Vajpayee’s Kashmir necklace becomes Modi’s Albatross

Meeting room of the United Nations Security Council. Pakistan has called for an emergency meeting of the UNSC to discuss Kashmir

The Russian news agency Tass reported that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a telephonic conversation with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday to convey that Islamabad should defuse its tensions with New Delhi and that “there is no alternative to ironing out the differences between Pakistan and India on a bilateral basis by political and diplomatic means.” 

The conversation, at Qureshi’s instance, took place against the backdrop of the Pakistani request for an emergency meeting of the UN SC to discuss the situation around J&K. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry statement said the two top diplomats “discussed the situation in South Asia amid the deterioration between Pakistan and India after New Delhi’s decision on changing the legal status of the Jammu and Kashmir state.” It added,

“The Russian side stressed the need for de-escalating tensions and that there is no alternative to ironing out the differences between Pakistan and India on a bilateral basis by political and diplomatic means.” 

In sum, Moscow has sensitised Islamabad in advance on its stance in the UN SC if and when the Kashmir file comes up for discussion in the coming days — and in turn hinted to India as an old and trusted friend as to what is the way forward. 

Of course, this wouldn’t have come as surprise to FM Qureshi who is well aware of the ways of the world, how the UN functions, and what is on the anvil in terms of the realities of contemporary world politics if the Security Council convenes. 

No doubt, Qureshi’s extraordinary remarks at a press conference in Muzaffarabad two days ago hinted unambiguously that he does not expect an outcome to Pakistan’s satisfaction at the UN SC. 

Yet, Islamabad has no option but to raise the Kashmir issue at the UN Security Council. The Pakistani public, which is greatly exercised over the Indian decision to unilaterally change the status of the disputed territory of J&K, demands it. 

Simply put, there is no way the UN SC would stricture India. In any case, India is unlikely to accept a UN intervention in any form. And it can be virtually ruled out that any P5 member country will want to humiliate India. China, which has voiced criticism over the Indian move, also counsels bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan. 

Qureshi has done the right thing to do some plain-speaking — how pitiless and self-centred other countries are, including the Ummah. 

From the Indian perspective too, this ought to be a sombre moment. The sad part is that there is no one like Qureshi in the Indian foreign policy establishment today who has the courage to speak with candour where all this Kashmir saga is leading to. 

Even though the upcoming UN SC meeting is not going to give India sleepless nights, it will only be Pyrrhic victory. The bottom line is that no one buys the Indian sophistry that Kashmir’s status is “an internal matter for India”. 

Even Russia acknowledges that India changed the “legal status” of J&K. Certainly, it is too much to expect any UN SC member country to endorse the unilateral Indian act to change the “special status” of J&K. There is embarrassing silence all around. Who wants to annoy India? 

However, having said that, there is also the flip side to it: India is painting itself into a corner. The sorrows of the Kashmiri Muslims are getting noticed far and wide and it is damaging India’s reputation. Kashmir is becoming an Albatross around India’s neck — entirely contrary to AB Vajpayee’s memorable metaphor once in the Indian parliament in the early nineties describing it as a necklace around India’s neck, adding to its beauty. 

Furthermore, such a bleeding wound will only disfigure the Indian polity and brutalise society as a whole. Look at Sri Lanka or Israel. Is that how we want India to be? We have already earned notoriety as a savagely cruel and depraved state that fires pellets into the eyes of its citizens to blind them — in order to make them behave. Worse still, we do not even realise what we are doing. It has become the ‘new normal’ for us. At some point, being an ancient civilisation, a sense of futility will dawn upon us — even among those who have iron in their soul. An existential ennui will overwhelm us eventually, as the strain to keep a semblance of normalcy in the valley begins to tell. 

Suffice to say, Pakistan is running out of diplomatic options to put India on the mat with a knockout punch, while the spectre that is haunting India is one of attrition that ultimately wears it out. 

But all is not lost, yet. The good part is that in all probability, the UN SC is going to come up with a statement urging India and Pakistan to discuss and resolve their differences bilaterally. There is convergence amongst the P5 on this point.

India must pay heed to it, being a responsible member of the international community and an emerging power that aspires to be at the horseshoe table some day as a permanent member of the Security Council. 

The bold move to do something radically different in the dismal J&K situation in a marked departure from the old hackneyed methods of successive Congress governments through past several decades can make sense only if it has a vector integral to it in the realm of diplomacy by way of engaging with Pakistan constructively, patiently and diligently, and with the utmost sensitivity to each other’s core concerns.