Abubakar Farooqui

Pakistan has played a very critical role in putting an end to war in Afghanistan using its diplomatic channels and therefore must be credited for the much needed mediation. However, Pakistan is currently at a point in time as a nation where it needs to remind itself of its core national interest lying in Kashmir that the government has back-burnered. After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and withdrawal of US troops that is scheduled to be completed in a few days, Pakistan must put all its focus back on the K-word, that holds central importance not just in Pakistan’s etymology but also in the foreign policy, particularly vis-a-vis India. Pakistan cannot afford to be complacent with regard to Indian Occupied Kashmir whose demographic change has to be a red-line in Islamabad.

Afghanistan’s strategic importance for Pakistan is immense and Pakistan does in fact requires strategic depth in Afghanistan. The doctrine of strategic depth in reality means safe Western border with a friendly Afghanistan that would not play into hands of Pakistan’s rivals. It is important to understand the doctrine which has been misperceived and misportrayed by many at home and in the West. The misperception was that the doctrine of Strategic Depth for Pakistan meant Pakistan’s using Afghan territory for a physical withdrawal of troops in the event of an Indian invasion. I still cannot get my head around why anybody well-versed in military strategy would ever believe it to be a part of a military strategy, let alone an entire doctrine? Pakistan does believe whatever happens in Kabul has ramifications and direct consequences for Islamabad and rightly so, and therefore it is strongly in favour of a sovereign Afghanistan with a completely indigenous government. Hence, Pakistan’s commitments in Kabul Peace Process have been indispensable. The point however is, Kashmir should not be the cost of such a commitment.

Pakistan is currently at a point in time as a nation where it needs to remind itself of its core national interest lying in Kashmir that the government has back-burnered

India’s policies in Afghanistan might have failed, but its policies in Kashmir, as far as Indian interests are concerned are reaping benefits. On August 5, 2019 it took a bold step under Narendra Modi’s government that surprised the world including Pakistan. India, under a complete curfew and a military lockdown, annexed the occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir scrapping articles 35-A and 370, in line with its rapidly transforming strategic culture and aspirations emanating out of it. Pakistan’s response, for the last two years has been very weak and ineffective which has further emboldened India that leads the power equation in Occupied Kashmir with total control on ground via hundreds of thousands of military personnel deployed. In international relations, what matters the most is the power-equation based on ground realities. The one that controls the situation on ground, gets ahead in fulfilment of its interests. Currently, India with all the might including violence and utter human rights violations is controlling the situation in Jammu and Kashmir with impunity while Pakistan is uttering rhetoric that has been gradually weakening as well.

Kashmir to Pakistan in political terms is roughly what Jerusalem is to Palestine. Pakistan has geopolitical, geostrategic, geo-economic as well as ideological interests in Kashmir. Pakistan has always claimed Kashmir to be an incomplete agenda of the Indian partition in 1947 and along with other geographical factors, claims it on the basis of its predominantly Muslim population, around 68% overall and around 97% in Kashmir valley alone. Pakistani strategists, experts and most importantly the leaders, must view Kashmir as a core-national interest as always. However, the greater a geopolitical or geostrategic objective is, the greater effort and more the time needs to be put into it to achieve it. Kashmir is a grand geopolitical, geostrategic and ideological goal of the state of Pakistan and thus requires a grand-strategy for its accomplishment.

Indian policies in Afghanistan might have failed, but its policies in Kashmir, as far as Indian interests are concerned are reaping benefits.

In Chess, the greater the impact of a move, the higher is the amount of visualisation and actualisation of other moves required to create space for the main move, which let us for argument’s sake say, is capturing opponent’s queen. Those familiar with chess understand one needs to trap opponent’s queen by making small moves to create space for that big move, involving making opponent move their pieces in line with one’s plans. This rule is applicable pretty much the same way on the geopolitical chessboard. Hence, Pakistan needs to understand that Kashmir, being a grand goal and a core-national interest requires a long-term strategy. Pakistan, currently does not have a long-term strategy for Kashmir. This is evident as a result of careful assessment of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy since August 5, 2019.

In fact, Pakistan’s behaviour in international politics since August 5, 2019 reflects that state’s foreign policy executive has been pursuing the case as a short-term objective. Notwithstanding the imminence and importance of India’s move towards changing Kashmir’s demography, the entire case cannot be taken as a short-term objective. From Pakistan’s strong diplomatic statements, to its prime minister Imran Khan’s extravagant speech in the UNGA session in 2019, Pakistan has been eyeing support of international community, perceiving Kashmir to be a short-term objective. While rhetoric of course can create headlines, garner support and attention and to some extent alleviate the trouble of the oppressed people of Indian Occupied Kashmir, it certainly cannot change any ground realities on its own. To do that, Pakistan needs a long-term grand-strategy. If Pakistan can have one in place in Afghanistan to secure the Western border, it must be able to execute one in Kashmir, especially when the Western border gets secured after Afghans takeover their state with a sovereign and inclusive government.

While rhetoric of course can create headlines, garner support and attention, it certainly cannot change any ground realities on its own!

Pakistani leadership assumes that India’s huge population, which serves as a giant market of 1.3 billion consumers to almost all the major and middle powers, is an effective strategic restraint for Pakistan and something that helps India get away with all the atrocities and injustice in international community. As a matter of fact, this is true because India is the world’s second most populous country which cannot be ignored because it is a huge market and no state looking for economic or strategic benefits would like to say no to potential benefits resulting from dealing with India. However, why Pakistan does not look at itself and analyse its own fault as it is the sixth most populous country with a market of 210+ million people mainly consumers as well, is something that needs to be emphasized. If India is cashing its huge market in international politics, what has been stopping Pakistan from doing the same? If India being the second most populous country carries weight, Pakistan being the sixth should be able to carry at least 25% of that weight in geo-economics. If it fails to do so, which it does, it implies that the strategic restraint is not Indian imposed rather an internal barrier. Such emphasis can only be placed as a result of a long-term planning for a goal as grand as Kashmir.

Kashmir to Pakistan in political terms is roughly what Jerusalem is to Palestine.

Pakistan, perhaps understanding the need for a long-term strategy, has started to turn towards geo-economics by placing it in the realm of national security. This of course is a step in the right direction because Pakistan’s geostrategic location and geostrategic potential both have been effectively cashed by it in securing its national interests, however it has been lagging behind all this time in geo-economics which is defining the international politics in the 21st century. Even the fall of Kabul to the Afghan Taliban can be looked in global geopolitical context where China’s Belt and Road Initiative further elucidates how an effective geo-economic grand strategy is geo-strategically changing power equations on ground.

To sum up, it depends on what Pakistan is eying. If the goal is to merely internationalise Kashmir alone every time India commits major human rights violations in the occupied state, then Pakistan has effectively done that via rhetoric triggering short term response and attention from international community. However, if the goal is Kashmir’s freedom from India’s occupation, then a long-term grand-strategy needs to be chalked out in Islamabad. The sooner this happens, the better it will be for the oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir and the state of Pakistan in the realm of international politics.

About The Author
Abubakar Farooqui is the brains behind Rationale-47. He studied International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. His areas of interest include National Security of Pakistan and International Politics, particularly of South Asia and Middle East. He tweets @AbubakarTweets

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale-47.

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