After 50 years, the Kashmir dispute was once again raised in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which has become almost a toothless tiger. The UN’s helplessness reaches a woeful level, especially when it finds itself in a situation where an aggressive power is criticized for its human rights and international law violations. What option does a state choose under such conditions? It immediately opts for lobbying. That’s what Pakistan did.
Trusting its “all-weather friend” Islamabad was a wise decision in terms of arranging a consultative meeting at the UNSC. Before this meeting, it reached out to Moscow as well. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi contacted his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, but received a lukewarm response wrapped in diplomatic niceties: tensions need be de-escalated and the Kashmir issue must be resolved through bilateral talks. In the telephone conversation, he stated that Russia’s representative at the UN would also adhere to this consistent position.
The truth about international relations is that there is much more to them than meets the eye. Moscow played its cards in a highly crafty manner. In the UNSC, where it holds a permanent position, it did not veto the call for a meeting on Kashmir, and in doing so it made it clear to India that Kashmir remains on the table for the foreseeable future. This was a clear diversion from the earlier position Russia took in the UNSC: a veto on Kashmir. At least it was evident that Moscow is not bailing out New Delhi on Kashmir forever. Those days are gone.
What’s more, Russia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, Dimitry Polyanski, sent three ambiguous tweets: Hinting at mediation by Russia; wishing for “good, friendly” relations with both countries and people; reminding India of the 1972 Simla Agreement and the 1999 Lahore Declaration; and being friends and good partners with both Pakistan and India. The tweets are puzzling. What path is Moscow suggesting India should take? The very mention of UN resolutions indicates Kashmir is not a bilateral dispute. And this is a diplomatic win for Pakistan.
These intended ambiguities and subtleties of democracy have left even Russian analysts befuddled. While explaining that Moscow is on its traditional track on Kashmir, a Russian commentator reasoned that it was unthinkable for Moscow to disrespect its strategic partner, Beijing. Therefore, he argued, Russia did not exercise its veto power and rather backed Pakistan’s call for the UNSC meeting.
If India can annex the disputed territory of Kashmir, can it also take unilateral action and “settle” the disputed claims with China in a similar manner?
If that’s the case, the future is unpredictable, as the Indian representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, said something that would ring alarm bells in Beijing. Speaking to reporters outside the chambers, he said, “The recent decisions taken by the government of India and our legislative bodies are intended to ensure that good governance is promoted, socio-economic development is enhanced for our people in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.” Here is another rub, as Ladakh is the setting for one of India’s tales of disputed territories with its neighbors. Where are we heading? If India can annex the disputed territory of Kashmir, can it also take unilateral action and “settle” the disputed claims with China in a similar manner?
Walking the long road with Moscow
There is little doubt that the world is rapidly descending into chaos. The decay of the liberal world order is actually the matrix now in which state-to-state relations are budding, developing, evolving and transforming. And that is the reality of Pakistan-Russia relations. It is entering a new era. It is a long hard game. Some have called it the “resurgence of geopolitics” and others the “revival of the old Great Game.” These hard-hitting realities have dawned on us. It is time, especially for Pakistan, to devise new strategies for a new era.
Looking at a future where China and Russia see eye to eye with each other, a close alliance between the “natural democracies” is needed. In the old and decaying world of the UN, major power politics have crippled the very idea of global peace and security, but there is another world rapidly developing beyond the decaying corridors of the UN. This world is being carved out by China and Russia. The Asian-led order – the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Greater Eurasian concept – are the domains where Pakistan, while reviving its economy, can give a hard time to India in the Eurasian region by aligning with both Chinese and Russian interests.
At the SCO forums, India is isolated when it comes to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Being a part of the 14th SCO Forum held in April, it was quite a sight to see India panic while trying not to isolate itself from all the other countries that were endorsing the BRI. Russia endorses the BRI and, on this matter, does not favor India. In fact, there are many divergences Pakistan can capitalize on. However, it’s not an easy road; it’s a long one.
Today’s Russia is nothing like the old Soviet Union. It’s a new Russia; it’s a “modern” Russia. While it may not be modern in terms of Western standards and perspectives, Russia is trying to find a new and unique path for development. This, for the policymakers in Islamabad, is an opportunity as well as a challenge. In today’s world, the game of geopolitics can be best played with the gambit of economy. And this can help Pakistan to exercise its “strategic depth.”
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