The Indian Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Defence recently held a joint press conference in New Delhi in which DGMO Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said:

"The Indian army conducted surgical strikes last night (29th Sep 2016) at these launchpads [i.e Pakistani side of the LoC]. Significant casualties have been caused to these terrorists and those who are trying to support them... The operations aimed at neutralising the terrorists have since ceased."

Pakistan rubbished the Indian claims of conducting the surgical strikes. This escalated political and military tension between the two countries which were already tense after the killing of Burhan Wani (a young Kashmiri freedom fighter) followed by the Uri attack which resulted in the death of 18 Indian soldiers.

During this period, we saw on both sides a jingoistic media war and exchange of political/military staunch statements in which the masses were drawn into. The obvious questions to rise in the minds of the ordinary were: Is a war about to break? What is the mystery of surgical strikes? What could be the purpose of the “isolation” of a nation? What is the prospect of “normalization”? What about Kashmir? Who is the beneficiary? And what lies ahead?

Behind the rhetoric of “Isolation”

After the attack on an Indian army base in India-held Kashmir, PM Modi in his first speech on 24th Sep-16 said:

“We will isolate you (Pakistan). I will work for that, terrorist attacks in Bangladesh and Afghanistan were also being instigated from Pakistan…We will intensify it (our efforts) and force you to be alone all over the world.”

Similar rhetoric of Isolation was echoed by other government officials, like the Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who said during the United Nation’s General Assembly:  

“It was time to identify nations who nurture, peddle and export terrorism and isolate them if they don't join the global fight”.

The sudden mantra of isolating Pakistan did not just emerge from the blue without any background. The US has since long been persuading India to do so in a bid to pressure Pakistan into submitting to India and its demands. One such recent meeting between US & Indian officials took place in July ’16 in Washington, under the banner of the US-India Counter-terrorism Joint Working Group. The US side of the delegation proposed that India adopt a more diplomatic approach – rather than the military – in isolating Pakistan in a bid to change their course of action.

They said:

“Marshalling diplomatic, economic, and social resources to build and sustain international pressure to force changes in its (Pakistan`s) behaviour.”

They also suggested that:

“Seeking an advance commitment from the United States and other major powers to cut security assistance to Pakistan if there is another terrorist attack in India.”

The existence of a rift between Pakistan and the US for the past couple of months is evident: the US has been cutting assistance to Pakistan in several domains. Nasty and threatening statements emerging from the US official seem to be unsurprising. The recent of such statement was made when US officials threatened and passed a bill of “declaring Pakistan a terrorist state” .

Interestingly the US delegation, of US-IND counter-terrorism group in the same meeting as aforementioned also proposed in-advance, the line of action in case of an attack takes place.

They said:

“If there’s another Pakistan-linked terrorist attack inside India, New Delhi could persuade its partners to postpone bilateral meetings with Pakistan or delay visa processing, the authors argue”.

Hence, in the aftermath of Uri attack, India not only cancelled/deferred many of the bilateral meetings but also ensured that the SAARC meeting which was scheduled in Pakistan was postponed as other member states – Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan – pulled out of it, which just shows the efficacy of this “isolation” policy adopted by India as per the US’s guideline and support.

Surgical Strikes Fiasco

Whether the surgical strike took place or not is a never ending debate until corroborative proof is produced however the more pertinent discussion should be about its beneficiary. With the claims of the surgical strike PM Modi achieved the unprecedented, which helped him engender a towering image amongst its public. The aftermath of the Uri attack and the surgical strike also paved the way for him to distract the focus of the mainstream world from the Kashmir issue which, due to his baton/pellet policy got out of hand. As for the Pakistani political leadership, the surgical strike issue drew criticism and unpopularity whilst the military leadership somehow draw public support by refuting the Indian claims with strong statements.

As aforementioned, the surgical strike was not a product of the US-defined policy, but was one of India`s long awaited desires which PM Modi was crowned with. However, the deserted silence of the US and the rest of the world over India’s claims of a surgical strike within the territories of Pakistan seems to be an agreed plan as not even a word of condemnation rose from anywhere. Though the policy of “isolation” (building pressure) remains the course of action against Pakistan until the desired result are come out.

Big Picture

As America`s topmost agenda for Pakistan has been that in relation to Afghanistan, in which the job assigned to Pakistan – according to its capacity – is nearing its completion, it has come up with another one: related to the reduction of its nuclear power – more of a long-time project. A third assignment is also under discussion, which is the normalization of relations with India, which can be achieved by accepting its growing hegemony in the region and play the role of a second fiddle in supporting it against China.

A website elaborates the roots of this part of the US’s foreign policy: “As part of a new Great Game, America needed to forge ‘strategic partnership' with India and use Pakistan and India as a block against China. For this to happen, it was necessary to put India at ease vis-a-vis her western borders with Pakistan and its engagement in Kashmir. America knew that India could never pose a threat to China if her forces are divided on two fronts (i.e Pakistan & China). Hence, it has become imperative for the US to weaken Pakistani armed forces by dividing it on two fronts (Afghanistan & internal tribal operations), as well as forcing Pakistan to “Normalize” relationship with India, so that India could focus unilaterally towards China, a country that India has fought in war and has disputes with.” The growing Indian control and the shrinking influence of Pakistan in the region is part of this greater US plan.

Interestingly, the Pakistani leadership was allowed to reveal the already known, confirming the above stated plan. The adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz said:

“US has formed a policy to 'build up India' as "their entire attention is towards containing the Islamic world and China".

In a well indicted script of “isolation”, the US wants to exert pressure on Pakistan so as to make it surrender to Indian demands like that of acting against those who may have been supporting the Kashmiri freedom, before the resumption of “normalization”. The Pakistani leaders are responding in haste to the plans of the United States without even waiting to let the tension between India and Pakistan subside, and for the Kashmir issue to be forgotten once again by the public. The account given below illustrates the fact that Pakistan, in the coming weeks, will take action against those groups who might be supporting the Kashmiri freedom movement within its territory, in a bid to desperately persuade India to resume peace talks (i.e. “normalisation”).

A parliamentary delegation from Pakistan, which completed its five-day visit to the US capital said:

“There’s no role for militancy in policy-making and non-state actors cannot be allowed to operate from the Pakistani territory…In these statements, US officials regularly mentioned the Uri attack, calling it an act of “cross-border terrorism” and urging Pakistan to stop these attacks.”

In a meeting chaired by PM Nawaz Sharif, the civilian government has informed the military leadership of the growing international isolation of Pakistan…military-led intelligence agencies are not to interfere if law enforcement acts against militant groups that are banned or until now considered off-limits for civilian action.

This was followed by recommendations of the Senate Committee of the Whole House of Pakistan which stated:

“Keeping in view the need, efficacy and usefulness of backchannel talks between India and Pakistan, the talks should be restored."

PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan addressing a joint session of the parliament on 6th of October ‘16 said:

“Pakistan is isolated because it gives freedom to non-state actors.”

The view was echoed by the ISPR, which stated:

"All communication channels including the hotline between the two militaries are open".

One must wonder if the groups supporting Kashmir’s freedom are to be thrashed, then why has the Pakistani regime glorified Burhan Wani, who was not a “peaceful activist” but a “freedom fighter”?

As for the Kashmir issue, the unfortunate reality remains that the cause of Kashmir was never taken up by the Pakistani leaders for its solution, who chose instead to pay lip service to it to settle scores with India. Pakistan’s first answer to the Kashmir issue is looking up to the same UN which has done nothing for the Palestinian cause, but aided the legitimization of the illegal Israeli occupation, speaks volumes about whose dictation it works on. And the second answer is appealing to the US which more often than not has been found to be the source of such instability. This reiterates the fact that the leaders are merely using the issue under the pressure of the public and the resilient Kashmiris.

India, in the coming years, will witness stronger economic boom, upgradation and expansion in its military technology, and ever increasing regional influence, etc. The key, however, would be that the Congress party having historical links with the British, if given the chance to rule, doesn’t halt or decrease the pace of these ongoing plans with the US which it had done in past. The longer the US-China Cold War goes on in the region, the stronger the chances for India to expand in many domains. However, history has proven that the United States’ “agents” don’t end up well after the fulfillment of the US’s objective.

Let’s be honest, the current world of politics is not about friendship or love but the hegemony of the stronger on the weaker states. Any nation which is strongly knitted together on the basis of ideological bonds, with its leaders adhering to the same ideology, is more likely to prosper and exert its influence on others in the long run. The top brass and the public must ponder over what lies ahead for Pakistan in its future. Today, Pakistan has been brought to a stage on which it is prone to following a deteriorating trend; even the US-installed regime in Kabul which has no influence over its people or country aims to threaten it.

Pakistan, with its resources, a military that is considered one of the best in the world, possessing a strong strategic location, can do wonders on any given forum. However, it lacks ideological bonding and system, independent policy and leaders for which it was created. It can create a ripple effect spreading from the Far East to Central Asia if its potential is realized. However, such ideas will remain utopian under the prevalent system and leaders.

We have been told that nothing is permanent in this jingoistic game, hence, as soon as the “process of normalization” resumes in the coming months, the banners of “Butcher Modi” will be replaced with “Welcome Modi” until the next Kashmiri issue is brought onscreen.