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Is Pakistan Bracing Itself To Look Beyond Kashmir?

In recent months, many Pakistani analysts have talked about moving beyond the Kashmir issue, something that has been hailed by many in India and Pakistan. However, they continue to face criticism from a section of the Pakistan population.

Jammu and Kashmir
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The Karachi Literature Festival has thrown in many surprises, with poet Javed Akhtar remembering Faiz Ahmad Faiz while talking about the Mumbai attack perpetrators. Akhtar’s remarks created a storm in the Pakistani film industry, while South Asian expert Michael Kugleman's advice to Pakistan to look beyond the Kashmir issue and move on surprised Kugleman as he said, “I was grateful to participate in the recent Karachi Literature Festival. One of the most interesting moments was when I said-expecting to be booed-that the time may come when Pakistan needs to look beyond the Kashmir issue and move on. Because nothing is likely to change,” said Michael Kugelman, South Asia Institute Director, The Wilson Center.

“Surprisingly, many in the audience applauded the comment. I didn’t expect that. Of course, that’s more a reflection of the view of the KLF audience demographic than of wider public sentiment. But I still didn’t expect such a response like that, especially in a public setting,” Kugelman said.

In recent months, many Pakistani analysts have talked about moving beyond the Kashmir issue.

For instance, on January 13, Air Vice Marshal Shahzad Chaudhry (retd) in his article in Tribune Pakistan said India has politically outmanoeuvred Pakistan on Kashmir by rescinding Article 370, which gave the region autonomous status.

Chaudhry described India as the fifth largest economy in the world, ahead of the UK. “It is aimed to be the third largest economy in the world by 2037. It is fourth in FE Reserves with over 600 billion USDs — Pakistan currently holds 4.5 only… India has world’s second largest army and the third largest military. It may not be the strongest corresponding to the numbers, but it is on path to rapidly increasing its capacity and capability. The global list of billionaires has 140 Indians of which four are included in the top 100.”

He further argued that “the gap between Pakistan and India is now unbridgeable. India has broken free of the shackles that kept her tied in South Asia and hyphenated in global perception with Pakistan”.

Chaudhry argues that Modi has brought India to the point where New Delhi has begun to cast a wider net of its influence and impact.

“Pakistan has been skilfully reduced to a footnote in this Indian script. It is time to smell some real leaves,” Chaudhry says as he asks Pakistan to recalibrate its policy towards India and be bold enough to create a tri-nation consensus, along with China, focusing on Asia to be the spur for wider economic growth and benefit.

Chaudhry’s article was widely hailed in India and Pakistan. But it was also criticised by many in Pakistan, forcing him to revisit it in another piece and stick to his original idea.

In his subsequent piece, titled “On India…revisited”, published in the Tribune Pakistan on January 20, he says if Indians termed his article brilliant, many of his Pakistani compatriots saw it as the worst piece ever on the subject, forcing him to delete his tweet. “Our concern is with India as a country which is destined to play an increasingly important role in regional and global affairs. We have fought wars and have live issues. We need to resolve those. Perhaps newer facets of engagement will open newer doors to seeking solutions of another kind,” Chaudhry writes in defence of his previous Article.

Prominent Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, in his article in Urdu daily Jung claimed that former army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa was close to solving issues between the two countries and they had decided to freeze the Kashmir issue for about 20 years. Mir, in his article “Thodi Si Sachai” published by Jang on January 23, says the then Prime Minister Imran Khan stalled the move.

Mir argues that the ceasefire along the Line of Control after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, was also part of the freeze Kashmir pact. 

On Feb 25, 2021, all of sudden, amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan, the DGsMO of both countries issued a joint statement, surprising all. It said, “In the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders, the two DGsMO agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have the propensity to disturb the peace and lead to violence. Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control and all other sectors with effect from midnight February 24-25 Feb 2021.”

This was the first time since the 2003 ceasefire agreement that both countries agreed to adhere to the ceasefire. Many analysts presumed that the ceasefire will not last long. But the events are proving them wrong. Since the reaffirmation of the ceasefire agreement, peace has prevailed along the border and Indian Army has been describing these years as zero-infiltration years. While separatists have been silenced in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, among the mainstream political parties, Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference are still batting for talks with Pakistan.

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