After 72 years of emotionalism on Kashmir, is Pakistan finally ready for realism?

For over 72 years, Pakistanis have been brought up on the notion that Kashmir is the shah rug (jugular vein) of Pakistan and that it was the duty of every Pakistani to ensure that the ‘K’ of Pakistan became a part of Pakistani territory.

For years, Pakistan has allowed emotion to prevail over rationality and pragmatism when it comes to any aspect of policy, especially foreign policy.

In a news conference in Muzaffarabad (capital of Azad Kashmir) on August 12, however, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stated “You (people) should not in live fool’s paradise. Nobody will be standing there (in the UNSC) with garlands in hands…Nobody will be there waiting for you.”

For decades Pakistan’s foreign policy has centered around the issue of Kashmir: Pakistani leaders – both civilian and military – have always portrayed their close relationships with the Gulf Muslim Arab countries, with China, with the US and with the larger Muslim world as being critical to their effort to get back Kashmir.

India-Pakistan relations have also been viewed purely from the prism of Kashmir. While India and China have a border dispute, and have fought a war, today China is one of India’s top trading partners with $85 billion in annual trade. South Asia is the least economically integrated region thanks primarily to Pakistan’s refusal to allow trade with India unless and until Kashmir is resolved.

Only time will tell if these were isolated remarks made by Qureshi, who was also foreign minister under the PPP government (2008-2010) or if there really is a policy shift.

If it is a policy shift it would require the need for realism in Pakistan’s overall policy towards its neighbors and on the economic foreign policy front as well.

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