The old and obsolete western playbook on Kashmir is back.
It began with the three-day visit of Donald Blome, America’s Ambassador to Pakistan, to the Pakistan-administered region of Kashmir.
The US embassy quoted Blome on Twitter, saying that he was honoured to visit during his first trip to AJK or Azad Jammu and Kashmir, as Pakistan terms the region.
Blome engaged with senior officials in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, including people with backgrounds in academia, business, culture, and civil society.
The US embassy’s formal statement stated that the visit was to promote the US-Pakistan partnership and highlight the countries’ economic, cultural, and people-to-people ties.
Earlier this year, in April, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar had visited Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, speaking about Article 370 and human rights. Blome, however, elaborated on American aid for victims hit by the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan and the recent floods.
Omar’s was the first delegation to visit Pakistan in three years.
Merely a few hours later, the German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock backed Islamabad on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, stating that Berlin had a role and responsibility with regards to tension over Kashmir.
She was speaking at a joint press conference with her Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
The German minister, overplaying her hand, remarked that her country supported the engagement of the United Nations to find a peaceful solution for the dispute in the region, and stated that India and Pakistan must follow the track of the global organisation and enhance political and practical cooperation in the region.
The Kashmir playbook is being deployed for one simple reason; to avenge India’s decision to not isolate Russia by restricting the import of oil.
Since the war in Ukraine, India’s crude imports from Russia have increased, hitting the threshold of 20 per cent. Compared to the February-March period to July-August, Russia’s oil exports to India have increased by a factor of 5.7.
The increase in imports is significant.
One, as soon as the war began, hawks in Washington wanted India to discard the discounted crude available, even if it hurt New Delhi’s economic interests.
However, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, on separate occasions, prioritised India’s economic interests.
Two, for countries like Germany, reeling under high energy inflation, to raise the issue of Kashmir is to assume that their problems are the problems of the world, as Jaishankar pointed out in one of his public interactions.
On Ukraine, the European Union is isolated economically as their central banks struggle with inflation while other power centres prioritise their interests.
The West’s deployment of the Kashmir playbook is not new.
In the first year of his tenure, in 1993, US president Bill Clinton spoke about the human rights threat in Kashmir during a session at the United Nations General Assembly.
In the same year, one of the house sub-committees blamed the Indian armed forces for widespread torture and killings of Kashmiri Muslims.
However, the Washington policy on Kashmir has been that of convenience and not any long-term strategy. It's oscillated between appeasing India or by attempting to threaten New Delhi by engaging with Pakistan.
Clearly, the region does not come with great economic or diplomatic importance, and therefore, America’s stance on the region has been dictated by its interests in the vicinity.
Early in his tenure, President Joe Biden stated that there was no change in US’s policy on Kashmir from the Donald Trump era. However, recently, America helped Pakistan with a $450 million military sustainment package for the F-16.
The Indian government was quick to respond to Baerbock’s remarks, stating that it opposed any third-party intervention in the bilateral issue with Pakistan, and said that all members of the global community had a responsibility to call out international terrorism, especially when its cross-border.
Official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs pointed out that the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir had borne the brunt of such terrorist campaigns for decades.
He further added that external states choose to not recognise this danger because of self-interest or indifference, clearly hinting at the stance taken by both Germany and America.
The Russia-Ukraine war has further complicated the geopolitical playground. While the G7 grouping, led by the US, wanted to restrict energy imports from Russia, China and India amongst other countries in the Middle-East have been picking up crude at discounted prices.
The OPEC+ cuts announced last week also add to the US’s difficulties in curbing crude prices, further adding to the West's frustration on being unable to constrain Russia completely.
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