UNGA: Pakistan’s Got Little to Cheer — ‘Kashmir Agenda’ Won’t Work

In current global geo-politics, there’s no comparison between India & Pakistan’s international standing. 

4 min read
Image of Pakistan PM Imran Khan at the UNGA on 27 September 2019, used for representational purposes.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s fifty-minute address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 27 September, was one long litany of complaints against the West, unnamed leaders of the Islamic Ummah, the ruling elites of his own country, and, of course, India.

He railed and threatened dire global consequences if his warnings — especially on Indian policies and actions in Jammu and Kashmir — were ignored, but not once in the fifty minutes did he come through as a mature and thoughtful leader, concerned with navigating the international community collectively and harmoniously through the challenges of the 21st century.

Imran Khan’s Not-So-Subtle Threat: ‘J&K Situation May Lead to War

In contrast to Imran Khan’s speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took only seventeen minutes to connect the developmental work undertaken by his government with the needs of other developing countries. More importantly, he stressed that what India was doing was helpful in meeting global challenges such as those relating to the environment. He was right in emphasising the need for collective action against terrorism, and for international cooperation in meeting the challenges of the present times.

Imran Khan’s long but amateurish lecture on the dangers of climate change, ill-effects of money laundering on developing countries, and Islamophobia, was eminently forgettable — and will be brushed aside.

What will attract attention is his not-so-subtle threat that the situation in J&K may lead to war — conventional war between two nuclear states — which may escalate into the nuclear dimension. Donning the garb of victimhood, Khan pushed the argument that, as Pakistan will be facing a country seven times its size, it may be driven to the wall and be left with no option to avoid an existential challenge.

None of the points that Khan sought to score were either novel or new. They are part of the Pakistani narrative after India’s 5 August constitutional changes. The narrative begins with alleging that the RSS ideology is ‘similar’ to Nazism, for it is based on Aryan ‘supremacy’ and a ‘hatred’ for Muslims and Christians.

It proceeds to give vastly exaggerated accounts of the consequences of administrative restrictions on movement and communications in the Kashmir Valley, and claims that this demonstrates the ‘operationalisation’ of the ‘RSS way’ of thinking.

It warns of widespread unrest once the restrictions are lifted, and a consequent ‘bloodbath’ which may result in the repeat of a Pulwama kind of attack with a repeat of the military confrontation that followed.

Why Pakistan Continues to Harp on Kashmir Issue

Pakistan wants the major powers to get engaged in not only easing India-Pakistan tensions, but also to mediate a resolution of the J&K issue. There is little doubt that Pakistan has been encouraged by President Trump’s repeated offers to mediate, even though his latest thrust has been to ask India and Pakistan to resolve their differences. Clearly, Pakistan hopes that if Trump is sufficiently alarmed, he will force a mediation. It matters little that India will never accept a mediation, because each time Trump uses the words ‘mediation’ or ‘arbitration’, Pakistani hopes get a boost.

Apart from China and a few Islamic countries such as Turkey, no country has raised J&K in their UNGA statements.

Even Iran kept away. It is also significant that Pakistan failed to make any headway in the UN Human Rights Council to make it act on allegations of human rights abuses in J&K. The US’ remarks about the need to restore full normalcy in there though may encourage other countries to make similar low-key noises.

India can take all this in its stride, for the facts on the ground in J&K are vastly different from what Imran Khan has projected.

It seems that by repeatedly raising the question of what would happen once the ‘curfew’ is lifted, Pakistan is unhappy with the lack of agitation and absence of demonstrations in Jammu and Kashmir. It can also be expected that Pakistan would do all it can to stoke popular feelings, in the hope that it would lead to violence. While India may not have mentioned this aspect in response to Imran Khan’s speech, it should not fail to appropriately draw attention to it.

No Comparison Between India & Pakistan’s International Standing

The major powers will keep an eye on the J&K ground situation, and also maintain an engagement with both India and Pakistan, to try to ensure that their tensions are contained. This is different from mediation or arbitration, which is a territory no one wants to venture in, and no country except for the US has referred to.

China repeated its formula for a peaceful resolution of J&K in “accordance with the UN Charter, Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreement” while asking that no unilateral actions should be taken. This too would provide Pakistan only a modicum of comfort.

All said, Pakistan has little to cheer from Imran Khan’s week-long attempt to profile J&K in New York.

The fact is that, in the current global geo-political situation, there is simply no comparison between India and Pakistan’s status and international standing. India is a crucial component of the complex re-alignments that are underway with the rise of China. It is also critical to the management of global issues such as climate change. Its foot print is increasing, as Modi’s interaction with Pacific Island countries and Caribbean leaders clearly showed.

India is at the centre of the great powers game and, even though many Indians find it difficult to accept, the world looks upon it as a great power, despite its developmental challenges. From this perspective, Pakistan is not even in the frame, and it is this that it finds most galling.

(The writer is a former Secretary [West], Ministry of External Affairs. He can be reached@VivekKatju. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own.The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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