From a “defensive posture to defensive-offensive” is how Indian security officials are describing the doctrine of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which is aimed at increasing pressure on Pakistan and exploiting its vulnerabilities. And violating the ceasefire along the Line of Control is only one of its elements in response to the alleged “Pakistan-sponsored” attacks by militants on Indian occupation forces.
The other key declared and undeclared components of this doctrine are aimed at choking Pakistan’s economy, sponsoring and fomenting terrorism, especially in Balochistan, and pushing a diplomatic offensive to isolate it by portraying the world’s sole nuclear-armed Muslim country as an epicenter of global terrorism. India has also announced plans to scrap the World Bank-brokered water sharing agreement, the Indus Water Treaty of 1960, between the two countries.
This doctrine – intensifying tension and heightening prospects of war in South Asia to dangerous new levels – has not been conceived or set in motion following the attack by militants on the Indian Brigade Headquarters in Uri on September 18. Nor is it in response to the popular anti-India uprising in Indian-occupied Kashmir in the wake of the killing of 22-year-old Kashmiri freedom fighter Burhan Muzaffar Wani on July 8. It is a well-thought out strategy, which Modi advocated all along during his election campaign, reflecting Hindu India’s intolerant and hegemonic mentality.
By design or by default
For its part, Pakistan’s elected leadership failed to read Modi’s declared intentions or deliberately ignored them in an undignified haste to improve ties with New Delhi “at any cost.” This one-sided peace push – which had no takers in India – was the result of the personal whims and desires of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif rather than any coherent strategy with input from all State institutions. Prime Minister Sharif rushed to participate in Modi’s oath-taking in May 2014, thinking that personal relations could substitute structured government-to-government engagements.
In July 2015, the Sharif-Modi huddle in Ufa, Russia resulted in a joint communique which omitted the Kashmir dispute – the first ever Pakistan-India summit communiqué which failed to do so – triggering a wave of national outrage and condemnations.
Pakistan’s elected leadership failed to read Modi’s declared intentions or deliberately ignored them in an undignified haste to improve ties with
New Delhi “at any cost”
However, it was India’s continued belligerent attitude, refusal to discuss the protracted Kashmir issue and giving centrality to “terrorism” in any talks with Islamabad, which effectively derailed the bilateral dialogue process.
As Modi led the multi-prolonged diplomatic offensive – much before the latest Kashmir uprising or Uri attack – accusing Pakistan of fomenting terrorism, the foreign ministry led by Prime Miniter sharif, faild of. customary and half-hearted lip service to defend Pakistan or highlight the cause of Kashmir. Even when Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav was arrested in March 2016, Prime Minister Sharif chose to remain quiet, forcing the military to single-handedly manage the issue.
While Modi came out all guns blazing against Pakistan on the diplomatic front, Sharif continued with Maulana Fazl-ur Rehman as head of the Kashmir Committee – hardly a face and personality to introduce or spearhead the issue at any international forum. This alone demonstrates his lack of vision regarding one of Pakistan’s core national issues. In the wake of the recent uprising in Indian-occupied Kashmir, Sharif appointed 20 lawmakers to highlight the case in select world capitals. But sadly, most of the ones chosen for what became free junkets have no background in basic diplomacy, let alone the ability and capacity to fight Kashmir’s case internationally.
However, the sacrifices of the Kashmiri people and domestic pressure forced Sharif to articulate Kashmir’s case and reiterate Pakistan’s long-held position on this issue at the UN General Assembly on September 21. But the problem is that one speech cannot be a substitute for a cohesive and comprehensive policy, which Pakistan lacks on the political and diplomatic front.
While India has dangerously upped the ante of tensions and lowered the threshold for a conflict claiming bogus “surgical strikes” in Azad Kashmir, Islamabad has yet to show any signs of a multi-pronged response.
Improving the game
Pakistan’s Armed Forces stand alert and prepared to respond to any direct threat from India, but the civilian side has to improve its game on a war footing.
Firstly, Pakistan’s civilian leaders must accept that bilateralism has failed between the two countries. The lesson; bilateral talks should not be refused, but they must not bar Pakistan from internationalizing the Kashmir dispute.
Secondly, Pakistan needs to focus on resolving its internal contradictions – no matter how small or big – to deny India a chance to exploit them, especially in Balochistan — seen by many as the country’s soft underbelly. For this, more focused efforts are required to find a political solution to the low-intensity conflict brewing for the past decade or so.
It was India’s continued belligerent attitude, refusal to discuss the protracted Kashmir issue and giving centrality to “terrorism” in any talks with Islamabad, which effectively derailed the bilateral dialogue process.
Thirdly, Pakistan must launch aggressive diplomatic efforts to highlight the plight of people in occupied Kashmir and unapologetically underline the fact that a genuine and legitimate freedom struggle cannot be called terrorism. To do this, Pakistan needs a hands-on, competent foreign minister, a portfolio which Nawaz Sharif is not ready to relinquish for some odd reason.
Mobilizing the Kashmiri diaspora in western countries and giving them ownership of the campaign to underscore the brutalities committed by the Indian troops and push the demand for a plebiscite in line with the UN’s 1948 resolutions should be the key element of this offensive.
Islamabad has also rethink its regional and foreign policy priorities as well, especially vis-à-vis Afghanistan, which is ganging up with India both in covert and overt actions against Pakistan. Washington and its allies have been using Pakistan as a scape-goat for their policy failures in Afghanistan and trying to build pressure by giving India a free hand in the war-ravaged central Asian state. Islamabad must show assertiveness and declare that the “do more” mantra remains unacceptable and the US must address Pakistani concerns regarding the use of Afghan soil against the country.
Last but not the least, Pakistan’s military and civil leadership have to work in tandem. So far, the civilian leaders have been found wanting on the key political and diplomatic fronts to advance the country’s national security goals and objectives. They should be clear that the policy of appeasing New Delhi won’t just be a betrayal to the freedom struggle of the Kashmiri people, but will hurt Pakistan’s core interests.
Only a politically stable, economically vibrant and militarily strong Pakistan can guarantee peace in the region. But how a prime minister tainted with corruption allegations can achieve this, remains a critical question.