Peace, security and economic progress in South Asia, which houses one-fifth of the world population, remains hostage to the Indian ambition to dominate the region. Since independence it has been projecting itself as a dominant military power exploiting the geo-political fault lines, which adequately provide an insight into India’s disputes with its neighbor including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It would not be wrong to suggest that most of the problems in South Asia stem from Indian designs to establish its hegemony in the region.
The tone and course for what India has been doing since independence was well set by Nehru well before partition when in 1946 as external minister in the interim set-up he remarked that there were only four great powers in the world i. e USA, USSR, China and India. He also made no secret about India going nuclear when on 26 June 1948 he announced, “As long as the world is constituted as it is, every country will have to devise and use the latest devices for its protection. I have no doubt India will develop her scientific researches and I hope Indian scientists will use atomic force for constructive purposes. But if India is threatened, she will inevitably try to defend herself by all means at her disposal.”
The non-resolution of the Kashmir dispute, over which India and Pakistan have fought three major wars and several low intensity military confrontations, is also attributable to Indian intransigence stoked by its hegemonic designs. That mindset is not allowing the Indian leaders to remove the blinkers on their eyes and see the ground realities, notwithstanding the fact that there are a number of UN resolutions on the Kashmir dispute promising right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir and the repeated commitments by Nehru to resolve the issue through reference to the people.
It is a matter of record that India neither cared about UN resolution nor its commitments to the people of Kashmir. Frustrated by the Indian attitude the Kashmiris launched an armed struggle against Indian occupation in 1989. India used its military might ruthlessly against freedom fighters and its security forces indulged in reckless and blatant violation of human rights due to the promulgation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1990 which allowed them to commit these crimes against humanity with impunity.
The Human Rights groups within India itself and international human right organizations like Amnesty International (AI) have been regularly documenting the situation in IHK from the perspective of human rights violations by the Indian Armed Forces. According to these reports Indian security forces in Kashmir have killed nearly 94 thousand Kashmiris during the last 26 years, raped more than ten thousand women and killed more than seven thousand persons while in custody. The report of AI released in 2015 gave a hair-raising review of how the Indian Armed Forces have let loose a reign of terror against the people of Kashmir under the protection of AFSPA, particularly section 7 of the Act, which grants immunity to members of the security forces from prosecution for human rights violations. The report hurled a scathing criticism at the Act for having created an ambience of impunity for Indian security forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir and enabling them to commit human rights violations without any fear of being tried.
During the current uprising against India in IHK in the backdrop of extra-judicial killing of Burhan Wani, which is more or less the continuation of the freedom struggle launched in 1989, the Indian security forces have killed more than 100 Kashmiris and injured thousands by using pellet guns and the valley remains under curfew for the last three months. Pakistan could not remain silent on the Indian atrocities and raised its voice in support of the people of Kashmir besides sensitising the world about the Indian atrocities and human rights violations and demanding a UN probe into the episode, as enunciated by Prime Minister in his speech at the UN.
The Indian government, stunned by the intensity and scope of the uprising and with a view to erect a smoke screen over the Indian inhuman crackdown on the Kashmiris, has been desperately trying to divert the attention of the world community from the real issue by engineering episodes like Uri and Bara Mula. The ostensible motive has been to portray the freedom movement as acts of terrorism sponsored and abetted by Pakistan. The war hysteria built by the Modi government, its claims of surgical strike, and repeated violations of ceasefire along the LOC are the ploys to achieve those objectives.
Pakistani response to the Indian machinations has been very calculated, precise and pragmatic. It has eposed the myth of surgical strike by taking the media to the claimed site of the surgical strike as well as the UN military observers who have exposed the hollowness of the Indian claims by saying that they did not find any evidence of the claimed action by India. Consequently, not only the international media including New York Times but also some political circles within India are now questioning the credibility of the Indian claim of surgical strike against Pakistan. Armed forces of Pakistan are responding to Indian firing along the LOC in a befitting manner. Meanwhile the civilian and military leadership are in constant huddle over the emerging scenario and the armed forces are fully prepared to meet any eventuality. The government has also taken the entire political leadership into confidence which has unequivocally endorsed the steps taken by the government and the military leadership to defend the country, a step that was imperative to send right signals to the bellicose Indian leadership. Pakistan has also launched a diplomatic offensive to keep the Kashmir issue alive at the international level and expose Indian human rights violations in Kashmir as well as to sensitise the world about Indian involvement in acts of terrorism in Pakistan. I think this strategy needs to be pursued with unrelenting intensity.
Notwithstanding the foregoing events and circumstances, it is my considered view that India will not commit the mistake of a military confrontation with Pakistan. Our policy of minimum nuclear deterrent has eliminated this possibility for ever. However India would continue to keep the LOC hot to hide its crimes in Kashmir and also use its soft power to isolate Pakistan as is quite evident from the Indian move during the BRICS summit at Goa to get Pakistan included in the declaration as a terrorist state. Thanks to China and to some extent Russia which felt disinclined to toe the Indian line, to thwart the move, particularly the former which reminded the world of the sacrifices that Pakistan has made to fight terrorism. Pakistan needs to and must develop a comprehensive counter strategy to scuttle Indian moves to isolate her.