By Sudhir Narasimhan

While its economy is in tatters and FATF is likely to introduce more curbs, Pakistan’s leaders have instead chosen to internationalize the Kashmir issue, albeit without success.

Ever since the abrogation of article 370 and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories Pakistan or more particularly its leaders have launched an offensive against India, trying to internationalize the issue, but without much success.
First, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with India by expelling the Indian high commissioner in Pakistan and recalling its own high commissioner in New Delhi. Then it cut trade ties with India, though it changed its stance on it by allowing imports of medicines from India after a couple of weeks. Then it made a strong pitch in global forums to highlight the Kashmiri issue. However, its attempts to internationalize the `Kashmir cause’ did not yield the desired results. First, it went to the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), where it found little or no support from key players like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) or the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The UNSC Fiasco

Its attempt to get the security council members to make a statement condemning `human rights violations’ in J&K had few takers. Rebuffed, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan took the issue to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). While Khan and the establishment in Pakistan have internally claimed that 57 countries endorsed the Pakistani view on Kashmir at UNHRC, the reality turned out to be something else. The UNHRC members mostly recognized that India was fighting insurgency fuelled by terrorism in the valley while urging for normalcy in Pakistan and advocated talks between Pakistan and India. Lip service was paid to the so-called human rights violations in Kashmir while they asked India and Pakistan to settle their scores mutually. The only country that supported Pakistan is what they call it’s iron brother’ China. After that one joint statement to appease its ally, even China has moved on.

Talks of War

However, Khan and his foreign minister have continued to keep up the vitriol against the Indian government and Prime Minister Modi. Since then Imran Khan has repeatedly referred to the Indian government as majoritarian and racist. He and his foreign minister have called Modi a fascist and likened him to Hitler. They have spoken of genocide in the Kashmir valley with scant regard to the terrorist acts perpetrated by non-state actors supported by them on our armed forces, paramilitary forces, J&K police and Kashmiri civilians. Further, the Pakistani foreign minister has gone on record saying there could be an accidental war with India while Khan has spoken of a war that could lead to a nuclear holocaust. His histrionics at UNGA also failed to impress anyone. India and the world know that given Pakistan’s current situation they can’t even afford a limited conflict like the one they fought in Kargil, let alone a full-scale conventional war or one that involves the use of nuclear weapons. With that country’s economy in doldrums, Khan has been knocking on IMF’s doors for a bailout and courting Saudi Arabia and UAE for alms. To make matters worse Financial Action Task Force (FATF) already has Pakistan on its grey list. If more non-state actors find their way into Kashmir and FATF believes that Pakistan hasn’t totally dismantle the terrorist machinery it has incubated and supported over the years, that country runs the risk of getting into the FATF blacklist. That would attract sanctions that have the potential to drastically curtail Pakistan’s access to global finance.

While Imran Khan did a song and dance about `atrocities’ in J&K in a recent interview to a publication, he said that he is against Pakistani jihadis going to Kashmir to fight for their cause as it would hurt both Pakistan and the cause of Kashmiri separatists. But we doubt that he has a say on this issue as Pakistan is a deep state with multiple power structures where the military and ISI more powerful than the civilian government on issues related to foreign policy, particularly in the Indian and Afghan context.

Economy on the tailspin

Clearly Khan is going through a dilemma. He wants the Kashmir issue burning while avoiding the wrath of FATF. The internal opinion in Pakistan is divided. While many are jingoistic and support Khan’s histrionics on Kashmir, a lot many believe that whatever he has been doing so far is to divert attention from pressing issues that confront that country which include development, economy, law and order, education and healthcare. Khan’s obsession with the revocation of article 370 hasn’t gone well with large sections of the Pakistani electorate.

From the Indian point of view suspension of trade will not affect India beyond a point as the trade volumes were USD 2.06 billion out of which imports from Pakistan amounted to only USD 495 million. Indian exporters believe this will have little impact on them as they are able to divert their goods to markets in the middle east and other parts of the world.

Pakistan recently denied the access of its airspace to our President Ram Nath Kovind and then to PM Modi. Actions like these only have the potential to hurt Pakistan’s doddering economy and its image in the international community as a mature nation. The entire civil and military leadership in that country seems to be in denial. It’s time they realized that wresting or freeing J&K from India is not an option and they have to look internally, sort economic, social and other issues that affect the common man and project themselves as a responsible nation. In order to do that they can’t have multiple power centres. Power should be concentrated, ideally under a civilian government. Until then their foreign policy will not go well with most responsible nations.