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India Gets Global Support For Its Policy For Pakistan

In the situation obtaining after the Balakot episode, Pakistan is shifting the onus for initiating a conventional war onto India without at the same time relaxing on its planned covert offensive in Kashmir to keep what it calls the 'core issue' between India and Pakistan in the focus of the world attention.

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What is truly alarming from India's point of view is that the firm collaboration existing between the army and the Islamic militants in Pakistan has now acquired domestic legitimacy in that country. Pixabay

Pakistan unsurprisingly occupies a predominant place on our foreign policy turf for the reason that our approach to this hostile neighbour is impacted not only by India’s strategic partnership with the US but also by the state of our bilateral relations with Russia and China and the consistent stand India had taken against terror in spite of the uncertainties that had lately cropped up around the ‘war on terror’. In the context of the political narrative that the opposition in India has generated in the aftermath of India’s recent air strike on the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) camp at Balakot in Pakistan — wherein the virtues of talking to a ‘neighbour’ are invoked — our policy makers need to make it clear that India’s problem is with the deep state of Pakistan, not with the people of that country.

India-Pakistan relations are not about ‘people-to-people contact’ anymore, linked as they are to the challenge of dealing with a regime under the effective control of a hostile army that gave no space to the people’s voice. In any case, substantial chunks of the population there are now either under the influence of Islamic fundamentalists and the hardened Ulema or are swayed by the anti-India tirade of the extremely communal elite that had entrenched itself in the body politic of that country. The anti-India legacy of Partition is kept alive by them, particularly after the creation of Bangladesh, and this sustains the overriding hold of the Pakistan army as the ‘saviour’ of their country.

What is truly alarming from India’s point of view is that the firm collaboration existing between the army and the Islamic militants in Pakistan has now acquired domestic legitimacy in that country. This has enabled Pakistan’s rulers to survive the criticism of the democratic world against Pakistan for providing safe havens to terrorists across the Islamic spectrum — ranging from the Taliban-Al Qaeda combine to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), JeM and the Hizbul Mujahideen — as also the American pressure on the Pakistan Army not to play a duplicitous role on the Afghan front.

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Modi’s message had conveyed India’s hope that the two countries would work for creating a climate free of terrorism. Pixabay

Pakistan is shrewdly aware of its geo-political importance for the US, Russia and China and is deftly positioning itself as a helping hand for them. American President Donald Trump wants Pakistan to facilitate the American pullout from Afghanistan, the oldest theatre of the ‘war on terror’, and smoothen the path of restoration of a peaceful regime there even with the participation of Taliban in that experiment.

Russia and China want Pakistan on their side in the matter of keeping their own Muslim lands insulated from external instigation from Islamic extremists. In the Cold War era, Pakistan operating through Afghanistan as a Western ally caused faith-based insurgency to grow in Uzbekistan and Xinjiang. Pakistan is watching the Afghan scene with smugness over the fact of some levers being in its hands and is prepared to go along with the US initiatives in Afghanistan provided India was kept out of the frame there.

India has to watch out for Pakistan trying to use whatever support it can muster for building a case for resumption of the India-Pakistan dialogue. Playing the underdog, Pakistan has cleverly asked China to give up its technical objection to the UN move against Masood Azhar in return for a guarantee of ‘de-escalation’ from India. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a display of cussedness that is easily traceable to his army, responded to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi’s message of greetings on Pakistan Day in a way that speaks for itself.

Modi’s message had conveyed India’s hope that the two countries would work for creating a climate free of terrorism but Imran’s reply abstained from making any mention of terror emanating from his soil and blandly asked for resumption of dialogue to discuss the ‘core issue’ of Jammu and Kashmir and other matters. Pakistan is brazening out the situation of potential isolation it finds itself in, after the Indian air strike at Balakot received validation from the world community — Pakistan’s plea that the militant outfits were not under its control gave a moral justification to the Indian operation. None of this, however, is keeping Pakistan from relentlessly trying to get India to climb down from its declared policy that ‘terror and talks do not go together’.

It would be prudent for India’s strategic planners to presume that the advantage India presently has over Pakistan is not static and that a combination of factors already seen on the horizon will tend to bail out Pakistan on the issue of cross border terrorism against India. Pakistan’s deep state cannot be pressured beyond a point to sever its political links with forces within the country that used the call of ‘defence of Islam’ or jihad to fight an identified enemy, since in Islam the faith embraces the entire life of the individual — personal, social and political.

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If Pakistan gets a strategic advantage in Afghanistan it will use it against India. Pixabay

Also, a major source of sustenance for Pakistan is the implied support it will always get in the Organisation of Islamic Conference(OIC) led by Saudi Arabia which runs on the philosophy that ‘Quran was the best Constitution’ and does not regard a democratic state as being any better than an Islamic state. The secular character of the Indian state has not come in the way of Imran Khan’s regime trying to fish in the troubled waters of our domestic politics in the run-up to the general election here. Imran Khan has again insinuated that the Modi regime was not resuming talks with Pakistan because of electoral politics.

If Pakistan gets a strategic advantage in Afghanistan it will use it against India. The US policy makers are not doing much to keep India as a stakeholder in the future set up of Afghanistan. American negotiator Zalmay Khalizad has been talking to the Taliban behind the back of Ashraf Ghani’s regime with which India has a good equation. The Taliban is not prepared to have anything to do with the legitimate Afghan government and is keeping up the pressure of violence to dictate terms in the negotiations. The US may pull out of Afghanistan on a half-baked deal which will benefit Pakistan, not India. Our defences on the western front will have to be strengthened to deal with an escalated proxy offensive of Pakistan in Kashmir in case the Pakistan-supported Taliban get into a position of power in Afghanistan.

In the situation obtaining after the Balakot episode, Pakistan is shifting the onus for initiating a conventional war onto India without at the same time relaxing on its planned covert offensive in Kashmir to keep what it calls the ‘core issue’ between India and Pakistan in the focus of the world attention. In the meanwhile it is hoping that after its wishy-washy attempts to show that action was being taken against the LeT and JeM, international opinion would gravitate towards the idea of resumption of India-Pakistan talks.

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Pakistan’s deep state is now too involved and collusive towards Islamic militants of all shades to give up on them as instruments of state policy. India is exposed to the unceasing attempts of Pakistan to exploit India’s domestic scene for spreading radicalisation here. India is rightly going ahead with its plans of modernising its defence forces and building capacities in missile and space technologies but the lasting threat nearer home is from the enlarging faith- based militancy emanating from the large Muslim world around us. The values of democracy in India need to be protected against the subversive violence whipped up in the name of religion and beamed at us from across the borders. This long range threat to our security should be kept above party politics. (IANS)

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India and Pakistan Threaten to Release Missiles at Each Other

India threatened to fire at least six missiles at Pakistan, and Islamabad said it would respond with its own missile strikes “three times over

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Indians wave national flags as they wait for the release of an Indian air force pilot by Pakistani authorities, in Jammu, India, March 1, 2019. VOA

The sparring between India and Pakistan last month threatened to spiral out of control and only interventions by U.S. officials, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, headed off a bigger conflict, five sources familiar with the events said.

At one stage, India threatened to fire at least six missiles at Pakistan, and Islamabad said it would respond with its own missile strikes “three times over,” according to Western diplomats and government sources in New Delhi, Islamabad and Washington.

The way in which tensions suddenly worsened and threatened to trigger a war between the nuclear-armed nations shows how the Kashmir region, which both claim and is at the core of their enmity, remains one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints.

The exchanges did not go beyond threats, and there was no suggestion that the missiles involved were anything more than conventional weapons, but they created consternation in official circles in Washington, Beijing and London.

Reuters has pieced together the events that led to the most serious military crisis in South Asia since 2008, as well as the concerted diplomatic efforts to get both sides to back down.

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FILE – Indian paramilitary soldiers stand by the wreckage of a bus after an explosion in Pampore, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Dogfight over Kashmir

The simmering dispute erupted into conflict late last month when Indian and Pakistani warplanes engaged in a dogfight over Kashmir on Feb 27, a day after a raid by Indian jet fighters on what it said was a militant camp in Pakistan. Islamabad denied any militant camp exists in the area and said the Indian bombs exploded on an empty hillside.

In their first such clash since the last war between the two nations in 1971, Pakistan downed an Indian plane and captured its pilot after he ejected in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Hours later, videos of the bloodied Indian pilot, handcuffed and blindfolded, appeared on social media, identifying himself to Pakistani interrogators, deepening anger in New Delhi.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi facing a general election in April-May, the government was under pressure to respond.

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FILE – Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, right, talks with Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi before their delegation-level meeting in New Delhi, India, Dec. 22, 2017. VOA

‘No going back’

That evening, Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval spoke over a secure line to the head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Asim Munir, to tell him India was not going to back off its new campaign of “counterterrorism” even after the pilot’s capture, an Indian government source and a Western diplomat with knowledge of the conversations told Reuters in New Delhi.

Doval told Munir that India’s fight was with the militant groups that freely operated from Pakistani soil and it was prepared to escalate, said the government source.

A Pakistani government minister and a Western diplomat in Islamabad separately confirmed a specific Indian threat to use six missiles on targets inside Pakistan. They did not specify who delivered the threat or who received it, but the minister said Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies “were communicating with each other during the fight, and even now they are communicating with each other.”

Pakistan said it would counter any Indian missile attacks with many more launches of its own, the minister told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We said if you will fire one missile, we will fire three. Whatever India will do, we will respond three times to that,” the Pakistani minister said.

Doval’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

India was not aware of any missile threat issued to Pakistan, a government official said in reply to a Reuters request for comment.

Pakistan’s military declined to comment, and Munir could not be reached for comment. Pakistan’s foreign ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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FILE – U.S. President Donald Trump accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference, following talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb. 28, 2019. VOA

Trump-Kim talks

The crisis unfolded as U.S. President Donald Trump was trying to reach an agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi over its nuclear program.

U.S. National Security Adviser Bolton was on the phone with Doval on the night of Feb. 27 and into the early hours of Feb. 28, the second day of the Trump-Kim talks, in an attempt to defuse the situation, the Western diplomat in New Delhi and the Indian official said.

Later, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was also in Hanoi, also called both sides to seek a way out of the crisis.

“Secretary Pompeo led diplomatic engagement directly, and that played an essential role in de-escalating the tensions between the two sides,” State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a briefing in Washington March 5.

A State Department official declined comment when asked if they knew of the threats to use missiles.

Pompeo spoke to Doval, the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, respectively, Palladino said.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Admiral Phil Davidson told reporters in Singapore last week that he had separately been in touch with the Indian navy chief, Sunil Lanba, throughout the crisis. There was no immediate response from Lanba’s office to a question on the nature of the conversations.

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FILE – An image taken from video released by Pakistan’s military, shows what Pakistan claims to be an Indian pilot who was captured after his plane was shot down by Pakistan’s Air Force in the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir. VOA

Pilot’s release

U.S. efforts were focused on securing the quick release of the Indian pilot by Pakistan and winning an assurance from India it would pull back from the threat to fire rockets, the Western diplomat in New Delhi and officials in Washington said.

“We made a lot of effort to get the international community involved in encouraging the two sides to de-escalate the situation because we fully realized how dangerous it was,” said a senior Trump administration official.

The Pakistani minister said China and the United Arab Emirates also intervened. China’s foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment. The government of the UAE said Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan held talks with both Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

India has not given details, but has said it was in touch with major powers during the conflict.

On the morning of Feb. 28, Trump told reporters in Hanoi that he expected the crisis to end soon.

“They have been going at it and we have been involved in trying to have them stop. Hopefully that is going to be coming to an end.”

Later that afternoon, Khan announced in Pakistan’s parliament that the Indian pilot would be released, and he was sent back the next day.

“I know last night there was a threat there could a missile attack on Pakistan, which got defused,” Khan said. “I know, our army stood prepared for retaliation of that attack.”

Misread signals, unpredictability

The two countries have gone to war three times since both gained independence in 1947, the last time in 1971. The two armies are trading fire along the line of control that separates them in Kashmir, but the tensions appear contained for now.

Diplomatic experts said that the latest crisis underlined the chances of misread signals and unpredictability in the ties between the nuclear-armed rivals, and the huge dangers. It still was not clear whether India had targeted a militant camp in Pakistan and whether there were any casualties, they said.

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“Indian and Pakistani leaders have long evinced confidence that they can understand each other’s deterrence signals and can de-escalate at will,” said Joshua White, a former White House official who is now at Johns Hopkins.

“The fact that some of the most basic facts, intentions and attempted strategic signals of this crisis are still shrouded in mystery … should be a sobering reminder that neither country is in a position to easily control a crisis once it begins.” (VOA)