Crisis Management in South Asia

In a crisis prone region, crisis management and crisis stabilization is serious business. Pakistan has employed various means to handle and defuse crises. It has engaged directly with India to sort out prickly matters. This has resulted in Karachi Agreement 1948, Simla Agreement 1966 and Lahore Agreement 1998. It has inter alia sought friends, allies and powerful countries to use their influence to stem a particular crisis before it crossed a threshold of no return. It has been open to offers of arbitration and mediation by honest brokers. A quick glance at some of the important benchmarks in the crises history of South Asia reveals Pakistan’s propensity to accept outside help in moments of crisis e.g. it:
1. Accepted the UN offer to ceasefire in 1948, 1965 and 1971.
2. Accepted the British offer to accept the international arbitration boundary award for Rann of Kutch in 1968.
3. Accepted the Soviet mediation at Tashkent after the 1965 War.
4. Accepted President Clinton’s decision to withdraw from Kargil in 1999 and “honor the LOC” as a de facto border.
Over the years, Pakistan has adopted a precautionary mechanism of informing important capitals (including the Islamic world) and the UN, whenever it has felt that a particular spike in tensions with India could aggravate and needed the attention of the international community e.g. a perceived air attack by Indian and Israeli aircraft against its nuclear detonation sites in 1998, the alleged threat by Indian foreign minister Parnab Mukherjee to President Zardari after the November 2008 Mumbai of a retaliatory attack and after the air attack on its territory in February this year after the Pulwama incident.
This method of preventive diplomacy as a tool of crisis management has worn thin. After the Mumbai attack in 2008, the US had warned that it would not be pulling out Pakistan’s chestnuts out of the fire in a future crisis. In fact the Indians got a clear green signal from the US to go for a retaliatory counter strike after the Pulwama incident (Note the two weeks gap after India conducted the botched air strike in Jabba, KP). Thanks to the ‘swift retort’ of the PAF, India was checked from any further mischief. Meanwhile Pakistan has continued its diplomatic maneuver of telling the world that India may do it harm. Its pleas for have been falling on deaf years. Only a couple of Muslim countries (Turkey and Malaysia have supported Pakistan). China has been advising caution. Yesterday Pakistan’s permanent representative Amb. Munir Akram has asked the UNSC to take decisive action to prevent a war between India and Pakistan. Realistically speaking the world at large and the UN itself is preoccupied with the emerging crisis between the US and Iran.
Pakistan’s cry for international help doesn’t find traction because most countries of the world (including the Islamic Ummah) consider Indian an economic giant. They do not find it worth antagonizing, India itself is in no mood to engage with Pakistan in a meaningful dialogue. Given the bleak scenario, there are little chances of anyone trying to mediate or arbitrate between Pakistan and India, although Trump had told PM Khan that he was willing to do so, during his visit to the White house last year.
Pakistani diplomacy is weak because of its anemic economy that shows no signs of improvement. The present government has a difficult task ahead of it. A strong economy and peace and stability can improve its chances of negotiating peace directly or indirectly with India. Facilitation in the Afghan peace talks has been leveraged successfully and the diaspora has played an important role in highlighting the Kashmir cause. A strong and nuclear armed military also provides hope. But at the end of the day it is the common man is happy and satisfied and has faith in the future of the nation, we can survive this perpetual threat that refuses to go away.

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