As the UN General Assembly moot concludes, hopes for some kind of a breakthrough on Kashmir have come a cropper. The Indo-Pak bilateral resembles a tank stuck in mud. A painstaking diplomatic effort, the US-Taliban “deal in principle” was dead on arrival in DC. It wasn’t all bad 8 weeks ago, when peace talks were going fine and the Indian government was on the defensive over Trump’s faux offer to mediate.
But a lot has changed since August 5, when Kashmir was officially annexed by India into its union, and September 7, when a Trump tweet aborted the Afghan peace talks. Both developments were a setback for the Khan government. The ruling party was looking to build a narrative at home for the much-needed structural reforms, besides hoping to quietly navigate the choppy waters of FATF.
The last two months have been a costly distraction that is difficult to get away from. Local airwaves have since been consumed by Kashmir, making it hard for the government to manage public expectations. The agenda for economic reforms has gone on the back burner. The PM felt the need to attend the UN sessions. He played a weak hand well. His impassioned eloquence on Kashmir couldn’t be ignored.
The premier spoke defiantly, striking a chord at home. Sadly, his concerns over the humanitarian situation in Kashmir and the attendant crisis in South Asia have yet to move global powers on how they view India’s silent suppression of Kashmir. In a way, New York cemented the status quo in Kashmir. Modi made no amends in front of a toothless forum. And Trump’s mediation mantra rang even hollower.
It isn’t Khan’s fault that the global community has again failed to stand up for Kashmir. India found the opening to annex Kashmir and got away with a lockdown partly because of its own economic heft, and partly because it could exploit Pakistan’s limited credibility on global stage. That loss of credibility needs to be reversed before the world starts paying attention. For that, policies at home need a serious rethink.
Continued violence in Afghanistan amid elections, as well as an elevated risk of Indian adventurism after New Delhi survived UN, poses serious threats to regional security. It’s not a bed of roses for the Khan government, which has to deal with volatile eastern and western borders on top of a sputtering economy and a broken political system. And it is out of options until a critical review next month. Fingers crossed!