Should India take Bilawal Bhutto's comment on Kashmir seriously?

Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto ​Zardari, raised a few eyebrows in India 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.

New Delhi: Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto ​Zardari, raised a few eyebrows in India 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, one gets the feeling that India may not be too bothered about what the scion of Bhutto family has to say on Kashmir, even though it did tersely reply that that unity and integrity of India was non-negotiable.

The Opposition too called Bilawal's comments immature and childish with many dismissing it as a joke.

And the reasons why India will not lose much sleep over Bilawal's comments are not difficult to see.

Experts have often said that the Bhutto politics has always been to reach out to the poor and ratchet up the nationalistic sentiments. And that is what the next-gen Bhutto has done. The PPP has lost considerable hold amongst the people of Pakistan in recent times. After Bilawal's mother Benazir was forced to leave the country over charges of corruption, it has been a steady decline for the party.

And so, Bilawal is playing the one card that most political parties in Pakistan believe unites the people and that is Kashmir. Thus, the Kashmir rhetoric by Bilawal is just and attempt to launch himself politically and garner eyeballs amongst the masses.

Come to think of it, Bilawal is not even a member of the Parliament as of now. He will contest the elections in 2018. Thus, 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, Bilawal, who is in his twenties, should be more bothered about how to get his party back on track which last polls to Nawaz Sharief's party. With a country that is in dire straits as far as the economy is concerned and that 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 rather than get back Kashmir.

Pakistan may consider Kashmir to be a disputed territory but India has always been unequivocal about the fact that Jammu and Kashmir 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 the present day reality of the complex Indo-Pakistan relations. With its economy in bad shape, 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.

Moreover, Pakistan may deny it but its interference in Kashmir and its indulgence in cross-border terrorism is well established. However, the hard reality is that Pakistan is as much a victim of terror, maybe more, as India and the sooner Bilawal understands this the better. Thus, indulging in Kashmir jingoism will get him nowhere.

Bilawal would do well to remember the Shimla Agreement, signed in 1972 between India and Pakistan which allowed both countries to settle all issues by peaceful means through mutual discussion within the framework of the UN Charter. It was agreed that neither country would seek to alter the cease-fire line in Kashmir unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations, which was renamed as the Line of Control.

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.

 

 

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