Why is Narrative Essential?
Narrative and framing are both discursive features of any social movement. The success and failure of any people resistance movement for political or social change or regime change profoundly depend on a well-articulated and holistically developed narrative. The Kashmiri freedom movement confronts a grave challenge that the political elite and intellectual fraternity across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) persistently underestimate the importance of developing and maintaining a familiar indigenous narrative as opposed to dominant narratives. These grand narratives are ‘incorporated’ by the State Inteligencia of India and Pakistan in their respective controlling parts of divided J&K and abroad.
Azaadi VS Accession Narratives
The 70 years long enforced division subsequently have created further political, ideological and tribal animosities across the LoC. Theoretically, the State of Pakistan has long been advocating the cause of (Freedom) or ‘self-determination under UN resolutions’ for Kashmiri people. However, in practice, what Kashmir ‘Azaadi’ means for them is solely to accede with Pakistan after getting rid of India. In other words, the K-issue has been framed along the lines that Kashmir will become part of Pakistan, which evidently has far more negative consequences than positives for the indigenous Kashmir struggle in achieving inalienable and inherent right to self-determination.
In the last 200 years of modern human history, we are unable to find any people resistance movement, which achieved self-determination by embracing the false notion of ‘Azaadi’ (freedom) of acceding to one country after getting freedom from the other. The architects of Pakistan’s foreign policy on Kashmir have failed to understand the negative impacts of this false notion of ‘Azaadi’ and misleading interpretation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir. Consequently, we have witnessed a series of failures of Pakistan’s foreign policy in resolving the Kashmir conflict spanning from 1947 to 1972 (Shimla agreement) and Lahore Declaration 1999, which turned an international conflict into a bilateral dispute.
The Confused Case of Self Determination
Both Governments of India and Pakistan have actively engaged proxies at home and abroad to promote their version of narratives on the Kashmir conflict. These proxies are mainly people of different divided regions of J&K, who are hired to speak half and the selective truth about history, the politics, and propagate selective interpretation of UN resolutions about the Kashmir conflict. These paid proxies are busy in protecting the national and security interests of both India and Pakistan by toeing the lines of official narratives of either India or Pakistan in all divided and disputed parts of J&K and abroad mainly in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Geneva, and in North America. Kashmiris themselves are their worst enemy. Primarily, the Kashmir conflict is an issue of the right to self-determination. Malcolm N. Shaw in his article:’ Peoples, Territorialism and Boundaries’ argues that ‘In a specifically political sense, the right to self- determination is the right of a nation to constitute itself as an independent state. It also denotes a separate political entity if it so decides, enjoying the same rights as all other nation-states; or otherwise, to freely determine its mode of association with an existing state wherein it enjoys the same rights as the other constituent peoples of that state. In this sense, the right to self-determination covers a wide range of options that a nation can choose from’.
Kashmir and UN Resolutions
The legal interpretations of the UN Resolutions on the Kashmir question invoke varying opinions on whether they restrict the Kashmiri people’s choice to accession either with India or Pakistan or indeed if their choice extends to the possibility of a third option. Comparing the two resolutions (drafted by the same conflict resolving mechanism viz. UNCIP), there is one difference that is worthy to note. In the first resolution passed on August 13, 1948, it states ‘the future status of Jammu & Kashmir is subject to the free will of the people of the disputed state of Jammu & Kashmir’, which indicates open-mindedness and is thus interpreted as a possibility of independence for J & K.
However, in the second resolution passed on January 5, 1949, it mentions ‘the question of the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan,’ reflecting the limitation of the people’s choice to between India and Pakistan. In fact, these resolutions potentially entail a singular notion of self-determination either to join Pakistan or India and ruled out the option of independence if plebiscite ever were to occur. It seems worthy to mention that U.N resolutions on Kashmir are not binding as these were passed under chapter VI which does not oblige the Security Council to take action. This is unlike the case of East Timor on which the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed a resolution under chapter VII which obliges the UNSC to take action. In fact, the nature of resolutions passed on Kashmir is recommendatory and their implementation is subject to the consent of parties namely, Pakistan and India.
Deconstructing the Narrative of Self-Determination
The K-issue also framed as ‘integral part’ by India. However, despite tremendous efforts and money, which have been put together by India to dilute the narrative of self-determination, UN resolutions and human rights in academic and contemporary discourses, Kashmir has never integrated in its eternity with Union of India. The presence of black laws such as Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 and Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 and their application resulted in gross human rights violations. Notwithstanding, the people of the valley have shown determination and resilience to keep their voice loud and clear for the right to self-determination under UN auspices.
Indian Economic Diplomacy
As a result of globalization and increasing economic interdependence, nation-states have to secure their interests through economic diplomacy primarily based on economic carrot and recently as a coercive means to achieve foreign policy objectives. The state of the art India’s foreign policy has successfully used economic diplomacy to refrain the international community from the Kashmir issue. In contrast, despite of geo-strategic location, Pakistan’s foreign policy lacks innovative ways of exploiting its strengths to provide meaningful diplomatic support to the people of Jammu & Kashmir
Kashmir: A way forward
Needless to say that having a whole indigenous narrative advanced by the people of Kashmir can make a big difference at the diplomatic front. Pakistan should take the initiative and rethink her foreign policy’s fundamentals towards Kashmir and Kashmiris. It requires a paradigm shift away from traditional state-centric to people-centric approach. It is need of the hour to recognize the role of Kashmiri people by enabling Kashmiris to present their indigenous narrative at the forefront of diplomatic interventions. Pakistan needs to grant genuine internal autonomy to the governments of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan (two disputed regions under the temporal administration of Pakistan until the final resolution of the Kashmir conflict). It will help Pakistan in Ecdysising from its barren Kashmir policy and may put in advantageous diplomatic position as a genuine supporter of people resistance movement in Kashmir rather than a conflict sponsorer. A narrative ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ of Kashmir is the only way forward and may bring fruits and support from the international community. After several diplomatic failures over Kashmir, will Pakistan allow this to happen?
About the Author:
Dr. Javaid Hayat is a peace researcher and political analyst. He specialises in democratic governance and conflict resolution. His articles published in Urdu and English dailies across Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan, Europe and North America. He is originally from Rawalakot, Azad Kashmir and a native of the former princely State of Jammu & Kashmir.
Currently, he is based in Canada and provide pro-bono consultancy in the non-profit sector. He also serves as the Director of Stateveiws.pk (growing news and views sharing online platform). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: A short version of this article has been published in Daily Times, Pakistan June 4, 2018