On 18th September, Pakistan trained militants entered an Indian military camp in Uri and left 18 soldiers dead and 23 wounded. 24 hours later the “peace-bus”, Carvan-e-Aman resumed its service as if it was just another ordinary day. The situation is anything but ordinary and peaceful. Labelled as one of the worst attacks on Indian army in more than a decade, the Uri assault has awakened New Delhi from its slumber. The situation in Kashmir, for months had been indicative of troubled times ahead. Ever since Burhan Wani, commander of the Kashmiri militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed in a confrontation with Indian security forces in July this year, the Valley has been paralysed by curfews, clashes and angry demonstrations by stone-pelting youth shouting anti-India slogans. Pellet gun casualties have further worsened the situation.
What will it take for the Government of India to realize that no amount of goodwill is going to put a hiatus to Pakistan’s agenda of spreading terror in the Valley? Why, after facing defeat in three wars (1965, 1971 and Kargil 1999) Pakistan is still a thorn badly stuck in the heel? Why is Pakistan so obsessed with Kashmir and why has India still not crushed the very source of terror?
Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir
Pakistan’s rivers flow through India first and then enter Pakistan, leaving the latter in constant fear of having its water supply interrupted, especially in times of war. Hence, in 1960 the World Bank brokered the Indus Waters Treaty to grant access of water to Pakistan, limiting India’s usage of Indus water to 20% for irrigation, transport and power generation.
Through Gilgit-Baltistan in PoK, lies Pakistan’s connect with China – the Karakoram highway. Pakistan views the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic corridor) as a game-changer, as it will give Pakistan access to immense economic opportunities. FDI in Pakistan will increase and more than 7 lakh jobs will be created, uplifting its flailing economy. But these are not the only reasons for Pakistan’s evil eye for Kashmir. Since the time of its accession to India, Kashmir has been a sore point between India and Pakistan with the latter claiming that Maharaja Hari Singh used force the suppress the will of Kashmiris, who wanted to merge with Pakistan and not India. And it has been stoking the fire ever since.
Terror from across the LoC
The terror in Kashmir has Pakistan’s stamp all over it. There is no doubting Pakistan’s role from the beginning. The militants are armed with the latest weapons and have months and years of training. Their network is spread all across the globe. The Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani is one among many who are being questioned for amassing crores of rupees in the name of azadi fund to fuel the unrest in the Valley. According to recent findings by intelligence agencies, funds from Pakistan are reaching the agitators in Kashmir through hawala accounts run by bogus trading companies in Delhi. Investigation in the Uri attack is indicating the role of Pakistan based terrorist group, Jaish-e-Mohammed. The depth of infiltration can be judged from the on-going investigation of the Uri attack which points to an inside hand. Pakistan has been continuously violating the 740 km long LoC, 550 km of which is fenced. Despite motion sensors, thermal imaging devices, lighting systems and alarms along the fencing, Pakistan violated the 2003 ceasefire agreement with India on 44 occasions in 2010. The number rose to 51 in 2011 and 93 in 2012. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar puts the figure at 583 in 2014 and 199 till June this year. Despite Indian army’s tireless efforts, arms are being smuggled and infiltrators are crossing over from Pakistan by huge numbers. It’s anyone’s guess how many are entering India riding the “peace bus”.
China’s shrewd game plan
Other than Pakistan, the country which stands to gain most out of the Indo-Pak struggle over Kashmir is China.
The CPEC frees China from its geographical handicap – no access to Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond. 80% of China’s oil travels a distance of almost 16,000 km and takes 2-3 months to reach its mainland. With the CPEC connecting it directly to Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Bay of Bengal, this distance would reduce to less than 5,000 km. The corridor will physically connect China to markets in Asia and give it locational advantage to compete with major Middle-Eastern ports. Chinese products which are now reaching Europe in 45 days, will take only 10 days to reach their destination markets, giving China a cost advantage over other countries.
China has invested $46 billion in the CPEC project, topping the list of countries which have invested in Pakistan in the past two years. The mineral-rich provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are attractive destinations for Chinese investors. The Karakoram highway which is part of the CPEC, is the only link between China and Pakistan. And it passes through Kashmir’s Gilgit Balistan region, which has been illegally occupied by Pakistan. As long as the region is under Pakistan’s control, China has nothing to worry about. But if the region merges back with India, then China has a lot to be concerned about as India would never allow the construction of CPEC. China’s presence at Gwadar port will be threat for India.
So, if India goes to war with Pakistan, China will undoubtedly be protective in Pakistan’s defence and support the latter. Last year, when India appealed to censure Pakistan at the UN, China voted against the appeal. Is this the past is coming to bite us back? According to former United Nations Under-Secretary General, Sashi Tharoor, Jawaharlal Nehru had “declined a United States offer” to India to “take the permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council” around 1953 and suggested that it be given to China. Although the possibilities of any such event are meagre as in 1953 India was neither an economic force nor a military super power to meet the eligibility criteria for getting a permanent seat at the UNSC.
Pakistan is about one-fourth the size of India and a much smaller economy. Sponsoring terror is a costly game and Pakistan has been on it for years, especially since the 1990s. How has Pakistan been able to generate funds to feed the militants and Kashmiri separatists? Is part of China’s investment in Pakistan being siphoned off to sustain terror on Indian soil?
Every Indian is itching for revenge. Should we declare a war on Pakistan?
As much as the desired answer is Yes, it’s not the solution. If India declares a war on Pakistan, China will renew its assault from the other side of the border, already having captured the Aksai Chin region. Pakistan has robust air defence systems. While India has one of the largest standing armies in the world, Pakistan has the nuclear advantage. According to the Arms Control Association, Pakistan has an estimated 120 nuclear warheads against India’s 110. Even if India decides to push Pakistan out of Kashmir and reclaim the land, will the people of Kashmir celebrate the victory? India needs to work on a two-pronged strategy – first, more than winning Kashmir, GoI should focus on winning the hearts of Kashmiri people. They do not need promises but real development. Secondly, financial and diplomatic relations with Pakistan have to be severed.
Now, if Pakistan does not hold the sanctity of any agreement, why are we holding on to our side of the bargain? India should forgo all treaties, especially the Indus Waters Treaty, choking the very life line of the terror nation. Pakistan exports terror to India and India grants it Most Favoured Nation (MFN ) status for bilateral trade. A befitting reply would be to impose economic sanctions on Pakistan. Although the impact is likely to be weak as in 2014, India’s trade with Pakistan made up for less than 5% of Pakistan’s total trade, amounting to $2.5 billion. On the other hand, China’s trade with Pakistan amounted to almost $13 billion during the same year.
India should freeze all diplomatic ties with Pakistan and mount pressure on US, Saudi Arabia, China and other nations to impose financial sanctions on Pakistan. Although China, Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend’, expressed shock over the attack and said that it “opposes and condemns all kinds of terrorism”, too much should not be read in the statement.
Pakistan was hoping to garner sympathy for itself at the 71st United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York where it was aiming to highlight atrocities it alleges have been committed by the Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir. But the Uri attack happened at a wrong time for Pakistan and has turned tables against it.
India must put pressure on UN to declare Pakistan as a terror-sponsoring state. International condemnation of the Uri attack will support India’s stance against Pakistan. Two of the five permanent members of the UNSC, Russia and France, have strongly criticised Pakistan for the attack. Other countries which have shown solidarity with India against Pakistan sponsored terrorism are Germany, Japan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Canada, Mongolia and South Korea.
As South Asia expert Stephen Cohen puts it, “This is a conflict that Pakistan cannot win, and India cannot lose”, it’s a long battle ahead.
As I write this blog, the news coming from Pakistan is that the 19th SAARC Summit to be hosted by Pakistan in November is likely to be postponed with India, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh- four of the eight SAARC members have decided to pull out, citing incitement of terror in the region.