The UN General Assembly (UNGA) week in the US witnessed Pakistan’s anti-India rhetoric over Kashmir, with vehement counters by India. Imran had stated before his departure from Islamabad that he would only concentrate on Kashmir and Indian actions, during his visit to New York.
Realistically, Pakistan had nothing else to offer to the global community, as it is neither economically viable nor an active participant in world affairs nor a destination for international investment.
The fact is that Pakistan has, throughout its history, been accused of supporting terrorism and being the epicentre of terrorist activities. It has within its soil 130 UN designated terrorists and 25 terrorist entities listed by the UN. While its rhetoric may have been aimed at playing to its domestic audience, it was not missed by the world.
From seeking mediation by Trump, regularly threatening world powers about the possibility of a nuclear war in the sub-continent, comparing the Indian government to Hitler and terming India as the ‘killers of Kashmir’, Pak left nothing out when it attempted to inform the world that Indo-Pak relations are now at the ebb and could only improve with India backtracking on Kashmir, which it knew would never happen.
The tone and tenor of its leadership in the comments, accompanied by Pakistan’s uniateral actions of downgrading relations, by recalling its High Commissioner, indicated that any chance of peace or talks have been dumped by it.
India countered Pakistan by claiming that Kashmir is its internal matter, refusing mediation and justifying its approach of refusing dialogue by stating, ‘elimination of terrorism is a precondition not only for fruitful cooperation but also for the very survival of the region itself.’
This clearly indicates that India too has taken a rigid stance and would refuse to bend to Pakistan’s blackmail. Thus, battle lines have been drawn and neither side is willing to bend.
Comments by world leaders at the UNGA indicated that for majority of the international community Kashmir was not something which warranted any attention. Apart from the Turkish President, Erdogan, who specifically mentioned lifting restrictions in Kashmir, the Chinese foreign minister,who mentioned changing of status quo,and the Malaysian Prime Minister stating resolution through dialogue, no other leader even mentioned Kashmir.
The OIC made its customary statement criticizing Indian actions in Kashmir, ignoring Chinese treatment to its own Muslims, a comment India rightly ignored. Modi’s charisma, international standing and a growing Indian economy made the world rightly ignore Kashmir.
Trump even stated, when asked ‘how do you see the statement coming from Pakistani PM admitting that the Pakistani ISI trained Al Qaeda?’, Donald Trump commented, ‘The Prime Minister (PM Modi) will take care of it.’
The only nation whose representatives were regularly grilled on their views on Kashmir was the US and they towed a fine line. Their grilling was because of Trump making contradictory statements on mediation.
Alice Wells in a press conference on 26 Sep stated to a question on Imran’s interest in Kashmir, ‘I would like to see the same level of concern expressed also about Muslims who are being detained in Western China, literally in concentration-like conditions.’
She added, ‘I would say in general across the region, a lowering of rhetoric would be welcome, particularly between two nuclear powers.’
Clearly the west has seen the selective criticism of the Muslim nations on their own community. She however mentioned that restrictions in Kashmir would be lifted shortly.
Pak had hoped that its rhetoric on Kashmir would draw the attention of the world body. Imran even admitting that the ISI trained al Qaeda and the Taliban and Pak still paying the price for having joined the Global War on Terror won no support. He admitted at a press meet, ‘(I am) Disappointed by the international community…There’s no pressure yet on Modi,’ Imran Khan said, adding, ‘We’ll keep putting the pressure.’
Imran justified the world ignoring Indian actions by stating, ‘The reason is that people look upon India as a market of 1.2 billion people.’
Speeches by both leaders at the UNGA indicated the approach of both countries. Modi ignored Pakistan, spoke on global issues including terrorism. Imran harped only on Kashmir, India and sought to justify radical Islamic terrorism.
He stated that ‘I know India keeps accusing us that there are military groups in Pakistan but there are not.’ In July during his visit to the US he had stated that there are still 30,000-40,000 “armed people” who fought in Afghanistan or Kashmir were still in his country. Their sudden disappearance did leave many wondering.
The world is also aware that the Taliban are quartered in Quetta. Simultaneously, he justified radical Islamic terrorism, stating it flowed from Islamophobia. A mixed bag of comments. His accusations led to Indian consulate seeking a right to reply.
In its reply the Indian representative stated, ‘Unfortunately, what we heard today from Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan was a callous portrayal of the world in binary terms. Us vs Them; Rich vs Poor; North vs South; Developed Vs Developing; Muslims vs Others. A script that fosters divisiveness at the United Nations. Attempts to sharpen differences and stir up hatred, are simply put – “hate speech”.’
She added, ‘Now that Prime Minister Imran Khan has invited UN Observers to Pakistan to verify that there are no militant organisations in Pakistan, the world will hold him to that promise.’
Pak took the right to issue a rebuttal and in the same accused India of ‘terrorism in Kashmir’.
In the current global environment, there are greater concerns than Kashmir. Iran-Saudi-US tensions can offset the global economy and tear apart an entire region. The visit by the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, to New York had multiple world leaders meeting him seeking to broker talks between Iran and the US, aimed at reducing tensions. None such attempts were made between India and Pakistan, despite Imran’s rantings and both leaders being together at some forums.
Humanitarian crisis looming in parts of West Asia, including Yemen, Libya and Syria, have greater relevance than Kashmir, where there has not been a single death due to violence. US-China trade war has begun slowing the world economy, which concerns the developed world.
Even Afghanistan, despite all its internal problems and rising power of the Taliban was largely ignored by the global community. Trump only made a passing remark to it during his customary address to the UNGA. Kashmir was ignored. Pakistan, which suggested for a resumption of US-Taliban talks met no response.
However, despite all Indian claims, Kashmir became a global talking point after decades. It was always in the text of the Pak representative in the UN but was never discussed with such intensity. Rhetoric by Pakistan on Kashmir would in no way help reduce tensions nor create an environment which could even lead to talks. It would only enhance distance.
Both nations need peace and talks to reduce tensions. Unless there is a sense of maturity in the national leadership, tensions would remain, and battle lines drawn. The rigid stand by both sides, one still believing in terrorism as a tool of state policy and the other opposing it, will ensure that talks and peace remain elusive, while tensions prevail.
At the end of the day, India would continue to survive, its leadership growing in stature, while in Pakistan, Imran would face the brunt of international inaction. His ‘raison d’etre’ for coming to New York was ignored. Would this be acceptable to his military junta and opposition politicians remains to be seen in the weeks and months ahead.