After drumming up war hysteria for several days, India’s top brass has taken the route of de-escalation, manifest in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words on September 24 at a BJP meeting: “People of Pakistan should question their leadership on why, when both countries gained freedom together, while India exports software, Pakistan exports terrorists.” In the same breath, Modi challenged Pakistan to “fight a war on poverty and unemployment and see who wins first, India or Pakistan.”
Only two days earlier, in a travesty of diplomatic norms and contravention of international law, the Indian embassy at Geneva had received Brahamdagh Bugti, a terrorist wanted by Pakistan. Ironically, the same day an official of the Permanent Mission of India to the UN Eenam Gambhir, called Pakistan “a terrorist state” which, according to her, channelises billions of dollars, much of it diverted from international aid, to training, financing and supporting terrorist groups as militant proxies against its neighbours… where terrorist entities and their leaders, including many designated by the UN, continue to roam the streets of Pakistan freely and operate with State’s support.
This essentially implied that the US reimbursements under the Coalition Support Funds to Pakistan, which undergo thorough scrutiny, were being diverted for terror missions—quite an indictment of the quality and rigour of US auditing! The Indian rhetoric also conveniently sidestepped the fact that its best friend Iran too enjoys the distinction of once being branded by the United States part of an “Axis of Evil” alongside North Korea.
Writing in the Hindustan Times on Sept 25, Ramachandra Guha advised the ruling BJP to recall what Jayaprakash Narayan, the renowned Indian independence activist, social reformer and political leader, had said on Kashmir back in 1966: “It will be a suicide of the soul of India, if India tried to suppress the Kashmiri people by force”. And, further: “Kashmir has distorted India’s image for the world as nothing else has done”
The war hysteria, revolving around surgical strikes and what not, gave more oxygen to the cyclical acrimony that has gained currency under Modi in the shape of an anti-Pakistan chorus that has only grown in the last two years. At this particular point in time, it also felt like a ploy to deflect attention from Indian oppression in Kashmir.
Indeed, some would ask if India had been preparing to create an event such as the Uri attack to embarrass Pakistan on the eve of Sharif’s address to the UN General Assembly? Security sources believe so and point out that as many 32 families of the Indian High Commission staff moved back during July, August and September. They included some 42 students who were pulled out prematurely from two major Islamabad schools within the last few weeks. Does this mean New Delhi already had some mischief up its sleeve? This suspicion alone sent the military establishment into an emergency mode, prompting a string of meetings and contingency planning. No compromise at all if push came to shove, was the mood in Rawalpindi. And the media too went an overdrive to reinforce this message.
Writing in the Hindustan Times on Sept 25, Ramachandra Guha advised the ruling BJP to recall what Jayaprakash Narayan, the renowned Indian independence activist, social reformer and political leader, had said on Kashmir back in 1966: “It will be a suicide of the soul of India, if India tried to suppress the Kashmiri people by force”. And, further: “Kashmir has distorted India’s image for the world as nothing else has done.”
Is Modi & Co. listening? Not at the moment at least because the BJP-led India thinks differently. Pakistan, being a party to the Kashmir dispute, feels obliged to speak for the Kashmiris. India abhors this. Pakistan expects the UN to fulfill its commitments on Kashmir (resolution dating April 1948). India doesn’t want it mentioned in any way and is averse to even discussing the issue bilaterally. Pakistan has stuck to the resolutions, while India has already trespassed them, declaring the Himalayan region an “integral part” of it and also asking for “Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.”
Dr. Nazir Gilani, the head of the Jammu Kashmir Council for Human Rights, says that “if all of us together, that is, Hurriyat, Civil Society, Government of Pakistan, Government of Azad Kashmir and the Kashmiri Diaspora, recognise the various variables of work and take the struggle from [the] street to an overwhelming programme at the United Nations, we could see the back of Indian soldiers in a certain timeframe.” He advises against leaving the current movement to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference only. In accordance with its responsibilities assumed under the UNCIP Resolutions, Pakistan has a duty and attendant ability to revisit the case as a collective in view of the UN Resolutions on Kashmir. These UN commitments simply invalidate Article 3 of the J&K Constitution of 1956 and the Indian Parliament Resolution of February 1994. But India is obviously not interested in the jurisprudence of the Kashmir issue because it only serves to underscore its international nature.
Another problem with the BJP and its Kashmir policy guided by RSS, according to a friend in Srinagar, is their calculation that this protest will also wither away. But they fail to understand that this uprising is very different from the earlier ones that took place in 2008 and 2010. Those two uprisings melted away after New Delhi met most of the demands. But the latest “intifada” is about acceptance of militancy as a legitimate way of protest. A dead Burhan Wani has provided the string of legitimacy to the calls for “azaadi.”
In fact, every body in Srinagar and elsewhere felt exalted like never before when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hailed Wani in his recent UN speech. “I think people here expect Sharif to be a facilitator in the dialogue process and institutionalize a serious dialogue between the three parties,” the friend in Srinagar said.
Pointing to the conduct of the BJP leaders, including that of PM Modi, and the domestic political pressures, observers within and outside India have also scoffed at Modi’s resolve to “internationally isolate Pakistan.” Wishful thinking? Probably. For the simple reason that China has reiterated the entire spectrum of its support for Pakistan. Russian commandos are exercising with the Pakistani SSG. Iran’s president has expressed interest in CPEC—all manifestations of the realignments that the region is witnessing and which are shaped by national interests (read needs) and are not the skewed desire of a third country.
Critics took a dig on the BJP government for using Balochistan in a tit-for-tat. Former ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar, for instance, thinks “Modi’s aides gave him incredibly foolish advice to speak on Balochistan from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day. They seem blissfully ignorant that stabilization of Balochistan is in Iran’s core interests too, since any fluidity in that region negatively impacts the security of Iran’s contiguous Sistan-Balochistan province… inciting unrest in Balochistan cannot go hand in hand with our projects in Chabahar in Sistan-Balochistan”. And what does Modi & Co. think, for example, of Shahzain Bugti’s declaration that the Bugti tribesmen were prepared to fight India in Kashmir?
One wonders whether New Delhi, despite such advice and a complex geopolitical scenario, will still go ahead to allow a Baloch government-in-exile to be headquartered on its soil?
One hopes, nevertheless, that sooner than later, that the potentially “mutually-assured destructive” path will give way to a more measured and saner talk on Pakistan and a far better way of handling the Kashmiri protests.