From 1989, with the beginning of militancy in J&K, Pakistan has always been trying to define as well as initiate the narrative on Kashmir, and India had been playing to it. Revoking of Article 370 (special status to J&K) and 35A has turned the table upside down. It is Pakistan who now has to rethink and recalibrate its response. As stated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi this decision of the Indian government was taken to stabilise and keep this particular region in sync with the other 28 states of India and ensure good governance for economic development as also serve as a counter terrorism measure. This move has finally established the dictum ‘One Constitution for one Nation’.
India is a Quasi- federal state, with strong centralizing tendencies as duly prescribed in the Constitution; Article 1, 2 and 3 of the Indian Constitution, gives the power to the Parliament to redraw the political map of India; to create or abolish states; change the boundaries and even change their names. Hence, revoking of Article 370 and 35A by the Government is within the confines of the law of the land and is legally justified.
On the other hand, hypocrisy of Pakistan is an open book. It has altered the Gilgit-Baltistan region a number of times starting from, 1949, 1969, 2009 and subsequently in May 2018, the Gilgit-Baltistan Order sought to bring this region at par with the other provinces by devolution of greater authority and financial powers.[i] Another controversial action by Pakistan was the Sino-Pak boundary agreement of 1963, vide which Pakistan recognised Chinese sovereignty over hundreds of square kilometers of land in Northern Kashmir and Ladakh. At these times Pakistan’s stand that “the status of J&K is yet to be settled” did not come in the way at all. This contradictory approach to their stance and repeated alteration of the boundary of Kashmir exposes the hollowness of its own case.
The United Nations has been made a battle ground of soft diplomacy by Pakistan. In a letter to the President of UN Security Council, Pakistan Foreign Minister wrote that India has acted against the UN Convention. On China’s behest a closed-door meeting of the Security Council was also held on the 16th August. What was the outcome? No motion to condemn India was even brought on the table; India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin answered all questions of the journalists present there and emphasized India’s stand yet again that “Terror and Talks” cannot go on together.
For three decades now, the ISI and the Pakistan Army or in other words the Deep State has been waging a proxy war against India as part of their strategy of “bleeding India through thousand cuts”. This rigid thinking of the Pakistani mindset will have to be reviewed. So what are the options at hand for Pakistan? Few discernable ones are mentioned below.
Diplomatic Outreach; which could range from a soft diplomacy approach to use of coercive diplomacy. Though, given the economic downturn Pakistan is going through, coercive diplomacy or a hardliner approach only, might not be a viable option and hence a continuous and sustained effort towards internationalising the Kashmir issue will continue to occupy the front pages of Pakistani newspapers and media at large. Their diplomatic maneuvers started with an all-out campaign against India. Beginning with expelling India’s ambassador to Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria; to recalling the Pakistan diplomat Moin-ul-Haq, who was supposed to assume the post of High Commissioner of Pakistan in Delhi, to coercive actions, like stopping the cross border transport services, which includes the Samjhautha express, limiting use of their airspace; and observing their Independence Day “in solidarity with Kashmiri’s struggle and their right of self-determination”.
The Pakistani Government also contacted the world leaders of Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia and United Kingdom. Most of these countries have maintained that the matter should be resolved bilaterally. Another narrative doing the rounds in Pakistan is that the guardians of Ummah have invested heavily in India, so their support might not be forthcoming. Taliban responded with a statement saying Afghanistan cannot be turned into a theatre of competition at the behest of Pakistan. Its spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahed said, “Linking the issue of Kashmir with that of Afghanistan by some parties will not aid in improving the crisis at hand because the issue of Afghanistan is not related”.[ii]Pakistan will use and exploit its social diaspora settled abroad in the UK, Canada and the US to create an anti – Indian narrative and highlight the same at the international forums. Going to the International Court of Justice might also be on the cards.
Option two is War Mongering Tactics; Pakistani Prime Minister addressing the joint session of the Majlis-e Shura on 6th August, 2019 voiced his opinion when he stated “What do you want me to do? Go to war with India? We have already done that, and we are in no mind to do so”. It implies the obvious that the political decision makers feel the option of war is neither suitable nor viable. But war mongering will certainly be the buzzword for debates and discussions in Pakistan in the forthcoming months. This will be the tactics followed to keep the issue in limelight. Another pressure tactics could be to redeploy troops from Afghanistan border to Kashmir and send militants to Kashmir to create some disturbance. This might perhaps lead India –Pakistan relationship on a war footing ground? But if tensions persist, will it lead to a bigger conflict? Not likely! The extension of the Pakistan COAS, Gen Bajwa for another three years has been justified on account of the prevailing regional security environment, though it was in the pipeline before the revocation of Article 370. Needless to say, that the perfect synergy enjoyed between him and Prime Minister Imran Khan will only help in boosting a more hard line policy towards Kashmir and India.
Strategic Restraint; is another option that the Deep State is pursuing at the moment. It is waiting for the right opportune moment. That moment is the eruption of violence in Kashmir. Pakistan will be rake up the issue to such a level that a call for an international mediation might just set in? Their aim is to bring the Kashmir issue out of the fold of bilateralism. Nuclear Blackmailing; is another tool which the Deep State can use to flag its points of concern. Pakistan has already started harping on the Indian Defense Minister’s statement regarding change in India’s current policy of no first use of nuclear weapons in the future, if circumstances so demand. Highlighting this as a threat to regional stability, Pakistan is trying to seek international support and mileage.
The Ideological and Religious option; tweets from the Pakistani establishment and their media is abuzz with statements like, “ideology of Hindu supremacy is akin to Nazi supremacy”……”this will not stop in Kashmir but will lead to oppression of Muslims in India and eventually target Pakistan”………”this will change the demographic situation through ethnic cleansing”. The feeling of domination by Hindu religion is disturbing for them and it will perhaps try to evoke the sympathy of the Muslim brethren spread world over. In a recent address to troops during Eidul Azha, the Pakistan Army Chief, Gen Bajwa stated that “we must not give India any chance to cover up its crimes in India held Kashmir”[iii]. This reiterates Pakistan’s inflexible position that Kashmir is the unfinished business of Partition and portrays India as the perennial existential threat to Pakistan.
New Form of Terrorism; is another discernable and potent option which Pakistan will like to use, but with the UN’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF) monitoring and regulations, it is handcuffed and is unable to step up its terrorist’s attacks and activities at the moment. At the same time, it cannot totally rely on soft diplomatic response alone. So, what could be the possible ways to vent out its frustration? Maybe, a terrorist/fidayeen action in other regions of India to enhance the scope of the issue beyond the confines of J&K, or an attack at a prominent religious place to cause communal disharmony especially in the Central, Southern and North Eastern parts of India; increase in the intifada tactics; namely stone pelting, women crowding and abuse, refusal to carry out the last rites etc, might be practiced with full vigor and vengeance now. At the initiative and abetment of Pakistan, a new movement in the form of International Jihad may make Kashmir the pivot for Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations[iv].
[i] R Chandrashekhar, The Gilgit-Baltistan Order-2018, Synodos Paper, Vol-XIII No-1/Feb 2019, CENJOWS [ii]India Today(2019),Kashmir: Pakistan tries to isolate India over Article 370, gets a reality check, 12, August Available at: https://www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/kashmir-pakistan-tries-to-isolate-india-over-article-370-gets-a-reality-check-1579988 (Accessed on 13/8/2019) [iii]The Express Tribune (2019), We must not give India any chance to cover up its crimes in IOK: COAS, 12, August Available at : https:// www.tribune.com.pk/story/2033203/1 (Accessed on 14 Aug 2019) [iv]Samuel P. Huntington has coined this phrase, referring that primary source of future conflicts will be based on cultural and religious identities.