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Tension on Borders Going to change Dynamics of Politics of Pakistan and India

Muhammad Arif
Chairman Centre of Advisory Services for Islamic Banking and Finance (CAIF), Former Head of FSCD SBP, Former Head of Research ArifHabib Investments and Member IFSB Task Force for development of Islamic Money Market, Former Member of Access to Justice Fund Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Two countries with majority of their population below poverty are standing in front of each other in the beginning of 2019. This suits their politics as to divert attention of their people from their issues it is the best artistic way.

However its darker side is that tension between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan can sometime slip from their hands and that would be a disaster.

The latest tensions were triggered followed by the suicide car bomb attack on February 14th that killed more than 40 Indian troops in Indian-occupied Kashmir. India blamed it on the Pakistan non state actors and vowed vengeance against Islamabad.

First IAF strike on an alleged militant camp in Balakot came on 26th Feb. A day after Indian Air Force (IAF) fighters attacked an alleged terrorist camp deep inside Pakistan; Islamabad said it had captured one Indian pilot after his aircraft was shot down in the first air-to-air engagement between the two forces since their last major war in 1971.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan called for India to engage in talks. He said “better sense” should prevail so that both sides could de-escalate the tense situation. “History tells us that wars are caused by miscalculation,” Mr. Khan said in a televised address. Given the kinds of weapons both sides possess, they could not afford any miscalculation, he stated.

The prospect of covert Indian operations and rhetoric regarding Baluchistan and Kashmir widens the front that Pakistani leaders have to defend. While alarming to Pakistan, these tactics reflect the Indian leaders’ attempts to find ways to motivate the Pakistani establishment to demonstrably neutralize actors that threaten to conduct terrorism, but in Pakistan under National Action Plan the neutralization process is already going on as it has damaged Pakistan itself more as regards to India.

Since Pakistan’s conventional and nuclear forces make Indian conventional military operations against Pakistan exceedingly risky, hence Indian leaders are trying to find alternatives that could simultaneously satisfy domestic demands to push back Pakistan, deter Pakistan from escalating conflict in reaction to Indian punitive actions, and bring conflict to a close in ways that do not leave India worse off — in terms of casualties, costs and overall power. Pakistani officials and strategists too understand these alternatives.

Focus on possible Indian options for changing Pakistan’s behavior regarding terrorism does not ignore Pakistan’s legitimate interest in motivating India to redress the grievances of Kashmiri Muslims and create conditions in and around Kashmir that are acceptable to Kashmir, Pakistan and India. The best solution would be for both states to eschew violence against each other and to take reciprocal, verifiable steps to demonstrate to each other that they are doing so.

Yet, India needs to demonstrate by reciprocating and accommodating the interests of reasonable Kashmiri stakeholders in a peace process otherwise, more violence with the potential to escalate the conflict would remain there. This would be the most destabilizing and catastrophic event in the international system since World War II.

For a problem it is notable that no theories in the existing international relations literature, or in other states’ practices, offer guidance as to how India and Pakistan could most effectively proceed here. Unlike any other nuclear-armed antagonists, India and Pakistan directly border each other, have unresolved territorial dispute (Kashmir), and have engaged in armed conflict four times, not to mention multiple other militarized crises in places such as Siachen and across LoC in Kashmir. Furthermore, terrorism poses a threat on both sides that could instigate future conflict. Studies on deterring and defeating terrorism have not addressed situations in which the major antagonists possess nuclear weapons. Theories and case studies of nuclear deterrence and escalation management have not involved cases in which terrorists are the instigators of aggression and may not directly be under the control of state leaders.

Overall, India and Pakistan are approaching rough symmetry at three levels of competition: covert, conventional and nuclear. One of the countries may be more capable in one or more of these domains, but each has now demonstrated enough capability in all three to deny the other confidence that it can win more than it loses at any level of this violent competition.

Pakistan keeps harping about Kashmir and talks about supporting aspiration of the Kashmiri people (justifiably) even as it struggles to maintain peace at home. As the law and order situation titters in Karachi, Baluchistan; carnage continues in KPK, as threats and counter threats are exchanged with its neighbors to the East and West than It is a kind of brinkmanship of dangerous proportions.

Two of the countries’ three wars have been over Kashmir, an area in the Himalayas that is claimed in full — and ruled in part — by both India and Pakistan. At the time of partition, India and Pakistan courted the subcontinent’s various princely states to join their respective fledgling nations. The Hindu ruler of Muslim-majority Kashmir couldn’t decide which new country to join. Pakistani irregulars invaded, India intervened, and the two countries fought to a stalemate. Roughly 70 years later, the two sides remain in a tense stand-off along a de facto border known as the Line of Control, one of the most heavily militarized zones in the world.

Analysts say India has long been constrained by the fact that both countries have nuclear weapons, but they suggest Modi is betting the large electoral mandate he won in 2014 — and recent, violent events — provide him flexibility in striking back at Pakistan without prompting a broader, potentially nuclear, conflict. Now in 2019 elections in May this year Modi is trying to use the same strategies to win the election as on economic front he finds himself not in a position to give any tangible answers to the nation.

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However now Pressure has started building on the Modi’s government to release proof of surgical strikes conducted across the Line of Control (LoC). It is not just Opposition parties that are demanding the government to release some proof to authenticate its claims, some international media houses are also acting skeptical.

For India, international credibility is important and for that the reports of credible international media houses will be harder to ignore.

Most Opposition parties in India, including the Arvind Kejriwa of AAP and Rahul Gandhi of Congress, are now demanding some evidence of surgical strikes by India. The government is soon likely to face a situation where it will have to release some evidence to back its claims. However on their release they can back fire even that is why Modis ruling party is now putting all burdens of surgical strikes on Indian Army. Hence these incidents with uprising going on in Kashmir, fresh elections to be in 2019 are creating worries for the ruling party. Currently it is widening gap in between extremists and liberals everywhere including sports, films, media, students that can have its impacts on coming elections.

Pakistan pursuing highly good move, handed over the captured Indian air force pilot to Indian officials at a border crossing on IST March 2019, a “gesture of peace” by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan aimed at defusing a dramatic escalation between the nuclear-armed neighbors over the disputed region of Kashmir. The pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, walked across the border near the Pakistani town of Wagah after being taken in a convoy earlier in the day from the eastern city of Lahore.

However it is most likely that India’s position on the region of Kashmir it occupies which has long been claimed by Pakistan will not change. New Delhi will still believe that there is nothing in dispute about the region, and that its status is settled and need not be renegotiated. And it will continue to use repressive tactics against local communities who despise the presence of the Indian state there, are on the roads. Indian security forces could well intensify these tactics under the guise of counterterrorism; the militant who staged the attack in Kashmir last month was a local resident. Such measures would undoubtedly galvanize Kashmiris even more. The violent crackdowns that New Delhi may describe as counterterrorism will be—and already are—depicted by many Kashmiris and Pakistanis as Indian state terrorism.

Islamabad is also destined to get of its internal political crisis as government and opposition has now experienced a sit together to defend Pakistan. Possibility is there that they may go along to resolve matters of public and economy together.

As New Delhi is destined to double down on its repressive ways in Kashmir hence skirmishes would continue on the LOC and for that Pakistan has to make measures to save the life of citizens on the LOC.


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