Reflections: To keep heat on Pak, resolve mess in J&K

India must take note of the ramifications of a changing world.

Two aspects of the Indian Army’s “surgical strikes” and their aftermath are worthy of note. India had no real option but to strike back in the face of a major series of infiltration bids initiated at Uri. Second, for New Delhi, it was a demonstration of political will which was not exercised even when Pakistani terrorists caused murder and mayhem for two days in India’s financial capital way back in November 2008. That Uri was the beginning of an orchestrated multi-pronged terror campaign is clear from the most recent attack on the Rashtriya Rifles base in Baramulla. The Pakistani “Deep State” has decided that now is the time to cause the most damage to Army bases to exploit the unending turmoil in the Kashmir Valley.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserves credit for showing the political will to act in the face of daily pleadings by senior retired military officers advising caution in newspaper columns. It has often been suggested that the political leadership did not have the will to act when a majority of the armed forces was itself wobbly. There are obviously risks involved in undertaking counter-strikes but these must be balanced by the encouragement India’s passive approach, grandly termed strategic restraint, gives Pakistani terrorists. And Mr Modi has been lucky in one respect. By choosing the right moment to say no to attending the Saarc summit in Islamabad, he led most other member countries to opt out too, leaving Pakistan regionally isolated as never before.

Fast forward to the present. In an address to non-resident Indians in New Delhi on Sunday, the PM made two telling points: India doesn’t seek territorial gains now and has never been the first to start a war. Pakistan may treat it as ameliorative prose while other circles will construe it as a diversion. There was no reference to the strategic strikes which Pakistan denies took place. So far so good for India. But the real problems lie in the Kashmir Valley, where violent protests continue and the graph for the dead keeps rising. The impression the People’s Democratic Party’s coalition with the BJP in the state gives is of zero movement on the joint programme the two parties had agreed upon. The coalition and the Centre are so transfixed on the larger India-Pakistan picture that no one is taking the initiative to get to grips with the problems that agitate minds in the Valley. Here the Centre is also to blame as the problem has been left in the lap of RSS functionary Ram Madhav, who has his limited view of Kashmiri nirvana.

Over decades everyone knows the contours of the Kashmir problem. While India’s target remains to win over the people in the Valley, Pakistan, like a jack in the box, wakes up to new subversive opportunities. It relies on military operations, as in 1965 and 1971 and in Kargil. The present efforts are in the form of training, arming and infiltrating terrorists. On the Indian side, we need a deeper study and state of preparedness, having freed ourselves from the captivity of “strategic restraint”. Mr Modi has already signalled that India’s responsiveness to Pakistani subversion will no longer be to turn the other cheek. His close look at the Indus Waters Treaty is not to revoke it but to observe it to the letter, by refusing to give extra water as a gesture of friendship. Second, on the Most Favoured Nation status that New Delhi granted Islamabad in 1990s, Pakistan has not reciprocated till today. New Delhi will be well within its rights to revoke it.

The reasoning behind these moves is that we have to live with a difficult neighbour who still hungers for Kashmir and has trained generations of terrorists with state funds to do as much damage to India as possible. We have to keep our powder dry at all times. The India-Pakistan equation has wider implications. China has developed close relations with Islamabad, helping it in the nuclear field to get even with India, otherwise arming it with the major objective of keeping India off balance. To these important reasons is now added Pakistan’s crucial part in the building of the new Silk Road and the need for Pakistani troops guarding thousands of Chinese workers on the project in rebellious Balochistan. The Silk Road has now become even more important to use up China’s excess industrial capacity.

Pakistan has had one notable success in getting Russia to hold military exercises with Pakistani troops for the first time. Whether this was meant as a signal to New Delhi over its closeness to the United States or an expression of favouring China’s friend in view of growing ties remains to be determined. Overall, India must take note of the ramifications of a changing world. We see the United States in the process of leaving the war-ravaged Middle East. But its pivot to Asia has thus far started on an inauspicious note. China has chosen to disregard its defeat in the international court on its extravagant claims in the South China Sea, with the added disadvantage of having a Philippines President who is wooing China and calling the United States names at the cost of his own country’s interests.

The United States is relying on India, Japan and Australia, and perhaps Vietnam too, to counter China but everything seems up in the air as the extraordinary US presidential campaign gets more confusing than enlightening. In the likelihood of Hillary Clinton winning lies the path to sanity. India must therefore view its present difficulties with Pakistan keeping the larger international picture in mind. One gain that New Delhi has made after Uri is that much of the world now recognises that Pakistan uses terrorism and terrorists as instruments of state policy. Islamabad’s excuses are no longer believed in most world capitals. Although many will not officially call Pakistan a terrorist state (some in the Pentagon seem to have a soft corner for it), its international standing has never been as low as today.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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