Recently Andrew Korybko wrote an article essentially defending, “Pakistan’s extremely vocal support of Azerbaijan’s counteroffensive against Armenian forces in Occupied Nagorno-Karabakh”. Indeed, according to Pakistan’s foreign minister Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, “Pakistan stands with the brotherly nation of Azerbaijan and supports its right of self-defence”.
Importantly, Korbyko challenges the notion that Pakistan is, “hypocritical for endorsing the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination in Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK) while denying the same to the majority Armenian inhabitants of Occupied Nagorno-Karabakh (ONK)”, arguing further that Pakistan is not solely motivated by “solidarity with Muslim-majority countries”, rather this stance is also consistent with “Pakistan’s principled support for international law”, specifically regarding Artsakh & Kashmir.
Setting international law as the standard, Korbyko concludes: “The final political status of Nagorno-Karabakh can’t be determined until the removal of the Armenian occupying forces per UNSC Resolutions just like Kashmir’s can’t be decided until India allows its people their UNSC-endowed right to a plebiscite on the same. Armenia and India are therefore violating international law in very similar ways…”
In response to this, my only point is, that which is legal isn’t always moral, and that which is moral isn’t always legal. Regarding the question of legality, Korybko ignores that India’s position on granting the plebiscite has many parallels to Azerbaijan’s position.
The narrative accepted by the UN was that the state of J&K acceded to India, which prompted Pakistan to invade via proxies, which then prompted J&K to demand the Indian army come to its defence, which India did, creating the current LOC. According to Korybko, India “refuses to abide by international law to this day” by not allowing a plebiscite (as per UN Resolution 47), but this ignores that Pakistan is *first* obligated by that Resolution to withdraw from the territories it acquired militarily, whereas India is allowed a minimal force. Ironically, India’s legal defence is similar to how Korybko insists that Armenia is *first* obligated to withdraw from Artsakh before a plebiscite can take place, putting India & Azerbaijan on a similar legal footing.
Regardless, these legalistic rulings ignore morality, which is the elephant in the room, and which Korybko identified in the case of Kashmir at least, noting that the Maharaja of J&K was committed to “the ethnic cleansing of his majority Muslim people”. Indeed, at the time of partition in 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh was committing massacres against his population, albeit in response to an uprising, that is, the Poonch rebellion for which there were legitimate class grievances that overlap with religious difference, i.e. rich Hindus, poor Muslims.
According to Indian Marxist Dr. Prabhat Patnaik: “Local lore has it that the Maharaja’s tax collectors were so ruthless in pursuing their task that when the peasants complained of lack of means to pay the exactions of the state, they would ask the peasants to open their mouths to see if there were any grains of rice sticking to their teeth: if the peasants could afford to eat rice then they could afford to pay taxes, so their argument went.”
The abolition of this monarchy within India’s federal structure was nonetheless a partial victory for the Kashmiri masses insofar as it allowed J&K to draft its own constitution, which did not make the right to property a fundamental right, allowing for substantial land-reforms that today correspond to J&K having a rural poverty rate of 8.1%, while the Indian average is 33.8%. By contrast, the Indian constitution did make the right to property fundamental, which made land reforms harder elsewhere, (especially in Kerala where the Communist party was undemocratically dismissed by Delhi in 1959 after ‘colour revolution’ protests backed by the CIA).
It can be argued that by scrapping Article 370, India violated the terms & conditions by which J&K acceded to the Union, which is why there are good legal reasons to consider the Indian military presence in Kashmir to be an occupation. Even then, for a plebiscite, going off pure international legality, Pakistan has to vacate the territories it acquired militarily.
As for the Caucuses, even if we accept that legality is on the side of Azerbaijan for all the reasons Korybko mentioned, what about the question of morality?
If we deny moral legitimacy to the accession of J&K to India on the grounds that the Maharaja was carrying out massacres against his people, whose wishes he did not represent, then how can anyone deny the morality underpinning the national claims of the Republic of Artsakh? Especially when Armenians are the indigenous people of that land, and have been demographically decimated by a holocaust, that too at the hands of neighbouring nations?
The conflict between Armenia and its Turkic neighbours is clearly a national struggle, whereas in Kashmir, there is a class struggle that takes the form of a religious struggle, which Pakistan views as a national struggle because of the two-nation theory (i.e. that pre-partition contained two nations, one Hindu, the other Muslim), and India conveniently treats as a purely legal struggle, just like Azerbaijan.
Pakistan has improved its relationship with Russia over the past five years, which is very forgiving on Russia’s part given the role Pakistan played in utterly devastating Afghanistan by unleashing extremists and warlords, thereby creating the al-Qaeda network in the process, which is now being weaponised against Armenia.
Is it really worth it for Pakistan to undermine the progress they’ve made with Russia by undermining Russia in the Caucuses, especially with US geostrategic think-tanks urging NATO to punish Armenians as a means of forcing Russian military bases to exit Armenia-proper?
Last year the RAND corporation released a report titled Extending Russia: Competing from Advantageous Ground, which specifically suggested that the US “Exploit Tensions in the South Caucasus”. If you read between the lines their ‘plan A’ is obvious, punish Artsakh until Russia is forced to intervene militarily in defence of Armenian national interests, which is a recipe for war. As for ‘plan B’ the US could “induce” Armenia to subordinate itself to NATO’s orbit.
The goal for the US is that, “Russia might be forced to withdraw from its army base at Gyumri and an army and air base near Yerevan” (p. 117), and it would seem they’re willing to encourage NATO aggression to achieve that by using the lives of Armenians as a bargaining tool in collaboration with the pan-Turkic project.