Prussian King Fredrick the great with many accomplished military victories under his belt is said to have commented that “the most experienced in his army was a mule who had participated in every campaign but was none the wiser for that experience.” At times strategic success is not the reward of the winner’s capabilities but incompetence of the losers. India is fast losing Kashmir and despite the writing on the wall none of the military commanders appointed over the years in Occupied Kashmir have been able to tell the policy-makers in Delhi about the futility of their Kashmir policy. State oppression and terrorism has been the name of the game in occupied Kashmir and when one young man rises up to blunt that state oppression being perpetrated on the people of his community in the Indian state doesn’t look inward at its mistakes and follies but outward and at its neighbour — a punching bag that it considers it can utilise to beat its frustrations and divert the world’s attention.
Hours into the Pulwama attack it was pointing fingers at Pakistan. Not something new that we are not aware of but the Indian impulsiveness to blame Pakistan every time a terrorist incident occurs mocks the very concept of examination, exploration and investigation which must be carried out before reaching a final verdict. One can imagine the burden PM Modi and his nation faces at the moment. India doesn’t want to lose Kashmir but it is fast losing it. The Pulwama attack if anything is actually a great reminder to the Indian policy-makers that what cannot go for ever will not last. A freedom fight that has stood up against state terrorism for 70 long years will not end by state oppression. In its true nature violence begets violence and India may try to create as many side shows or diversions it wants by implicating Pakistan in the miserable situation that it has set itself in — there is enough fuel on the fire in Kashmir to insidiously burn and let India feel its uncomfortable political and military heat.
The Pulwama incident is not a Pakistan-sponsored act of terrorism as India claims but an incident which is a consequence of the unending violence and brutality that the Indian forces have unleashed on the people of Occupied Kashmir. There is no extremist ideology in Occupied Kashmir like there is no Pakistan abetting and supporting any violent blowback against the Indian forces. There is only the will of the Kashmiri people and their unwavering commitment to their right to self-determination and a deeply determined moral responsibility of the government of Pakistan. The responsibility to never back off from politically and morally supporting their Kashmiri brothers and simultaneously highlighting to the whole world the atrocities committed by the Indian forces against the people of Occupied Kashmir.
If it is a test of wills — India must know that the people of Occupied Kashmir as well as Pakistan have the patience and the will to prevail — no matter what the cost. The Indian false accusations and propaganda are only an ‘attention diverter’ — one may only look at the odds stacked against Pakistan for undertaking such a misadventure, some of these in the immediate context are — in a couple of days Pakistan is hosting the state visit of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia; The Taliban’s engaging in a dialogue meeting in Islamabad on 19 February before their scheduled meeting with Americans on 25th February in Qatar; the hearing of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case starts in the International Court of Justice in Hague on 18 February; the FATF meets in Paris on 18th February to take a decision on whether Pakistan continues to remain in the grey list or not; a suicide bomber has already killed 27 members of Iranian revolutionary guards near the Pakistani border. Surely the timing of this attack is something that does not benefit Pakistan.
But it surely does benefit India. The successful foreign policy that the Imran Khan-led government has been executing and the manner in which to some extent it has been able to pull Pakistan out from regional and international isolation is something that doesn’t charm India. Pakistan’s management of the US-Taliban peace process is also becoming a very unsettling means to a political end that India doesn’t favour. The whole Indian scheme of utilising the Afghan front to weaken and destabilise Pakistan would turn upside down if the Americans leave Afghanistan and the Taliban manage to find political and administrative roles in any future Afghanistan setup. The ‘Indian terrorist platforms’ that the world has been too blind to see or unwilling to see in Afghanistan may actually lose their utility.
Indian military effort alone will not end the Kashmir uprising. Neither will the attempts by India to balance against Pakistan by supporting and arming our rivals and by patronising separatism and anti-Pakistan movements like the PTM (Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement). The tendency of the Indian government to lay down ‘red lines’ and threaten Pakistan with dire consequences and befitting replies is a political bluff to charm its domestic audience. All Indian political threats of isolating Pakistan internationally should be responded with strong diplomacy and the military threats of executing any surgical strikes should be befittingly responded in a similar fashion.
Politics demands persuasion and not a hodgepodge cluttering of political assumptions that take the form of a linear thinking. Indian politicians appearing on the Indian media are talking of giving some ‘punishing blows’ to a terrorist state. You find none telling the ‘compulsive TV watcher’ Indian nation that the ‘fault could be ours as well.’ An uncertain Indian nation with political and military uncertainties is creating a very uncertain security environment in the region. When a policy reaches a point of departure and decides to employ an instrument of power it must bear in mind the end. The confrontational policy employed by India has been threatening to unleash a military confrontation between the two nuclear powers for quite some time now. One hopes that the most experienced in the Indian military and political establishment (in the words of Fredrick the great) is not a mule.
A political act, an instrument of policy, an extended duel something that grows in the womb of policy — war may be defined as anything but once initiated it takes a momentum of its own. So be careful India, don’t press the red button.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2019.