Given the speed and alacrity with which Pakistan has moved after 5 Aug 2019, the day the constitutional and administrative decisions on Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) were taken by the Indian government, proves the dismay the decisions caused in Pakistan. Its diplomatic efforts to paint India a virtual aggressor in its own territory have not found traction with the international community causing further frustration. In addition, with its economy in serious problems its options are running out in terms of doing something to maintain or enhance its efforts to cultivate support for its narratives on and in J&K, upping the ante in the streets of Kashmir and give a boost to terror there.

The issue of J&K is complex and international understanding on it is limited. India on its part has sincerely adhered to and pursued bilateralism as the core mode of finding peace between the two countries. The magnanimity displayed by India in the wake of its phenomenal military victory over Pakistan in Dec 1971 which created the independent nation of Bangladesh, and the taking of 93,000 prisoners of war, is little known to the international community. Even lesser known is that India returned all 93,000 PoWs after signing the Shimla Agreement six months post its victory in Jul 1972. It was a moment that it could have exploited by coercing Pakistan into accepting many other conditions to facilitate the return of PoW.

One of those conditions could well have been a settlement of the territorial issues concerning J&K. Under the Shimla Agreement India took an assurance from Pakistan that the two countries would pursue efforts to resolve J&K bilaterally. The broad understanding of this was that third party intervention was passé and even the UN Resolutions no longer holds ground although no formal action was taken to rescind the resolutions. As per the UN Security Council Resolution Number 47 of 21 Apr 1948 Pakistan was to secure the withdrawal from the state of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who had entered the state for the purpose of fighting. It also asked Government of India to reduce its forces to minimum strength, after which the circumstances for holding a plebiscite would be put into effect.

Since Pakistan did not ever withdraw its forces the start point for conduct of a plebiscite was never reached. The sequence of events involving Pakistan’s attempts to use force to alter the status of J&K and especially over the last 30 years to change the status quo have sealed the fate of the UNSC resolution. India does not adhere to its provisions any longer and follows the policy of bilateralism for resolution of all disputes with Pakistan. The basis of its claim over the entire territories of J&K (including those not in its current possession) is the Instrument of Accession signed by the former ruler of the princely state of J&K on 26 Oct 1947, and the 22 Feb 1994 Joint Resolution of both Houses of India’s Parliament.

The international community is also little aware that India signed the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960 with Pakistan so that a legitimate share of the waters of the Indus River flow to it as a lower riparian state. Despite Pakistan’s 30 years of proxy war in J&K India has done nothing to terminate or rescind this treaty. It can always be a political tool in India’s hand but as a larger and responsible nation, it continues to display magnanimity.

At the outset of the problem in the decade of Nineteen Fifties, when the UN was yet interceding in the J&K issue, India agreed for the state of J&K a special constitutional status until final resolution of the alleged dispute. Under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, it afforded J&K its own constitution and inapplicability of several Indian laws. Under Article 35A powers were accorded to the J&K legislature to frame rules and conditions for the grant of permanent resident status for citizens. Over the last seventy years Articles 370 and 35A may have helped retain the demographic pattern but have in turn created aspirations of freedom through secession among some of the people of only the Kashmir sub-region, as against the other sub-regions of Ladakh and Jammu.

In particular since 1989, once Pakistan was free from the turbulence of the Afghanistan front and India was at a low point in its strategic effectiveness, Pakistan launched a proxy hybrid war in the state of J&K. That has continued to the day. Initially employing transnational ‘mujahideen’ freed from the war of the Eighties against the Soviet Union, Pakistan transited to a system of infiltrating Pakistan based terror groups such as Lashkar e Taiyaba (LeT) and Jaish e Mohammad (JeM). These groups are internationally proscribed and Pakistan has done nothing more than pay lip service in effecting ban on their activities even under international pressure.

Currently Pakistan is facing investigation by the international body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on the extent of measures it has taken to dismantle the financial structure by which it aids transnational terror groups. If finally unable to prove adequate action in this field it is likely to be placed on the FATF black list which will make it extremely difficult to tide over the challenging internal financial issues it currently faces. Bailout packages in the future will be subject to it escaping the blacklist.

Unfortunately, instead of abjuring violent extremist activity and entering into talks with India Pakistan has continued to believe that ‘separatism’ in Kashmir is something which could be used as a political tool. India has never refrained from talks but the precondition always remains the withdrawal of sponsorship for terror and separatist activity. However, Pakistan’s deep state which sponsors and runs the J&K policy perceives that its goals of initially securing freedom and then absorption J&K into Pakistan is an achievable ambition. The relevance of the deep state which includes the Pakistan Army leadership, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) wings, is contingent upon the level of violence and anti-Indian sentiment in J&K.

However, Pakistan has to be made to realize that the constitutional provisions within India which assisted in promoting the exclusivist nature of J&K now stand rescinded. Threats of war, including the threat of use of nuclear weapons which Prime Minister Imran Khan resorts to are for the purpose of drawing the attention of the international community to the dangers of the subcontinent. These are irresponsible statements which many times have to be responded with reminders that Pakistan can ill afford to talk of war with India, given the state of its economy, the overall capability of India and the position it holds in the international community.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the US prior to his speech at the UN General Assembly and the acceptance by President Trump to join him on stage at a large gathering of Indian Americans at Houston should be an adequate message to Pakistan. Its efforts to show India in poor light at different forums within the international community have not succeeded and in fact, India’s actions are legitimized by the conferring of major honours on Prime Minister Modi by various important nations of the world, including Islamic nations.

(Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain is the former Commander of the Indian Army in Kashmir)