Kashmir: realpolitik strikes again

The truth is that if Pakistan presently had the economic and financial resources and military superiority, its armed forces would now march into Srinagar, as the Indian army did in Dhaka in 1971. A militarily and economically weaker India, under the circumstances, would cry and scream about Pakistani invasion of the Kashmir valley, some countries would criticize Pakistan and sympathise with India, but that would be it. Kashmir would be “hamara (ours)”. For now, though, that remains a very distant dream.

(Published in Daily Times, 17 September 2019)

Pakistanis have been extremely shocked by the UAE’s awarding the Indian Prime Minister Naraendra Modi the country’s highest civilian honour. Bad enough in itself, given Modi’s association with Hindutva and its anti-Muslim agenda, its timing seems to be in particularly bad taste, given the reign of terror he has unleashed in the Kashmir valley.

Other Muslim countries have either shown indifference to the plight of Kashmiri Muslims or expressed just a mild dissatisfaction. If this shocks Pakistanis, it only shows that their memory is short and their morality highly selective. But Pakistanis are not alone in suffering from amnesia and selective sympathy.

We know that this is not a fair world, although we have made a huge progress:  from head hunting and cannibalism to a point where governments sign charters of human rights and even conventions to govern the treatment of prisoners of war. There exist very many international organisations which monitor and speak out against violations of human rights everywhere.

That is all very good, god be thanked, but realpolitik still prevails, especially in the corridors of power. It has been a long time since the German word realpolitik appeared on these pages, so it is apt to give its meaning at the outset. Realpolitik means the politics of realism or the pursuit of reality and self-interest in international relations, in contradistinction to moral codes, idealism, fairness and justice.

Which explains why the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, our self-proclaimed fortress of Islam, describes its friendship with avowedly atheistic Communist China as higher than Himalayas, deeper than the Arabian Sea, and sweeter than honey.

No wonder, then, that Pakistanis have never questioned their government’s complete silence on China’s treatment of Uighurs in its western province of Xinjiang, even though they are fellow Muslims.

What about the various Kurdish Muslim populations in their struggle for rights against their governments, whether Turkey, Iran, Iraq or Syria? Do we care? Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are probably the world’s most persecuted and hounded minority. I do not recall Pakistan recalling its Ambassador from that country and doing anything more than pay lip service to the Rohingyas. It is the same with other Muslim countries.

Do Pakistanis even know that, at this very moment, the people of Papua are protesting their shabby treatment in Indonesia? It may be mentioned that this erstwhile Dutch colony, whose population is mostly Christian and animist, was annexed by Indonesia in the 1960s through totally fraudulent means with the support of the US and the United Nations.

Even as I write, Saudi Arabia and UAE, with US support, are waging the most barbaric war in the region’s poorest country, Yemen, which is both Arab and Muslim. Has Pakistan said anything about this war? Or, for that matter, has any country, including India, protested? No.

Why? Because Saudi Arabia and UAE are flush with oil and petro-dollars, while Yemen is wretchedly poor. Iran is the only country which, for reasons of realpolitik again, supports the Yemeni Houthis against the Saudi-Emirati war machine. Breaking news is that realpolitik has now pitted Emiratis against Saudis in Yemen.

And, of course, who even hears any more about Western Sahara, where Morocco, under UN auspices, promised a referendum (like Kashmir) to ascertain the will of the people. It never happened, and the Muslim people of Western Sahara remain under the military occupation of Muslim Morocco. Here too, only Algeria, their Muslim neighbor, supports self-determination for Western Sahara in its own vested interests.

Staying closer to home, it was not so long ago, that the United States joined Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in providing financial, material, moral and military assistance to the Afghan Mujahideen in the war against Soviet occupation, while India consistently supported the Soviet Union and the pro-Moscow regime in Kabul. Ironically, India continues to support the government in Kabul, albeit one installed there by the US.

The situation in Syria and Iraq boggles the mind. In Iraq, both US and Iran support and sustain the government in Baghdad, while they fight each other in Syria next door, with Iran supporting the government in Damascus and the US unsuccessfully trying to overthrow it with the support of “all the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men” from the Gulf countries (except Qatar).

Similarly, Turkey, the only Muslim country to show any sympathy for Uighurs and Kashmiris, is the deadly enemy of Kurds everywhere. In pursuit of this goal, Ankara aligns itself with America one day and with Russia the next.

If Pakistan will not jeopardise its higher-than-Himalayas relationship with China for the sake of the Muslim Uighur people next door, why should it expect the UAE to damage its very close economic and trade relationship with India for the sake of distant Kashmir? If Pakistan will not criticize Saudi Arabia and Yemen for the brutal war in Yemen, why should it expect the US to condemn India for its relatively mild oppression in Kashmir?

Most Pakistanis care two hoots about the human rights of many ethnic, religious and sectarian groups in their own country, yet they seem really hurt that other countries are not speaking for the rights of Kashmiris.

How did the majority of people in (West) Pakistan react to the brutal repression inflicted by their own military government in (East) Pakistan in 1971? With passionate, overwhelming approval and support. The few, such as Khan Abdul Wali Khan and Asghar Khan, who criticised the military government’s policies were dubbed traitors and enemy agents by their fellow-countrymen.

And India intervened militarily in support of Bangladesh not out of sympathy for the oppressed Bengali people of East Pakistan, but to protect and promote its own geo-strategic interests. The truth is that if Pakistan presently had the economic and financial resources and military superiority, its armed forces would now march into Srinagar, as the Indian army did in Dhaka in 1971.

A militarily and economically weaker India, under the circumstances, would cry and scream about Pakistani invasion of the Kashmir valley, some countries would criticize Pakistan and sympathise with India, but that would be it. Kashmir would be “hamara (ours)”. For now, though, that remains a very distant dream.

That, dear readers, is the real world, the world of realpolitik. It is economic, financial and military power and interests that are the ultimate arbiters in international relations; charters, conventions, promises and resolutions be damned. For them, for us and for everyone. For now and for the foreseeable future.

by Razi Azmi

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7 Responses to Kashmir: realpolitik strikes again

  1. khalid says:

    Very well written. For Pakistani’s to read and understand the realities of Realpolitik rather than empty rhetoric.

  2. Sami Syed says:

    I did not know what realpolitik was until I read this ‘realtruth’ analysis of the world affairs today. It is true that governments or their leaders are more interested in the economic aspect rather than the human aspect of any event around them.
    Very honest and bold look at the past and current conditions of people and how different governments act in these situations; with only one aim in mind – how will it benefit us.

  3. JAVED AGHA says:

    You showed the other side of the coin. Interesting.

  4. Nadeem Siddiqi says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the closing remarks of the writer “its the economic financial and military might” that determines the place a nation occupies. This has been the case since the Greek and Roman empires to the Mongal and Ottoman empires down to what America is today.
    Every country has the right and should always take steps to safeguard its interests and its sovereign to reduce internal turmoil.
    Some countries are used as a pivot by bigger powers..like Pakistan was during the 80s. But there was economic gain for Pakistan also, which turned out to be minuscule when compared to the cost it paid for that small gain.
    Pakistan cannot go sideways with China at all, China is the only leverage Pakistan has against a very hostile in your face power.
    Keeping the Kashmir issue burning as opposed to Uighur or Rohingya issue is much more vital for Pakistan. The “rulers” feel the pulse of the populace and acts accordingly.
    Lynching is common amongst almost 400 crore indians and thus will continue to happen. Just like Kashmir is for Pakistan, the embers will be kept alive. Like in all other aspects of life … and to quote MAO “power flows from the barrel of the gun”
    As far as Pakistan speaking for Kurds and yazdis and other persecuted qoums is concerned.. it is NOT Pakistan’s problem.
    We are not in the golden age of Islamic expansion. Self preservation and survival of the country is paramount and “trumps” all other so called duties.
    The prophet could only pray openly in mecca after the conversion of hazrat hamzah and hazrat umar the great, but only for a short while. God asked them to migrate in order to survive. Which means to become strong before going into battle. The treaty of hudaibiya is one of the greatest example of first survive and then thrive.
    Every conflict after WW2 was over economic and political reasons. From the Cold war to the Korean and Vietnam, from the civil war in Lebanon to the conflict in Yemen and the business model is only thriving.
    The muslim countries in the region rely so heavily for trade and commerce in india.. “self interest” is and should be paramount. No one has the mandate to smoke and pass the peace pipe. Like the saying goes ”physician heal thyself first” similarly the prime duty of a ruler is to make sure the state remains.
    India is a regional superpower with china and both have to be humored by their neighbours..
    Agar religion hota toh vatican city would be the epicentre.
    I am huge fan of this writer’s political and social musings, just wanted to put my two cents out there.
    Keep engaging us, Azmi Saheb.

  5. Pradeep Kalra says:

    A very true and correct analysis of the present political situation in the world. As the author has mentioned it is Realpolitik only and the economy. Very enlightening and easy to comprehend. Let us all pray and hope that things don’t get from bad to worse.

  6. Syed Zaidi says:

    An excellent article. Pakistan has never been abandoned by the Muslim world for no such world exists. Only Pakistan has been claiming since its very existence that it exists. Now that it is scuttling CPEC, China might be awarding honors to Modi in the future.

  7. Jacob Kipp says:

    Razi Azmi has presented a coherent and insightful analysis of current crisis over Kashmir in the context of an international order dominated by Realpolitik. A recent rally in Houston, Texas, honoring the visit of Prime Minister Modi was interesting in its own macabre way with Modi using every opportunity to attack Pakistan before a huge crowd of Indians now living in the United States. President Trump, who was in attendance, later expressed shock at what was said about Pakistan by the Prime Minister of India and a champion of Hindu nationalism. One has to wonder what sort of briefing his staff presented to the President before the event. For Realpolitik to work one must master the complexities of the international system. Such mastery seems in short supply.

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