Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's 'Kashmir' comment was at the most 'laughable'

By Manisha Singh | Updated: Sep 26, 2014, 18:39 PM IST

Some things never change. And so has not changed the need of politicians from Pakistan to rake up the issue of 'Kashmir' to garner eyeballs and catch some votes by building up frenzy amongst people.

This is what the Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari did recently when he told party workers at a rally in Multan that if voted to power, he would take all of Kashmir back and not leave a single inch as it belonged to Pakistan.

However, should India have been bothered about what the scion of the Bhutto family had to say. Not really. And that is what exactly happened. Though he managed to raise a few eyebrows in India, get on the front page of some newspapers and become the talking point on television for some time, the government dismissed what Bilawal had to say by tersely replying that the unity and integrity of India was non-negotiable.

His remarks were also called as 'immature' and 'childish' by many and Bilawal became the butt of jokes on social networking sites. If one looks at the footage of his speech carefully one can see that he was reading from a piece of paper and trying to put up a show of being belligerent and angry. Maybe he can do better next time.

Come to think of it, 26-year-old Bilawal is not even a Member of Parliament as of now. He will contest the elections in 2018. Thus, the man who made his first major speech in public only on December 27, 2012, which marked the fifth death anniversary of his late mother, Benazir Bhutto, has definitely a long way to go in politics. So, there is no reason why India will really fret itself over what can be termed as a comment emerging out of political necessity for the PPP chief. India will deal with him, if and when he comes to power. As of now he really doesn't matter.

The Bhutto brand of politics has always been to ratchet up the nationalistic sentiments and rake up the Kashmir issue. Benazir did it in her time and now probably the young man is being advised by his party members to do the same. When he made the comments at the rally, he was flanked by Pakistan's former PMs Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Asharaf.

If Bilawal is the man who has been given the reins to make PPP viable once more, then he will have to think of better ideas. The PPP has lost considerable hold amongst the people of Pakistan in recent times. After Benazir was forced to leave the country over charges of corruption, it has been a steady decline for the party. It lost the last elections to present Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party and some say that with the emergence of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's PTI, the PPP is not really the main Opposition now in the country.

Moreover, with a country that is in dire straits as far as the economy is concerned and which is facing massive internal turmoil on many fronts, it would be more prudent for Bilawal to talk about jobs and how he would deal with terror groups and of course Balochistan conflict, rather than promising people to get back Kashmir, which the Indian government rightly said was 'far from reality’.

Pakistan may consider Kashmir to be a disputed territory and has indulged in cross-border terrorism for a long time now to create problems in the region, India has always been absolute about the fact that J&K is an integral part of India. For India, the Instrument of Accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India, signed by Maharaja Hari Singh (former ruler of J&K) on 25 October 1947 and executed on 27 October 1947 between the ruler of Kashmir and the Governor General of India was a legal act. For India, it was completely valid in terms of the Government of India Act (1935), Indian Independence Act (1947) as well as under international law.

Thus, for India it is total and irrevocable.

Bilawal also has to understand that Pakistan needs India to boost its trade and that can only happen if there is peace on the border. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited his Pakistani counterpart to his swearing-in-ceremony in May, he understood that for the betterment of both the countries it was important to move ahead. However, Pakistan forced India to cancel the foreign secretary level talks after its envoy in New Delhi decided to meet the Kashmiri separatists before the talks were to take place.

At the same time Bilawal, would do well to remember the Simla (now Shimla) Agreement, signed in 1972, between India and Pakistan which allowed both countries to settle all issues by peaceful means through mutual discussion. There was an understanding that the Line of Control (LoC) resulting from the 1971 truce between the two countries should be converted into the international border. It was agreed that neither country would seek to alter the cease-fire line in Kashmir unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations.

He would also do well to remember that the agreement with the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was signed by none other than his grandfather Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was the then President of Pakistan.