‘Kashmir is at loss’: former Pakistan HC to India on Indo-Pak bonhomie

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Abdul Basit is a retired Pakistani diplomat who served as Islamabad’s High Commissioner in New Delhi between 2014 to 2017. On 26 February 2021, Basit made a detailed commentary in a video on Youtube in which he discussed recent ceasefire reiteration between India and Pakistan amid reports of back-channel talks between senior officials of the two governments. The Kashmir Walla published the transcript of Basit’s commentary to highlight a growing schism within Pakistan on its Kashmir policy and a tough road ahead for New Delhi.

Today (26 February), an Indian daily newspaper reported that the National Security Advisor of India, Ajit Doval, and the Special Assistant of our National Security Division (Moeed Yusuf) have been in contact with each other through some back channel for the past few months. And today we saw that India and Pakistan agreed to observe the ceasefire. I don’t understand in which world do we live. And why we are so wishful. You see if India was so sincere then Pakistan had proposed a deal in 2015 September to create a proper agreement on the informal ceasefire understanding of 2003. But India never responded. Even if India has done this today, it is just to promote and reinforce the narrative that it has against Pakistan. 

You will see that India will violate the ceasefire understanding by itself within a few months or just a few weeks. And then India will accuse Pakistan of doing it because this is the narrative that India has created about Pakistan. It says that Pakistan violates the ceasefire and sends across terrorists taking cover during the firing. 

The second thing is why do we need an engagement through some back-channel? Why are we so restless and desperate to engage with India? I myself wish that our relationship with India should get better but the truth is important. If you have decided that this is the solution to the Kashmir issue then okay. Keep doing that but this back-channel diplomacy does not suit Pakistan at this time. I have always said that if you want any back-channel without a third party involved this is counter-productive for Pakistan. 

India and Pakistan should only talk to each other about the Kashmir issue and in the presence of a third party, even if it happens through some back-channel. If this current thing is true then only Pakistan and Kashmir are at loss in this. I am saying this out of my experience. I can even be wrong because one cannot have the knowledge of the entire world and it is not necessary that the assessment of a person can be completely right but I can say this with utmost confidence that we are making a huge mistake. If we are involved with India through some back channel then it is a mistake being made by us. Eventually, our narrative will be lost somewhere and even the world will not take us seriously. Our policy position was different; we had decided to not engage with India. We had decided to not engage with India till it would not take back the orders passed on 5 August 2019. Our Prime Minister had articulated the position of Pakistan through writing in an American newspaper. 

But today we are stepping aside from our position. What is this? If we want Pakistan to move forward then we should decide everything once for all. Yesterday our Prime Minister said in Sri Lanka that till the time the Kashmir issue is not solved as per United Nations resolutions, India and Pakistan cannot go back to good terms with each other. 

This back-channel diplomacy is not going to give you the results that you are advertising. Back-channel diplomacy without a third party is suicidal for Pakistan. If this is what you had to do then why did you wait for more than a year? You should have done this before. Another thing that needs to be taken into notice is that the news has been leaked by India, from New Delhi. This can make you understand how sincere India is about this back-channel diplomacy. I request Pakistan to think about it.

I can understand that the Biden administration is there and both India and Pakistan want to show something to the Biden administration but if the Biden administration has promised that it will press India about the Kashmir issue that’s fine but we don’t see anything like that happening on the ground. I have been saying this thing again and again since the revocation of article 370 and 35A, I have been trying to give hints to the Pakistan administration, but if this is how it is going to be then I don’t have many expectations left with this administration in regard to the Kashmir issue. 

Who is involved in this back-channel? I don’t know. Experience matters and if we continue to give-in like this and if we continue saying that we want engagement with India, talks with India, then this is the end and we should just agree to it then. I don’t believe that today is a good day for both Kashmir as well as Pakistan. People say that a ceasefire has happened but it is all temporary. India just wants to gain time and tell Kashmiris that Pakistan is no longer interested in their cause so they should better give up their struggle. There are so many dimensions to it.

I request the administration to think before taking any further steps and India has once again trapped Pakistan through this bilateral engagement. This time was for something else but now I don’t understand what the administration really wants. I believe that there is no understanding of issues and no understanding of the long-term objectives of India or even Pakistan itself for that matter. I am a bit dismayed by the way we are handling our India policy and Kashmir policy. I am sorry to say this, I may be wrong and I hope that I am wrong.

If India wants to move ahead and is ready to compromise and show flexibility on the Kashmir dispute and wants to reach a modus vivendi that is acceptable to all parties including the people of Jammu and Kashmir, then it is okay. I am all for that. But my apprehension is that India is using this bogie of a bilateral engagement or back-channel diplomacy to further weaken the position of Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir. Mark my words, this engagement on the back-channel will deliver nothing for Pakistan. This is what my fear is and I sincerely hope that I am wrong but my experience tells me that we are perhaps living in a fool’s paradise. We don’t know how to deal with India.

Let’s hope that things get better for Pakistan and India but now I am losing hope. 

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