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Erdoğan's Kashmir Comments Reveal An Utter Ignorance Of Pakistan's True Motivations

There’s a need to understand Pakistani revisionism beyond Kashmir.

09/05/2017 9:01 AM IST | Updated 09/05/2017 9:01 AM IST
Osman Orsal / Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's controversial comments on Kashmir just before his arrival in India for a two-day state visit, in which he suggested a "multilateral dialogue" to resolve the Kashmir dispute, must have brightened the faces of Pakistan's military and political elites, who want the world to believe that not resolving the Kashmir problem is the single biggest impediment to an Indo-Pak rapprochement and peace in the volatile region.

Pakistan's security establishment has demonstrated extraordinary deftness in covering up its many geopolitical delusions in order to bargain for continued military and economic aid from friendly countries, including Turkey.

Having narrowly won a controversial constitutional referendum, Erdoğan is obviously busy further consolidating his executive powers by restricting the free press and curtailing legitimate political opposition. He therefore cannot be expected to comprehend the nuances of the dangers inherent in Pakistan's obsessive enmity towards India. The struggle by Pakistan is not about territory per se but about civilisational and strategic parity with India. Because of fabricated cultural myths inherited over the years, the Pakistani military has come to view India as a peer competitor. In fact, the "India threat" is a convenient excuse for the Pakistani military to maintain an almost complete control over the body politic, making it impossible for the country to emerge as a real democracy. Pakistan's security establishment has demonstrated extraordinary deftness in covering up its many geopolitical delusions in order to bargain for continued military and economic aid from the Western powers and other friendly countries, including Turkey.

Erdoğan's "dear friend", Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, does not have the political courage to inform the Turkish president that "security", has little to do with Pakistan's allegations and apprehensions about India, which are driven primarily by ideological rigidity. Undermining India's dominant position in the subcontinent and beyond is the driving force behind this ideology, which cannot be placated by territorial revisions alone. The Pakistani military is defending the territorial as well as the ideological frontier founded on Islam. Thus, Pakistan's revisionism toward India needs to be understood beyond Kashmir.

Erdoğan is naive to believe that solving the Kashmir problem according to the whims and fancies of Pakistan's security establishment will mitigate its sense of insecurity and reduce Indo-Pakistan tensions. It is pertinent to have a look at the two solutions for Kashmir that Pakistan and its sympathisers such as Erdoğan must be entertaining: either independence or incorporation in Pakistan.

Erdoğan's "dear friend" Nawaz Sharif, does not have the political courage to inform the Turkish president that "security", has little to do with Pakistan's allegations and apprehensions about India...

In the first instance, a hypothetically independent Kashmir will surely emerge as a state at the nexus of geopolitical conflicts—between India and Pakistan, and between India and China. This is because of Kashmir's prime strategic location. Pakistan would become a willing partner in Chinese attempts at soft colonisation of Kashmir through grand geopolitical and infrastructure projects. Over the years, Kashmiri insurgency has become jihad-ridden, and this is the biggest problem. With the mystique of Kashmiriyat as a non-sectarian identity being ruthlessly swept away by the monstrous juggernaut of jihadism, the fate of the substantial Hindu and Buddhist minorities can be easily anticipated in that theocratic polity. The not so "non-state" jihadists in Pakistan would never allow hypothetically independent Kashmir to become democratic, secular and tolerant, posing a threat beyond any yet experienced. Moreover, Pakistan's military has more to fear from an independent Kashmir as it would strike at the root of Pakistan's raison d'être as a state in which Islam was supposed to override all ethnic and linguistic differences. Erdoğan may not remember that Kashmir no longer has political leaders with whom New Delhi can enter into a meaningful dialogue as Pakistan's intelligence agencies have eliminated or discredited almost all those who could have spoken with authority on behalf of Kashmiri people. This, however, does not absolve the Indian state of many blunders committed in handling the Kashmir issue.

Kashmir or no Kashmir, the Pakistan military's revisionist pathologies will continue as it does not see any end to arch rival India's rising global stature.

In the second instance, Kashmir's incorporation into Pakistan is also likely to play out in a similar fashion. Successful completion of the "unfinished business" of British India's partition would not only embolden the Islamists and Jihadists across the border, the cascading tremors would also be felt throughout India, particularly in areas with a sizeable Muslim population. In fact, the new brand of jihadist terrorism presents challenges to all governments that they are not well-designed to meet. Furthermore, India will find the Pakistani army on the border not very far from New Delhi. The Pakistani army's grand ambitions vis-à-vis India will also get an extraordinary boost. Thus, even if the Kashmir problem were solved in Pakistan's favour, no fundamental change is likely to occur as far as Indo-Pak rivalry is concerned.

Almost all major Indo-Pak wars have been triggered by the actions of Pakistan's military. India's strategy has been reactive and defensive inasmuch as the onus of first strike often rests with Pakistan. The propping up of Pakistan's military by the great powers, especially the United States and China, has encouraged the Pakistani state to seek parity with India.

Turkey is not the only Muslim country that endorses the Pakistani position on Kashmir. Saudi Arabia and the UAE had earlier tended to side with Pakistan. With both of them giving sufficient indications of changing their traditional position, the Pakistani military finds itself in a difficult situation. Kashmir or no Kashmir, the Pakistan military's revisionist pathologies will continue as it does not see any end to arch rival India's rising global stature. All other factors that Pakistan's military talks about—such as India fomenting internal conflict in Pakistan or supporting Kabul at the cost of Islamabad—are arguments which often mirror what Pakistan has been doing against India.

If Erdoğan wanted to give the message that Turkey will not dilute its friendship with Pakistan in order to build a new partnership with India, he may be appreciated for this act of fidelity. But if the intent of Turkey's national strategy is to stop terrorist attacks against its citizens and its friends, and create a global environment inhospitable to terrorists and their supporters, helping the cause of Pakistan's irredentist claims in Kashmir is a recipe for utter disaster. Confronting Pakistan on its "double game" is the only way forward to counter terrorism.

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