RIME MINISTER Nawaz Sharif has made his case at the UN for the world to pay attention to the Kashmir dispute and for India to engage Pakistan in a sustained dialogue. In a speech that was neither compelling nor entirely forgettable, Mr Sharif struck a different note to the incessant warmongering in both India and Pakistan in recent times. Specifically on the Kashmir dispute, however, Pakistan faces a complicated task in trying to get the world to pay attention to the issue in a fair manner that puts the plight of the people of India-held Kashmir at the centre of international concern. Part of the problem is rooted in India`s long-held insistence that the Kashmir dispute, to the extent that India even acknowledges it as one, be addressed bilaterally and without global mediation. In addition, with the rise of India as an economic power, much of the outside world is more keen to engage India economically than probe its dark underbelly.

Yet, a frank evaluation of the relative positions of India and Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute would suggest that Pakistan has consistently failed to press home its advantages and has, in fact, harmed the Kashmir cause by entangling it, in the eyes of much of the world, in a global terrorism problem. Contrast the global reaction to the Uri attack from anger at Pakistan to expressions of concern even before the identity of the attackers has been established to the widespread indifference to the months-long crackdown and curfew in parts of IHK. Where Pakistan wants to talk about the plight of the people of Kashmir and the genuine dispute over the territory, much of the outside world seems to sympathise with India`s claims that it is a victim of cross-border terrorism. Unfair as that may be, it is the context in which Pakistan must conduct its international diplomacy.

Even if the terrorism problem did not exist, however, there is a flaw in how the Pakistani state approaches the Kashmir challenge.

First, there is an undeniable difference between how much of the mainstream political class would prefer to address relations with India essentially, seek broad-based dialogue that does not make progress in other areas conditional on progress on resolving the Kashmir dispute and the security establishment`s insistence that this issue must be at the centre of any and all dialogue with India.

Second, Pakistan tends to be reactive in its diplomacy: each time there are other tensions with India, the Pakistani state tries to amp up the Kashmir issue. When the Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisted that bilateral dialogue focus on terrorism, Pakistan began to move towards highlighting Indian interference in Balochistan and Karachi and went back to insisting that Kashmir must be at the centre of any dialogue. Pakistan does have a strong case on Kashmir; perhaps policymakers here ought to address why it gains so little support internationally.

Source: Dawn Editorial (September23, 2016)