With Shehbaz Sharif’s appointment as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, India would be hoping to reset the diplomatic talks with Islamabad which have been frozen for the past few years. However, whether the talks between New Delhi and Islamabad will resume or not is tough to say as soon after becoming the Premier of the country, Shehbaz raked up the Kashmir issue.
In his first speech as Pakistan Prime Minister, 70-year-old Shehbaz said Pakistan wants to have good ties with India, but noted that it wouldn’t be possible without the resolution of the so-called “Kashmir issue”. He further said Pakistan will offer “diplomatic and moral support” to “Kashmiri brothers and sisters”.
“Why do we want to disadvantage our coming generations? Let’s decide the Kashmir issue in accordance with the desires of the Kashmiri people, and let’s end the conflict on both sides, create employment, progress, and happiness,” Shehbaz said, giving a hint that despite a government change, Pakistan would once again try to rake up the Kashmir issue at the global stage.
Shehbaz, the three-time Chief Minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province, is not the first Prime Minister of his country to rake up the Kashmir. His predecessor Imran Khan had also raised the issue immediately after assuming charge of the country.
Imran, after winning the general elections in 2018, had offered to improve relations with India and solve disputes, including Kashmir. However, the relationship between the two countries didn’t move in the right direction after the 2019 Pulwama attack and the Balakot airstrikes.
Later, Imran also criticised India’s decision to abrogate Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir. He also tried to raise the issue at the United Nations (UN) multiple times, accusing India of violating human rights. However, he got a befitting reply from New Delhi, which said Pakistan has no locus standi on Jammu and Kashmir.
“Member States are aware that Pakistan has an established history and policy of harbouring, aiding and actively supporting terrorists. This is a country that has been globally recognized as one openly supporting, training, financing and arming terrorists as a matter of State policy. It holds the ignoble record of hosting the largest number of terrorists proscribed by the UN Security Council,” India had said at the UN.
Interestingly, Shehbaz’s elder brother and three-time Pakistan Prime Minister Nawar Sharif had also raised the Kashmir issue at the 71st UNGA meet in 2016. In his 20-minute speech, Nawaz had said his country “fully supports Kashmir’s right to self-determination”. He had also hailed Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani, calling him the “symbol of Kashmir’s demands”.
Wani was a top commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, who was neutralised by the Indian Armed Forces on July 8, 2016.
Not just Shehbaz, Imran, or Nawaz, but other Pakistan Prime Ministers have also raked up the Kashmir on global platforms. However, India maintains that Kashmir is its integral part, asking Pakistan not to speak about its internal affairs.
Tensions have also soared between the two nuclear neighbours India and Pakistan, especially under Imran. Imran, a staunch critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had also criticised India for alleged attacks against minorities, especially Muslims.
Why Pakistan PMs are obsessed with Kashmir?
Immediately after both the countries got independence, Pakistan turned its eyes toward Kashmir and launched an attack against it. However, Kashmir’s decision to merge with India was a major setback for Pakistan as its attempts to capture the then princely state were thwarted by New Delhi.
Since then, Pakistan has fought three wars with India – 1947, 1965, and 1971. Besides, the two sides also battled each other in Siachen in 1984 and Kargil in 1999.
Kashmir is a vital region full of natural resources like borax, sapphire, marble, graphite, etc. which is a reason for Pakistan’s obsession. Besides, Pakistan also wants a total control over the waters of the Indus river to ensure that its water needs are met.
The Indus river flows northwest through Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan and moves south-by-southwest through Pakistan before merging with the Arabian Sea near Karachi.
India and Pakistan signed the Indus Waters Treaty on September 19, 1960, which has fixed and delimited the rights and obligations of both countries concerning the use of the waters of the Indus river.
Under this treaty, Pakistan will receive for unrestricted use all those waters of the Western Rivers which India is under obligation to let flow.
“Pakistan shall have the unrestricted use of all waters originating from sources other than the Eastern Rivers which are delivered by Pakistan into The Ravi or The Sutlej, and India shall not make use of these waters,” the treaty states.
“Each Party agrees to establish such discharge observation stations and make such observations as may be considered necessary by the Commission for the determination of the component of water available for the use of Pakistan on account of the aforesaid deliveries by Pakistan.”
However, Pakistan fears that India may stop the excess flow of water without violating the International Laws that might create problems for it, which is yet another reason why it continues to be obsessed with Kashmir.
Can Shehbaz Sharif help India, and Pakistan reset ties?
As of now, it is tough to say whether Shehbaz would be able to help India and Pakistan reset ties or not. Experts, however, believe his appointment as the new Pakistan PM will provide both the countries a renewed chance to restart diplomatic ties.
Interestingly, Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had also sought a dialogue with India on all disputes, including Kashmir. He had said all issues must be “settled peacefully through dialogue”.
“I believe it is time for the political leadership of the region to rise above their emotional and perceptual biases and break the shackles of history to bring peace and prosperity to almost three billion people of the region,” General Bajwa had said.