Kashmir separatist movement is doomed by association with Pakistan, Pakistan’s self-proclaimation did not find it worth defending

Kashmir Valley is boiling again, a sorry teardrop on the proud face of the Indian Union. About the size of Kuwait or Swaziland, it is home to a small but noxious school of separatists who have made “azadi” a life calling, sometimes turning it into a business proposition, going by how well some of the leaders are thriving while serving up their followers as cannon fodder. Happens with a lot of “liberation movements”.

But with each passing year, their movement finds less traction in the world, even as it remains the self-proclaimed core of Pakistan’s existence, expressed in the slogan “Kashmir banega Pakistan“. Why doesn’t the world care, they wonder, as do their Pakistani patrons. Loose figures such as “1,00,000 killed” in two decades of insurgency (which would break down into some 400 people killed every month, or 14 every day) are bandied about in the hope that it somehow catches world attention, according to economictimes.com.

Not happening. Even the periodic, egregious and acknowledged excesses of Indian armed forces, which shouldn’t be entrusted with policing duties in the first place, barely elicit a flicker of concern in human rights circles. Of course, that is hardly a reason for the Indian state to feel smug. If anything, it should alert New Delhi to the window of opportunity to quickly resolve the issue.

India’s growing strategic, diplomatic and economic heft, the ability this gives New Delhi to fashion the narrative, and its capacity to both absorb insurgencies and successfully integrate them into the Indian Union, is just one reason why the world is largely cool to the Kashmir issue.

The other reason is there are more than 100 separatist movements across the globe, including a dozen major ones, and there is little appetite or bandwidth in world capitals to entertain another one from a much-admired democracy, warts and all. Compared to civil wars in the Middle East and Africa, Kashmir is a walk in the park, its tragic individual dimension apart.

But by far the biggest advantage India has on world stage is Pakistan’s association with Kashmir – a kiss of death for the separatist movement. Kashmiris may have legitimate grievances, as do people without adequate voice and opportunities anywhere in the world, whether it is blacks and Native Americans in the US, Baloch and Hindus in Pakistan, Adivasis and Muslims elsewhere in India.

However, to believe their salvation lies in sustenance from a state whose public record of grooming terrorists groups and hosting them, and of disenfranchising and exterminating minorities – even Muslim minorities – discredits their “azadi movement” like nothing else. Doomed by association, you could call it.

Irredentist and separatist Kashmiris, and for that matter Pakistanis themselves, have no idea how badly off Pakistan is in the international arena. The latest edition of G20, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi implicitly raised the issue of Pakistani sponsorship of terrorism, offers a pretty stark idea of Pakistan’s marginalisation.

Modi’s assertion brooked no challenge or response because Pakistan, the world’s sixth most populous country, does not make the G20 cut, and the nearly score of countries there, including Pakistan’s self-proclaimed allies such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and China, did not find it worth defending.

In fact, Pakistan does not even make observer status at G20 (Kazakhstan, Egypt and Chad were invitees this time; Nigeria and Azerbaijan have attended previous G20s). The reason for this is fairly simple. Pakistan has nothing to offer to the world except trouble – usually in the form of terrorism and mostly in the form of belligerent expansionism.

It has smeared the Kashmir movement and its own reputation with its toxic sponsorship of terrorism not just in India, but also across the region in pursuit of “strategic depth”. It stands condemned across the world on account of a mindset created by its official and constitutional slide into extremism. It is a state in terminal decline. Soon Maharashtra will have a larger economy.

Small wonder hoots of laughter followed reports that Islamabad is dispatching 22 of its parliamentarians to world capitals to lobby on the Kashmir issue, after television interviews showed some of its lawmakers hadn’t the foggiest idea of the subject, not even the falsified UN Resolution that Islamabad cites so often.

Pakistan has never told its people – and nor has India told the world – the truth: that the UN Resolution was not only non-binding to begin with, but it has been rendered infructuous since because Pakistan never fulfilled its obligation to vacate its occupation of Kashmir as it was called upon to. It also compounded the violation by parcelling off a large part of the state to China. End of resolution.

Many Pakistanis believe, under state tutelage, that it has endured India’s depredation; that the four wars it fought with India were inflicted by New Delhi. No word about Indian magnanimity in sustaining it with not just water but engaging it on equal terms because New Delhi believed – correctly – that we are people of common ancestry.

That forbearance may now be drawing to an end. Developments over the last few weeks suggest New Delhi will adopt a more robust diplomatic approach on Kashmir, including of naming and shaming Pakistan in international fora where Islamabad has no credibility or clout because of its embrace of terror groups and its faltering economy. Isolating Pakistan and relieving Kashmiris of the odium of any association with a withering state may provide a different route to resolution of the issue.

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