India may be the largest democracy on the planet and a state that showcases an egalitarian facade to the outside world but regionally it is a state that is non-conciliatory and hegemonic to the core. This has been amply demonstrated by the veiled threat that the Indian prime minister made in his speech while referring to human rights violations in Balochistan. This threat to Pakistan to ‘fall in line’ on the occasion of the Indian Independence Day and the stage from where it was generated, the Red Fort in New Delhi, which now symbolises Indian national power cannot be treated as mere political rhetoric. It is actually an official announcement of how India wants to proceed in handling the Kashmir issue — equating it with Balochistan and scapegoating Pakistan for India’s troubles.
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This was an official statement of intent as it was embedded in the clearly defined objective of the Indian intelligence agency’s operations in Balochistan. “You do one more Mumbai and you lose Balochistan” was the narrative unfolded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s own National Security Adviser AK Doval just months after he was appointed in 2014. Since then, the Indian establishment and RAW have been at work, utilising our neighbouring countries as staging stations from where spies like Kulbushan Jadhav infiltrate into our territory to conduct asymmetric warfare against Pakistan. There have been no more Mumbais but in the absence of any concerted effort by the international community to mitigate the suffering of Kashmiri people at the hands of Indian security forces, Modi was only encouraged to ‘give it back to Pakistan’ and remind it about the cost it may pay for highlighting Kashmir internationally — thus equating the call of self-determination in Kashmir with that of the situation in Balochistan.
There were two leaders who readily appreciated the comments made by the Indian prime minister. One was Hasanul Haque Inu, the information minister of the pro-India Bangladeshi government. He has said that “Pakistan learnt nothing from the defeat of 1971 and continues to practice the same policy ...” The atrocities being committed by the Indian forces on the people of Kashmir are there for all to see but the Bangladeshi minister can’t see those. Why? Is it because he is a former leader of the India-supported Mukti Bahini that assisted the Indians in the dismemberment of Pakistan? He should know that neither is Balochistan like the former East Pakistan nor do former Mukti Bahini leaders represent the people of Bangladesh in their entirety.
The other leader who appreciated Modi’s comments was Hamid Karzai, the former Afghan president. In a recent visit to India he supported the ‘veiled Indian threat’ to Pakistan. His comments are significant as they came days ahead of the planned visit to Delhi by the Afghan Army Chief General Qadam Shah Shamim. The Hindu reports that the Afghan general will be carrying a wish list to India with the aim of acquiring military hardware. Over the years, Afghanistan has preferred the Indian lap more than the hand of friendship extended by Pakistan. To the dislike of the Pakistani establishment, this behaviour has shown no signs of abating. As long as Afghanistan’s growing ties with India were not at cross purpose with our national interest, there wasn’t much to be alarmed about but now the diplomatic vibes coming from our western neighbour are increasingly unfriendly. It is in this context that the authorities in Pakistan took the harsh step of closing the Chaman border after Afghan protesters burnt a Pakistani flag. The closure of the border crossing by Pakistan may be a necessary tactical counterpunch and a soft reminder to its neighbour to get its foreign policy bearings right.
At the tactical level, Pakistan’s response reflects the desire of the vast majority of the people in this country. At the operational level, too, Pakistan is doing what is needed — the raising of 22 new wings of the civil armed forces to protect the CPEC is a step in the right direction. We should also fast determine and identify how to reposition our security forces to ward off the likely enemy attacks that will now be a part of its asymmetric warfare on our western front. Strategically we need to finally determine on which side Afghanistan stands. Will it stop interfering negatively with our growing stability and security needs? If the assessment is that it won’t, then it is time to take a tough position against a neighbour that is doing everything to ally with our enemy.
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As long as the CPEC remains on the Indian radar, let there be no doubt that the Pakistan military and its intelligence agencies will continue to confront India-induced terrorist acts. The shift in India’s policy towards Pakistan is real and it means that it will utilise violent tools and means to impose asymmetric warfare on Pakistan. Our western front with an unreliable neighbour exposes us to an enemy coalition that is seeking to create trouble. We will not be able to ward off this trouble if we don’t retain the initiative. The political and military establishment needs to go into many a security huddle in the coming weeks and months to ensure that all needed resources are put to good work to create and then sustain a secure western front.
The currently disinterested international community should take notice of Indian atrocities in Kashmir and caution India that equating state tyranny in the valley with the situation in Balochistan is not wise. The international community has to come clean on how it views the Kashmiris’ movement for self-determination, which is part of the UN agenda. There is no better time than now for world leaders to ponder over this question with the UN General Assembly session just around the corner.
Lastly, it will be interesting to see how our prime minister responds to his Indian counterpart who continues to scapegoat Pakistan for his own failures in Kashmir. A mute prime minister is the last thing we want to see at this stage.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2016.
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