Since assuming the mantle of Pakistan’s ‘selected’ Prime Minister, Imran Khan has displayed a flip-flop policy towards India. Initially he expressed a desire for talks which was rebuked by his deep state which continued backing terrorist strikes against India, leading to Indian retaliation at Balakote. This has been the history of Indo-Pak relations wherein the Pak deep state has ensured that enmity continues providing it the power it needs to dominate national politics.
Modi has remained firm on his stated policy of no talks unless terror camps are dismantled and Pakistan takes irreversible steps against terror outfits on its soil. With this unlikely, the current stalemate would continue. Indian efforts to isolate Pak have only been partially effective, mainly due to US involvement in Afghanistan and backing from China. However, Pakistan has lost support from its supposedly closest allies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Imran childishly began displaying his hurt on the Indian rebuke by faking the impact of internal Indian decisions almost daily. The comments by his senior ministers including SM Qureshi and Fawad Choudhary on the Delhi election results indicate the level to which Indian politics dominate Pak thinking.
Indian pressure and offensive designs forced Pak to recalibrate its Kashmir policy. Post the abrogation of Article 370, Pakistan went on an overdrive seeking to project globally that India was violating UN resolutions on Kashmir. The cries of Pakistan had no global impact as Kashmir remained peaceful and silent. With passage of time, India took three groups of envoys and EU members of parliament to Kashmir, the latest being last week, to display the returning of normalcy. Realistically, Kashmir is more peaceful at present than it was prior to Aug 19.
Within Pak,Imrancontinued to state that Kashmir is being subjected to intense restrictions and lockdowns.On multiple occasions he promised Pakistan would support Kashmiris in their quest for freedom. This was aimedat diverting internal attention from growing inflation and increasing unemployment, as Kashmir remains the only binding factor within the country. Externally, his policy was a failure.
Pakistan attempted to involve the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) into condemning Indian actions. Imran even skipped the Kuala Lumpur Summit in Dec on the directions of Saudi Arabia, hoping for their support on Kashmir in the OIC, without which nothing would move. This wish was subsequently dashed when Riyadh stated it was unwilling for an OIC foreign ministers conference solely on Kashmir. Their desire to also include Palestine in the same was against Pakistan’s intentions. Even Malaysia, which had earlier backed Pakistan, tended to distance itself from Kashmir, facing Indian economic pressure. This has frustrated Pakistan as it sees itself alone.
Imran has complained on multiple occasions that the world places economic interests ahead of human rights. The OIC had already lost its credibility when it backed China and ignored the incarceration of Uighurs, solely on economic considerations.
In the meanwhile, Indian leaders began threateningPak in public forums. The PM spoke of a 7 to 10 days war, while addressing NCC cadets.Rajnath Singh, the Defence Minister, spoke on India’s firm response to Pak’s misadventures and the army chief, General Naravane spoke of recapturing POK on orders from the Government. There is no doubt that these comments were issued as a warning to Pak and mostly aimed at informing them that India will respond hard to any misadventures.
These have had desired results as the past five years have not witnessed any terrorist incident on Indian soil. Political debates also involve Pakistan with the BJP stating on occasions that the opposition is towing Pakistan’s line. This indicates that Pakistan continues to dominate the Indian mindset, political and media scene.
Militarily, India has been countering Pak’s attempts to violate the ceasefire with intense artillery firepower. It has rarely announced the impact of its strikes. On the contrary, Pak has been complaining of India violating the ceasefire, while the Indian army refuses to comment.
Currently, India as a nation is globally in demand. Its growing economy, military might, and stature is rising by the day. Friendly nations backing Indian decisions, prevented any discussion on Kashmir at the UN Security Council, despite multiple attempts by China, which sought to back Pakistan. This implies that the world has ignored Pakistan’s rhetoric on Kashmir, despite Chinese backing.
For India, the message being conveyed from across the globe is ‘ignore Pakistan and look beyond your shores.’The world expects India to move forward and become a major military power in the region, while considering Pakistan as a minor pinprick.
Nations cannot choose their neighbours and hence must live with them. Therefore, despite all efforts, since India waspartitionedon the a two-nation theory based on religion, India-Pak enmity would continue unabated. More reason thatPakistan’s rhetoric on Kashmir and internal Indian political decisions must be ignored.
While the Indian economy has begun bouncing back, Pakistan’s is only moving downhill. Indian foreign exchange reserves are rising, while Pakistan moves deeper into debt. India has the power to fund its defence procurements, while Pakistan is forced to depend on second-rate Chinese handouts. India is respected globally, while Pakistan struggles to rise from the ashes of FATF scrutiny. The only region where Pak has some ability to interfere is Kashmir, which has also been presently checkmated.
Any Indo-Pak conflict in the current environment, even if it occurs, would be limited and restricted in scope and region. Nuclear weapons, despite all Pak bravado, would remain as weapons of deterrence, not of war. Indian military power has anyway placed Pak on the backfoot and blocked any attempt of it contemplating any military action. It being ignored globally, indicates that even those nations it considered as close allies, prefer developing relations with India, rather than them.
Hence, apart from China it would find itself almost alone. Therefore, the only option which it can adopt to continue remaining in contention with India, is to sponsor limited infiltration into the valley and continue with its rhetoric on India.
India should seek to expand its military and diplomatic power backed by its growing economy to match its increasing international stature rather than comparing its capabilities with Pakistan. It should seek to develop and project its military power beyond its shores, rather than counteringPak.
There is no doubt that to a large extent, the common Indian mindset is obsessed with Pakistan, which should change once the national leadership stops discussing Pakistan in political debates. They should project that Pakistan as a nation or threat is not worth discussing.
With India seeking to develop military power to dominate its regions of interest and influence, Pakistan would automatically be contained. India should not even comment on Pakistan’s statements on India, which it issues everyday mainly for internal consumption.
Ignoring Pakistan and its comments is the best manner of conveying that India has no interest in what it states and does. It can counter its actions and possesses the power to hit back hard in case it attempts any misadventures.Internationally India should project that it is seeking a larger global role, while ignoring Pak.
The author is Major General (Retd)