India thought that it would prompt the world to talk about Pakistan’s alleged “support of terrorism” by pulling out of its planned talks with the country at the UN, but this scheme backfired by drawing more global attention to the situation in Kashmir.
Indian’s Crumbling Narrative Monopoly
It was once thought that most of the world had already made up their mind about Kashmir, either regarding it as a “legitimate” part of India or as one of the worst examples of a modern-day occupation, and it seemed for a while that many people leaned towards the first-mentioned interpretation because of the success that India had in propagating its narrative during the era of traditional media. That all changed with the advent of new and alternative media, however, since New Delhi’s hitherto monopoly on the Kashmir issue has been broken just like its “Israeli” partner’s one about Palestine has in recent years. Global awareness about the true situation in Kashmir is nowhere close to what it is when it comes to Palestine, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t soon rival it if this emerging trend continues.
India’s present perception management strategy is to keep Kashmir off of the global agenda, and to this end it refuses to allow journalists into the region under its control and pressures its international partners to stay silent about it as a tacit quid-pro-quo for doing business with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The country’s totalitarian approach to this issue may have worked pretty well for it in the past but is now counterproductively outdated because the generally cynical global public immediately suspects that the state is hiding something if it has to resort to such draconian measures to maintain its narrative. Whenever Kashmir does get brought up, India is quick to accuse Pakistan of “supporting terrorism” there and then hopes that the conversation quickly ends before people start asking questions about what’s really happening.
Setting A New Trend
Pakistan has collected ample evidence of the Indian Armed Forces regularly committing atrocities there and is keen to share its findings with the world, but up until recently, most people stopped paying attention the moment that India blew what has practically become the Islamophobic dog whistle of talking about “Pakistani-supported terrorism” in Kashmir. It’s not Islamophobic in principle to accuse any country of supporting terrorism, but the Hindu fundamentalist BJP that rules over India has a tendency to exploit global prejudices against Muslims in order to distract the world and tacitly justify its atrocious behavior. Simply blaming “terrorism” as the reason for the locals’ resistance to India’s refusal to abide by several UNSC Resolutions is nothing more than a distraction designed to divert the world’s attention away from the true state of affairs there.
Nowadays, however, it’s become increasingly more difficult for India to silence the global conversation on Kashmir as more and more people are getting their news from Alt-Media sources that aren’t under New Delhi’s influence. Not only that, but prominent media outlets like Qatar’s Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya, and Iran’s Press TV are beginning to pay attention to this issue in spite of their host country’s close relations with India, and the reason for this will be explained in a little bit. Slowly but surely, India is losing control over the narrative in Kashmir, but sometimes it has nobody to blame for this but itself, as its recent actions at the UN proved. India thought that it could pull out of its planned talks with Pakistan there by blaming it for recent events in Kashmir, but this backfired.
The Khan Effect
Instead of the world unquestionably going along with the Indian narrative, a noticeable shift has been discerned whereby people are finally doubting whether New Delhi is fully telling the truth or not. A lot of this has to do not just with global information trends related to new and alternative medias, but also with the election of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who evokes worldwide curiosity because he’s so different from what the world has come to expect from the country. Pakistan’s international reputation was largely shaped by US and Indian information warfare campaigns up until this point, but even those intense operations weren’t able to influence the first impression that many people have of the South Asian state’s new leader. The former cricketer is genuinely popular and was even an international socialite at one time too.
As superficial as it may sound, sometimes people do “judge a book by its cover”, and truthfully speaking, Prime Minister Khan projects a very positive image of Pakistan abroad by his very being, which in this case has made many people think twice about India’s usual accusations of his country purportedly “supporting terrorism” in Kashmir. Instead of blindly accepting the mantra of “Pakistani-supported Islamic terrorism” being behind the unrest in Kashmir, people are wondering if India is playing the Islamophobia card and whether the situation might be more complex than they were led to believe. On the state-to-state level, interestingly enough, the same economic influences that had earlier been wielded by India to suppress talk about Kashmir might actually end up encouraging it because some countries might want to enter into better graces with Pakistan by doing so.
CPEC Changed Everything
CPEC is a game-changer in more ways than one. Not only does it provide China with reliable non-Malacca access to the Afro-Asian Ocean (popularly known as the “Indian Ocean”), but it also serves as the link for facilitating Chinese-Mideast trade, seen most powerfully through Saudi Arabia’s recent designation as the project’s third strategic partner. Influential Muslim countries, including rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, are now more interested in Pakistan than ever before, and their CPEC relationship with China allows them to balance their ties with India. Instead of fearing that India might purchase their competitor’s energy instead of their own and therefore self-censoring themselves when it comes to Kashmir, they’re now emboldened to flex their strategic independence by touching upon this issue, even if only mildly.
In fact, the state of affairs has now changed to such a point that India needs the Mideast countries for its energy imports more than they need it as a reliable buyer, which has flipped the strategic dynamics. This will very soon especially be the case with Saudi Arabia, which is poised to supply more of India’s energy than ever before as New Delhi gradually decreases its consumption of Iranian resources in compliance with the US’ forthcoming reimposition of sanctions against Tehran. Coupled with the Kingdom’s new role as CPEC’s third strategic partner, Saudi Arabia no longer has any reason to stay silent about Kashmir, particularly if Iran begins speaking up more loudly about this in response to India’s impending “betrayal”. Through this manner, the competition between both Mideast Great Powers could be constructively leveraged to the benefit of the Kashmiris.
The Way Forward
Looking forward, Pakistan must capitalize on the incipient momentum that’s building behind the Kashmiri cause in order to succeed in its quest of raising total global awareness about this pressing issue. It’s taken for granted that Pakistan will continue speaking about Kashmir at the UN, but Islamabad needs to do more in order for its efforts to reach the general populace whose perceptions about this conflict are what matter most in this context. Having said that, here are some suggestions that Pakistan should apply:
* Encourage A Debate On Kashmir Across All Media Platforms:
The Indian narrative thrives in the absence of discourse whenever people are only fed New Delhi’s point of view about this issue, so it’s imperative for Pakistan to encourage all media platforms across the world – both mainstream and alternative – to debate Kashmir as much as possible.
* Compare Kashmir To Palestine:
There are a plethora of comparisons that can be made between these two conflicts, and in some cases the situation in Kashmir is even worse than it is in Palestine (e.g. religious restrictions, human shields), so ardent efforts must be made to inform the Palestinian activist community about this.
* Tap Into The Palestinian Activist Community:
Accordingly, it only makes sense to “cross-pollinate” both causes with one another’s activists, which in this case would see the Kashmiri cause receive an enormous boost by its much more globally well-known Palestinian counterparts.
* Flip The Script On The Terrorism Narrative:
Aided by the Palestinian activist community and their newly enlightened awareness about the many commonalities between their cause and the Kashmiri one, it wouldn’t be hard to flip India’s narrative around by exposing its own state-sponsored terrorism just like activists have already done for “Israel’s”.
* Emphasize The Undemocratic Nature Of Indian “Democracy”:
Again, just like Palestinian activists have proven that “Israel” isn’t the “democracy” that it and its American allies claim that it is due to its failure to allow the Palestinians to vote for their independence, so too is India also a fraudulent one by defying the UN and forbidding a Kashmiri referendum.
The wind is finally behind Pakistan’s sails when it comes to raising awareness about the Kashmiri cause, but the country needs to take advantage of the historic moment that it’s entering in order to ensure that the people receive every possible benefit they can from the increase in international pressure that a sustained activist campaign could bring. India inadvertently returned Kashmir to the global spotlight by clumsily blaming its withdrawal from the planned UN talks with Pakistan on what it claimed was its neighbor’s clandestine involvement in the region’s latest unrest, which ultimately turned out to New Delhi’s narrative disadvantage by reminding the world of this unresolved issue. The increased global attention that’s being given to Palestine at this time due to the “peace plan” that the Trump Administration is reportedly working on could be partially shared with Kashmir if Pakistan is successful in linking these two conflicts.
For that to happen, however, it needs to encourage all global media – especially the main ones broadcasting out of the Mideast – to debate the Kashmir conflict as much as possible in order to create the opportunity for comparing Palestine with Kashmir and “Israel” with India. This noble goal is no longer as difficult as it once was because CPEC changed the entire geostrategic equation and incentivizes India’s Mideast partners to flex their strategic independence by no longer self-censoring themselves over this issue, thereby enabling them to strike a balance between Pakistan and India. There are also innate religious obligations for Muslims to support the community of the faithful (“Ummah”) and especially those who are oppressed, which could be put to use to promote the Kashmiri cause among the global public. Should this be successful, then India might eventually end up isolated by the international community if it continues to defy the UN.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.