Did Pakistan really believe constantly making un-reciprocated peace gestures was going to make India’s ruling BJP decide to not go ahead with the annexation of Indian-occupied Kashmir? i.e Something that has been in the party manifesto since BJP existed and mandated by the very ideology of Hindutva itself? Why did Pakistan wait until the annexation was declared to begin its current mode of ‘Modi fascist’ activism?
Little else other than supreme naivety explains Pakistan’s appeasement policy toward India that lasted between the February post-Pulwama escalation and August 5th.
Having already rapidly decided to release the captured Indian pilot Abhinandan as a peace gesture while the military skirmishes along the border and LoC were still hot, the PTI government of Imran Khan clearly showed it was serious with the peace gestures paradigm.
In March, Imran Khan revealed he had declined a meeting with the Afghan Taliban upon demands by the Kabul regime. The virulently anti-Pakistan – in both policy and rhetoric – Kabul regime was and remains an Indian ally and did not shy away from interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs with its statements. There was little sense in denying to meet an undeniable strategic partner in the Taliban at the demand of the Kabul regime – especially when several regional states had been openly meeting them – and doing so seemed only to serve the purpose of looking weak and timid.
In short, Imran was re-emphasizing how peaceful Pakistan is by showing willingness to over-accommodate hostile states.
Soon thereafter , Pakistan made another curious move by banning the Sikhs for Justice (SfJ) group.
With this move coming so soon after Pakistan had just dealt with a military escalation sparked purely by Indian aggression – which in turn was sparked purely by rigid ideological hatred of the Pakistani state – one would ideally think it had an easy and rational explanation behind it.
With India having received a sound thrashing and the door of opportunity to catapulting Kashmir to the forefront of Pakistan’s foreign policy flung wide open with spectacular momentum, Pakistan instead chose appeasement. US-and-UK based Khalistan groups, not blacklisted by either US or EU, were appalled at the Pakistani state’s decision for reasons both moral and practical.
SfJ has repeatedly testified in favour of Kashmiri freedom from Indian occupation in front of audiences as serious as the UN in Geneva. They have done more for the cause than Pakistan’s inept diplomatic missions abroad have, surely.
It is rare to find proactive civil society entities engage in pro-Pakistan activism due to the general pathetic state of Pakistan’s media, most of which pays little attention to foreign audiences. That Pakistan would as a favour to an unrelentingly aggressive India ban what few vocal, active, committed supporters it has abroad to appease the Indians was both pathetic and irrational.
There was, however, clearly some deformed manner of rationale behind this decision, identical to that which underpinned the earlier capitulation to the weak, anti-Pakistan, pro-India and disposable Kabul regime. This rationale was the notion that a Pakistan that bends over backwards repeatedly will show itself to be ‘peaceful’ and thus make the ‘world’ or ‘international community’ pressurize India.
The ‘peace’ mantra is all over Pakistan’s current state rhetoric and PTI-aligned media outlets’ general theme. Even the army is invested in this fruitless venture, with the DG ISPR’s Twitter handle reading ‘@peaceforchange’.
Nothing has accrued to Pakistan in the months it has wasted with this approach. This nothingness also contrasts starkly with what could have been gained had Pakistan, following the February clashes, engaged in a diplomatic offensive exposing Hindutva from then and there as opposed to just starting when India finally revoked Article 370.
Momentum following the February clashes matched with a resurgent narrative centering around exposing India’s Hindu supremacy would have prepared audiences worldwide to the incoming annexation and give Pakistan a headstart in setting the record straight on Kashmir.
As it is, even with the PTI finally ceasing the embarrassing appeasement policy when India declared annexation in IoK, Pakistan’s Kashmir activism is still weak and spineless. International media simply reporting human-rights abuses in IoK and the draconian nature of the curfew is conflated by PTI and its supporters to mean that Pakistan’s narrative is being preferred.
This is emphatically wrong and PTI’s naivety yet again explains its blundering celebration of the current ‘exposure’ of India by global media. Global media is not going anywhere near the question of Kashmiri self determination or addressing the fact that most Kashmiris desire to be rid of India’s presence.
Similarly, verbal condemnations by certain political leaders in foreign states with no actionable follow-up is widely cheered as pressure being mounted on India.
In essence, what is being fueled is the Indian liberal Congress supporter narrative – which maintains the occupation, demonizes Pakistan as responsible for armed insurgency in Kashmir and highlights only human rights abuses to shore up activist credentials for Western audiences.
The PTI, as shallow and naive as it is, has failed to see the distinction here. In fact, due to perhaps a combination of ignorance of the history of the Kashmir dispute (something which could have been amended had the Expose India campaign launched after the February clashes in place of the appeasement policy) and lack of commitment to anything other than praising Khan for how he dresses and speaks, the PTI has even embarrassingly been praising Congress as part of its ‘Expose India’ campaign.
How does one Expose India while simultaneously doing so much to rehabilitate the image and prestige of Congress, the original occupiers of Kashmir? Is this part and parcel of the same peaceful Pakistan paradigm whereby timidly criticizing BJP cannot done without de facto praising another Indian political entity?
Or perhaps the truth of how Kashmir came to be occupied in the first place is also to be trivialized now? Either way, the PTI’s leadership over Kashmir leaves much to be desired and room for improvement is abundant.