Yet another “intifada” is on the cards in Jammu and Kashmir, which many believe would have a far-reaching impact on the geopolitical landscape of the region. While the international community is still assessing the probable responses by India and Pakistan, non-state actors are also closely monitoring the situation.
India’s revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has shut down almost all prospects for it to resolve the issue through dialogue, either with the Kashmiri leadership or with Pakistan. One wonders if India did not have any alternatives other than what it has already demonstrated in the form of a lockdown of J&K.
The use of some counter-violent extremism, or CVE, terms like “reintegration” and “mainstreaming” by India’s policymakers and political circles suggest they consider the entire population of J&K to be radical. Apparently, India is missing the mega blueprint to absorb the shocks of the measures it has taken to “fix” the Kashmir issue once and for all.
Obviously, in the absence of such plans, an intifada would be blamed on Pakistan. This would be an easy way out for India, but would come at a cost. Not prepared to counter the Indian move, Pakistan is also confronted with a delicate challenge. However, an even more critical question for Pakistan is how to respond to the emerging intifada.
The new intifada will have different characteristics from earlier movements. While it will mainly comprise non-violent political expression, violent emotions will also be there. Emotions are running equally high among pro-independent, pro-Pakistan and ultra-radical segments of the resistance movements in J&K. They can resort to violent actions separately or form an alliance to increase the impact of the intifada.
It is not certain how many members of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba are present in J&K now, and what the level of their operational capacity is. But groups like Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, an affiliate of Al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent, are gradually making inroads into the ultra-radical militant movements in Kashmir. The AGH is also against Pakistan. The group is trying to convince other armed groups to form an independent jihad alliance against India. Recently, Al Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri had endorsed this idea. In this context, Kashmir-based armed groups like Hizbul Mujahideen will also be under intense pressure to reorganise their operational structures.
These groups can trigger a long-term resistance movement in J&K. Pakistan is morally and politically bound to support the Kashmiris. However, supporting the resistance movement will have serious consequences for Pakistan. The poor state of Pakistan’s economy, internal political crises and struggling diplomacy are factors which will limit active support to the resistance movement in J&K.
The IMF and FATF swords are hovering over Pakistan’s economy. The world at large, including friends and foes of Pakistan, are least receptive to violent resistance movements. India knows this, and its media and opinionmakers are highlighting this point continuously. India has chosen the best time for revoking J&K’s special status, when Pakistan is facing multiple challenges and trying to regain its geopolitical importance through facilitating the peace process in Afghanistan.
The dynamics of the insurgency in Kashmir will be different this time, where Pakistan will not be in a strong position to influence the resistance movement. As a result, Pakistan-India tensions could at any time turn into conventional warfare. Imran Khan has already indicated this in his parliamentary speech. How can Pakistan avoid this situation?
The leaders of sectarian and militant groups are trying to establish their relevance in the changing situation. Some audio, video and text messages are circulating in social media groups in which they are declaring their support for the Kashmir cause. They have not yet received a response from the state and media. Even the reactivation of forums like the Difa-i-Pakistan Council is not apparent; this was an alliance of small radical religious and political parties that could bring the people to the streets on such critical regional issues. Pakistan has not allowed the radicals to hijack the issue and create spaces for themselves. This approach will help Pakistan win the trust of the international community and internationalise the Kashmir issue.
India will certainly have to face the consequences of the emerging intifada. But Pakistan should evolve a political and diplomatic strategy to stop India from holding it responsible for the uprising, and to prevent New Delhi from resorting to “infiltration” and “terrorism” mantras to discredit the intifada. It will not be an easy task.
By arrangement with Dawn...