By Avinash Mohananey
As Sino-Indian relations nosedive and head for a possible confrontation, Pakistan is deriving vicarious pleasure at the way China has applied a chokehold in Ladakh by occupying the Galwan Valley.
Pakistan is part of the bigger strategic move that China is making to subdue India, settle the border dispute to its advantage, push India to accept its hegemony in the region and stay away from a possible US-led anti-China alliance.
How will Pakistan help China in stepping up military pressure on India without getting directly involved? Is it not an opportune moment for Pakistan to avenge its dismemberment in 1971? The answers are simple.
Pakistan will synchronise its actions with that of China, on the border and within Jammu and Kashmir, to engage as many Indian troops as possible.
Pakistan will keep the Line of Control (LoC) alive by continued shelling and by stepping up infiltration. This will leave little scope for any possibility of thinning of troops from the border and from the anti-infiltration grid.
Unfortunately, relations with Pakistan became hostage to domestic electoral considerations in India soon after the new government took over in 2014. We did not realise that peace on the LoC was in our interest – which helped our troops lay effective ambushes on known infiltration routes without having to duck from cross-border shelling.
At the same time, Pakistan would like to keep the pot boiling within J&K. In its assessment of the post-August 5, 2019 scenario in Kashmir, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) went awfully wrong on this count.
Pakistan PM Imran Khan claimed at the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2019, that Kashmiris will be “massacred” by Indian troops once restrictions are removed. Now, making a course correction, ISI has decided to take direct control of militancy and the separatist movement rather than operating through proxies.
Pakistan floated an umbrella terrorist organisation, ‘The Resistance Front’, and ensured that all major terror groups based on its soil, including Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, joined hands and operated under its command. It is being presented as a home-grown outfit resenting Indian “occupation” of Kashmir and the changes that took place on August 5 last year. Pakistan believes that it will help in better control of violence with complete deniability.
Pakistan is also deeply disappointed by the failure of separatists in bringing people out on the streets for violent protests. Pakistan realised that all three leaders of the “Joint Resistance Leadership” are handicapped in doing so for different reasons. SAS Geelani, its best proxy in the Valley, is in extremely poor health. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is under house arrest and not strong enough to confront the government. Yasin Malik faces serious charges and is unlikely to be out early.
So, there is an urgent need to take control of the separatist movement even if it means ditching Geelani.
Geelani was outraged at the appointment of Mohammad Hussain Khatib, a low-level operative from Doda district of Jammu region, as convener of the PoK chapter of Hurriyat Conference. On June 28, he dissociated himself from the organisation and criticised Pakistan for turning this “freedom struggle” into a movement for its own benefit. He accused Pakistan of converting Kashmir into graveyard and Kashmiris in PoK as drug addicts/peddlers.
What Geelani says now has been obvious from the beginning to any sensible person. How can Geelani escape responsibility now? He is equally, if not more, responsible for turning Kashmir into a graveyard. The crucial question is, how to tackle and neutralise the threat from Pakistan?
Reach out to all our friends in the international community to expose Pakistan’s game so that they warn it to stay away from any India-China confrontation.
In the 1962 conflict with China, US president John F Kennedy not only supplied crucial military hardware to India, but also personally wrote to Pakistan president Ayub Khan to keep the border calm so that India can concentrate on China. Kennedy further pressed Ayub to send a personal message to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that Pakistan would not make any moves on the ground.
Internally, we need to keep Kashmir calm and take Kashmiris with us. The first step is to halt the process of issuing controversial domicile certificates. Otherwise, we will straightaway be playing into Pakistan’s hand. Release all those detained around August 5 last year. Assure the people of J&K that their concerns will be addressed.
Remember, a two-front war would not be in India’s strategic and territorial interests.
(The writer is a former IB officer, who served in Pakistan)