown that probably can trigger an economic collapse. The principal ‘patron’ – the United States – has decided to turn off the tap that was essential for huge defence expenditures, debt servicing and running a mammoth top-heavy government. In the absence of that lifeline it will become impossible to run year-to-year affairs. The Financial Action Task Force, IMF and World Bank have clearly indicated that future loans would not be coming unless terror sponsoring and financing is entirely stopped.
Since there are next to no internal resources to bank on ever-expanding expenditures, the possibility of trade – bilateral and transit – with India and Afghanistan — looks like one of the options to hang onto (whether it materialises or not, remains to be seen).
Has Pakistan Lost the Kashmir Plot?
Why Pakistan Must Be Wary
Two, following the years of radicalisation and consequent fragmentation in the ranks, and due to 70 years of running all aspects of Pakistan’s civil life, the army is not the professional unified force it used to be three decades back for example. There are challenges in the unity of command and there are open differences on what course the country should take. Under these huge internal challenges, a clean, winnable fight against a powerful, stable adversary doesn’t look like a reality, and would be tantamount to suicide.
Three, wary of the impending monitoring of IFIs and with little hope to continue as a ‘client’ state, Pakistan quickly explored options to find a permanent sponsor in the shape of China and Saudi Arabia, but this time India’s economic might, coupled with Pakistan’s waning clout, couldn’t fetch the kind of long-term sponsorships that it was looking for.
Moreover, China’s future challenges are probably becoming bigger than Pakistan’s, and Saudi Arabia is desperate to shift fast from the oil economy to trade and investment, before oil becomes irrelevant.
How it will all pan out, depends on whether or how quickly Pakistan becomes a ‘normal, acceptable’ state. Can it produce enough internal resources to run its own economy, and can it can wipe out jihad, revisionism and narcissism from its DNA and start living in reality?
( Mohammed Rizwan is a Toronto-based former journalist who works as a research fellow with a Canadian policy think tank. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)