By Hamdan Khan*
He may be struggling to coup with daunting challenges at home, but when it comes to international forums where being personable and eloquent carry weight, his charismatic personality; western education; acquaintance with Western culture; passionately uttered words; sincerity of purpose and audacity to take on the West, make a perfect combination, at least, for his domestic support base. Though he had already proven his credentials while representing his country abroad, Imran Khan’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) speech of September 28th was another acme in his nascent “diplomatic career”.
Exceeding the prescribed limit by more than half an hour, Imran Khan’s passionate address, if assessed according to the strict standards of oratory, may not be graded as outstanding or incomparable, but for contents, dedication and earnestness of words, it was one of the best speeches to have ever been delivered by any Pakistani leader at UNGA.
While addressing a range of issues haunting the world as a whole; Muslim community and South Asia, Khan allocated some 25 minutes of his emotionally charged speech to the erupting nuclear volcano, Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). He highlighted the barbaric clampdown and outrageous human rights violations committed by fascist Modi regime, besides accentuating that soaring tensions between India and Pakistan can push the two antagonistic neighbours towards a nuclear exchange.
Though Khan himself was not that much optimistic about world community rallying around his cause soon after his verbal blitz, by means of his meetings with various global leaders, talks in key think tanks and then UNGA imploration, he was at least able to sensitize the world about an imminent bloodbath and potential consequences of Modi government’s reckless brinkmanship in the occupied valley.
In the wake of revocation of J&K’s special status by Modi government, Pakistan launched a diplomatic offensive to garner international support against the malevolent Indian move. Nevertheless, let aside the tall claims, it remains a fact to be acknowledged that except China, Turkey, and Malaysia, none of the countries sided with Pakistan over Kashmir.
An obvious shock came from Middle Eastern countries; most notably, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which had just lent billions of dollars to Pakistan in an ostensible normalization of relations. These “brotherly countries” didn’t even express “concern” about the deteriorating situation in J&K and Emiratis went as far as to confer the highest civil award to Modi, besides labelling the J&K issue as India’s internal matter.
The flagbearer of liberalism and so-called champion of human rights, United States of America (USA) once again was conspicuous with his symbolic paradoxical approach. Despite the fact that President Trump reiterated his “majestic” mediation offer, US acting Assistant Secretary of State, Alice Wells during a UNGA press talk expressed concern over “widespread detentions” in the occupied valley and asked India to resume political engagement, but her emphasis was more on Pakistan to ensure that no “cross border terrorism” takes place, thanks to India’s years of lobbying and narrative shaping that all the chaos in J&K is fomented by Pakistan.
Although, OIC contact group on Jammu & Kashmir and UN Human Rights Council expressed “serious concern” with the later asking India to end the clampdown in Kashmir, in an apparent setback to Pakistan’s diplomacy, the country fell short of persuading the council to pass a resolution to condemn India’s tyranny in the occupied valley.
However, a sanguine development was the continuous coverage of besieged Kashmir by International Media, thanks to Modi’s tyrant actions, “voice of silenced” Kashmiri people and Khan’s passionate imploration. It is unprecedented that the Kashmir issue remains in the focus of international media even after more than two months of Indian actions. Most recent was an opinion piece inscribed by the New York Times Editorial Board, which stressed UNSC to oppose Modi’s actions.
Global community’s numb and apologetic response towards ongoing blockade of Kashmir is just another manifestation of the bitter realities governing international relations. While standing at UN, the symbol of liberal institutionalism, Khan asked the world to choose between “materialism and human rights”, but he was aware that world, for the time being, is preferring the market of 1.3 billion people over the plight of 07 million Kashmiris.
In fact, it is time to recognize another virtual reality that “liberal institutions” are essentially the tools in the hands of great powers, which they manipulate to further their own designs. While diplomatic charm, doesn’t matter how much convincing and pervasive it may be, unless is not backed by robust national power, doesn’t create the required impact.
The USA may have declined in its global sway, it has yet to abdicate the global leadership role and enjoys a close geostrategic relationship with India. Had it pressurized India to uplift the curfew, it could have landed ever-defiant Modi government in hot waters. But Trump’s USA, which has gone increasingly isolationist and is least concerned about liberal values, seemed content with the “all is well” mantra innovated by Modi during his recent visit to the USA. Certifiably, USA’s grand design to use India as an offshore balancer against emergent China, despite its despicable human rights record; augmented by $142 billion trade volume, countermanded the liberal values of USA’s founding fathers.
Though, Khan has achieved success in “sensitizing the desensitized” global community, thanks to “voice of silenced” in Kashmir, there is minimum pressure on India to end clampdown in Kashmir and Modi government is ready to bear any kind of pressure, even if it is at the cost of staining of its “benevolent democratic face”. In fact, speedily driving its country into the abyss of fascism, Modi regime doesn’t seem to be too much worried about international concerns and to deal with any dressing-down they have already devised a plan of action based on Denial, Diversion and Denouncement (3Ds). And because at the international level, no law or resolution can be enforced until the P-5 countries are prepared, an all-out amnesty for India is evident and ominous.
With the rise of populism, liberalism is in retreat and the world has a history of appeasing fascists until they don’t reach to their doorsteps. However, in case of South Asia, fascist Modi regime may never reach to the doorsteps of P-5 because of its seemingly narrow agenda, but the aftermath of its actions in the form of the consequences of nuclear winter in South Asia can certainly reach to P-5 countries to pollute their “clean environments”.
This is exactly the scenario feared by Khan during his UNGA address but was labelled as nuclear blackmail by some of the commenters. Nevertheless, given the brinkmanship Modi government is ready to venture upon to divert attention from India’s economic slowdown and spiralling out of control domestic challenges, the possibility of future conventional war escalating to a full-scale nuclear exchange can’t be altogether overruled.
In the case of Kashmir, in recent years, Pakistan has steadily conceded space to India. During Cold War, it enjoyed an edge over India in International diplomacy due to its close relationship with the USA but towards the start of 21st century, as changes started to unfold in global geopolitical landscape, Pakistan’s geostrategic relevance for the USA decreased, followed by a steep decline in its economic power, which is considered to be the most consequential factor in contemporary international relations. Less sway at global stage meant less consideration from world powers and this exactly what happened for Khan during his “Mission Kashmir”.
However, to regain the conceded space and to induce the world about its high moral ground regarding Kashmir, Pakistan will have to strengthen its own position at world stage by increasing its economic relevance and by remedying the previously existing discrepancies in its approach towards Kashmir. Recently, Khan was praised after he warned against anyone crossing the Line of Control (LoC) as it will allow India to exercise “diversion” from the real issue of human rights violations and shift all the blame on Pakistan.
This approach may appear irrational given the gravity of the situation in occupied Kashmir, but would benefit Pakistan and Kashmiri people in the long run. Prolonged the curfew continues in occupied Kashmir, India will be pushed to the back foot and because it has already lost “hearts and minds” game in Kashmir, it will not be possible for India to subjugate 07 million people by using unchecked force for too long. Consequently, “voice of silenced” will turn into an uproar that may not be suppressed by whatever form of pogrom fascist Modi is ready to employ.
*HAMDAN KHAN is a student of Strategic Studies in National Defense University Islamabad. He has previously worked for Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) & is currently associated with Pakistan Council on China (PCC). His major areas of interest include Geo-politics, Great Power Competition, Nuclear Affairs and Revolution in Military Affairs.