Scott Goldner. Scott is a 2L at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, a staff editor for the Harvard National Security Journal (online) and interested in national security law and foreign policy, especially in Western Europe and the Middle East. Scott is an IRLS Fellow for the 2019-2020 academic year.
On January 16, 2020, I attended a talk given by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), headquartered just a few blocks from ASU’s DC campus. Although the hour-long conversation touched on many international and domestic topics across a variety of sectors, I will briefly address two of the foreign policy matters discussed: the ongoing situation in Kashmir, where India has asserted greater control of the disputed region since August 2019; and the Iran-U.S. conflict, which has intensified in recent weeks due to the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
On August 5, 2019, India revoked article 370 of its Constitution, thereby removing the mostly autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and asserting greater control over the territory. New Delhi’s move has predictably exacerbated tensions in the “historically troubled relationship” between India and Pakistan, as Minister Qureshi put it. India and Pakistan have been fighting over this northern region since 1947, when they each gained independence from the British. They also fought wars over the territory in 1947 and 1965, and fought a limited conflict in 1999. Each controls a part of Kashmir (along with China, which controls the smallest territory), yet both claim the entire territory as rightfully theirs.
In his opening remarks, Minister Qureshi asserted that India’s actions were “breaking all relevant international laws and violating several UN security council resolutions…India has been seeking to break the will of the Kashmiri people by imprisoning them in their homes and imposing a communications blockade that continues to this day.” The crisis, Minister Qureshi said, has the “potential to become a flashpoint between the two countries with strategic capabilities.” For good measure, Minister Qureshi added that “the internet shutdown in occupied Kashmir is already the longest ever imposed by a democracy, if today we can call India one.”
When asked about his opinion on the solution to the Kashmir dispute, Minister Qureshi appealed to his audience, and to the United States, by invoking a cherished American value: the right to vote. “Why don’t you [the United States] advocate those [democratic] values exercised in Kashmir? Give them the right of self-determination. Let them decide what they want. Do they want to be with India?…Do they want to be with Pakistan?…Let’s find a democratic way out.” This “complicated” situation will remain at the forefront of India-Pakistan relations in 2020 and beyond.
Another issue that is likely to remain at the top of Pakistan’s security concerns in the coming years is the increased hostilities between the United States and Iran. On January 3, 2020, the United States killed, via drone strike, one of the most influential and powerful figures in Iran, General Qasem Soleimani. The strike, which occurred in Iraq, has led to questions about the domestic and international legal authority for such an action. Furthermore, there have been fears that the United States and Iran would enter a more violent and destructive phase in their conflict. In response to the Soleimani strike, the Iraqi parliament passed a non-binding resolution to expel U.S. troops from the country, and Iran launched missiles on two U.S. bases in Iraq, injuring at least 64 U.S. service members (the Pentagon has revised the injury toll four times in recent weeks). Amid the increased tensions, Iran also unintentionally downed a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all on board, mistaking it for incoming US missiles.
Pakistan, which shares its southwestern border with Iran, could experience significant security and economic challenges as a result of a war or increased military activity in Iran. In stressing Pakistan’s close relationship with both Iran and the United States, Foreign Minister Qureshi articulated his country’s position on the escalating conflict between its two partners: “Pakistan will only be a partner for peace, it will not be a part of any war in the region…Pakistan has been ready from the outset to support efforts for diffusing tensions and removing misunderstandings.” Pakistan is hopeful, Minister Qureshi said, that the United States and Iran would “go beyond the declared intention of de-escalation and take practical steps to preserve the peace.” The Iranian retaliation to the strike, which could for continue for years, and probable U.S. responses, are likely to keep Minister Qureshi and the Pakistani government focused on sustaining de-escalatory measures for the foreseeable future.
The event at CSIS was a valuable opportunity to learn about the foreign policy priorities for Pakistan in an unusual setting: with its foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Washington D.C. is home to many similar experiences, many of them free, and I encourage all students to attend events that interest them.
[*] Scott Goldner. Scott is a 2L at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, a staff editor for the Harvard National Security Journal (online) and interested in national security law and foreign policy, especially in Western Europe and the Middle East. Scott is an IRLS Fellow for the 2019-2020 academic year.