Pakistan ups the nuclear ante over

Pakistan ups the ante over Kashmir

Mehmal Sarfraz

India’s decision to revoke Article 370 and bifurcate the state of Jammu & Kashmir into two Union territories has not gone down well with Pakistan.

A meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) on Wednesday took some important decisions in response to India’s move, including downgrading diplomatic ties and suspending trade. Pakistan has also expelled the Indian envoy and decided not to send its High Commissioner-designate to India.

The sharpest reaction perhaps came from Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, who broke down during his speech on Kashmir at a joint session of Parliament and suggested that Pakistan cut off diplomatic ties with India.

Ever since Prime Minister Imran Khan took oath, the government has tried its best to normalise ties with India, but “the conduct of the Indian leadership has been abhorrent”, Mr. Chaudhry told The Hindu.

“We must take a strong stand… we have to fight it out if needed. This will not be a traditional war. From Washington to London and from Riyadh to Tehran, the world will feel the heat of this war,” Mr. Chaudhry said. “It is time for the world to wake up and make the BJP realise that it can’t play with fire”.

The NSC decisions followed Prime Minister Khan’s warning that India’s decision could lead to further violence in the Kashmir Valley and even escalate tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries. Pakistan has also decided to review all bilateral agreements with India and take the Kashmir issue to the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.

According to journalist Gharidah Farooqi, the decision to expel the Indian High Commissioner is a precursor of the things to come. “Even though diplomatic ties are not cut-off with India completely, the strain in the already tense relationship is visible.” Pakistan and India currently hold several bilateral agreements “not just on Kashmir but other crucial issues such as trade, water and environment — a review of which would be consequential for the people of both countries, also affecting South Asia in general.”

‘A weak state’

However, some analysts believe that Pakistan’s reaction to India’s decision was not what it should have been. Senior journalist Wajahat S. Khan describes Pakistan’s reaction in three words: “Unaware. Unprepared. Unwilling.” Mr. Khan said Pakistan’s initial reaction, personified by the Prime Minister’s lament of ‘What can I do’ [about India], topped by a military/intelligence set-up that failed to see this coming, only underscores how weak a state Pakistan is, and how much under pressure it is from the powers-that-be to deliver on Afghanistan and quieten down about India.

“The embarrassing lack of policy articulation, a missing-in-action Foreign Minister, and expectedly clichéd dial-down diplomacy — like not sending the High Commissioner-designate to Delhi, which has been vacant for months anyway — only create one short-term opening for Pakistan: the UNGA in New York, this September, may be Pakistan’s best shot at embarrassing India, but not vanquishing it,” he added.

Legal expert Jamal Aziz said that the Indian government’s move to revoke Article 370 and unilaterally alter the status quo on Kashmir is likely to backfire.

“The legal acrobatics displayed by the BJP-led government in tabling these amendments are breathtaking in their audacity and are unlikely to survive a Constitutional challenge before the Indian courts. In particular, the use of a Presidential Order to amend Article 367 and the legal fiction of the Indian Parliament acting as a substitute for the J&K Assembly are decisions which are likely to haunt the Indian leadership in the days to come. They will also have grave consequences for federalism in India.”

Had India abided by the UNSC resolutions and held a plebiscite in Kashmir, then that would have definitively determined Kashmir’s status, Mr. Aziz said.

“As of now, Kashmir remains a disputed territory under International law but the recent actions have converted the occupation into an annexation which again is blatant violation of International law, specifically the UN General Assembly’s Resolution 2625,” he added.

Mehmal Sarfraz is a journalist based in Lahore.

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