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India’s sound and fury

Updated Oct 16, 2016 08:10am


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IN the current crisis, it is tempting to dismiss India’s dire threats, outlandish propaganda, childish antics and illusory ‘surgical strikes’, in Shakespeare’s words, as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. The clamour from India is certainly replete with idiocy and delusional nonsense. Yet, India’s aggressive posture and propaganda may signify a more ominous portent.

It is clear that India has been encouraged by its new alliance with the US to conclude that it can suppress the latest revolt in India-held Jammu and Kashmir with brutal impunity. America and other Western powers are not prepared to speak out against India’s massive violations of human rights in Kashmir.

The fictional ‘surgical strikes’ across the LoC have led some Indian analysts to assert that New Delhi has established a new threshold for military action against Pakistan without evoking retaliation. Do the Modi government and Indian military leaders actually endorse this thesis? Was India prevented from carrying out cross-LoC strikes because of its own assessment that Pakistan would retaliate, or because of the cautionary advice of the US and other powers? If this is not clear, Pakistan will need to evaluate what it needs to do to re-establish the mutual deterrence inducted after the 1998 nuclear tests.

Pakistan’s policymakers must restore focus on the real challenge posed by India’s hostility.

The high-level meeting convened in Islamabad to review the current crisis with India should have focused on such strategic issues and the challenge of defending the hapless Kashmiris. Instead, if the report in this newspaper is correct, it appears that the meeting focused on India’s thesis that Pakistan will be ‘isolated’ because of its incomplete action against ‘terrorist’ groups. Apart from the legal and political complexity of the issue, action on this issue at this time would be interpreted as capitulation to Indian military pressure and threats and, that too, while India openly supports insurrection in Balochistan and sponsors the TTP from Afghan territory. To confound confusion, the sensitive internal deliberations were ‘leaked’ to the press.

Pakistan’s policymakers must restore focus on the real challenge posed by India’s hostility and its oppression in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The prime minister made a bold speech at the UN General Assembly, proposing an investigation of India’s human rights violations in occupied Kashmir; Pakistan-India arms control and military restraint; and consultations with the Security Council to demilitarise Kashmir and implement the Security Council resolutions.

These proposals must be actively promoted by Pakistan’s diplomacy in the Security Council, the Human Rights Council and other relevant forums. The major powers should be apprised of the ground realities. The 20 political envoys dispatched by the prime minister, with some exceptions, are unlikely to be equal to this task. There are at least a dozen experienced and respected diplomats available in Islamabad who could be used for this purpose.

There are three essential messages that need to be conveyed to the international community.

One: Kashmir remains a nuclear flashpoint. India has been unable to extinguish the Kashmiri demand for self-determination in 70 years; it will be unable to do so in the foreseeable future. Every generation of Kashmiris will keep rising against Indian rule. Indian violence will be met by Kashmiri retaliation. India will always blame Pakistan for this. A Pakistan-India war will remain an ever-present threat.

Two: India is obviously being encouraged in its brutality and belligerence by its new-found alliance with the US. New Delhi may convince itself that it is in a position to engage in a limited or punitive war against Pakistan. This would be a catastrophic mistake. Pakistan and India need to adopt measures for mutual restraint to avoid any conflict, now or in the future.

Three: since bilateral efforts have failed for 70 years, it is essential that the international community intercedes forcefully to promote a peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute and prevent a war between Pakistan and India, by design or accident.

Our leaders and people should be clear: Pakistan is not isolated, nor likely to be. In fact, there are several current opportunities for Pakistan’s diplomacy to shift the strategic balance in its favour.

First, Pakistan should open an early dialogue with the incoming US administration to underline the need for a balanced US policy to prevent an Indian threat to Pakistan’s security and to sustain Pakistan-US cooperation on Afghanistan, counterterrorism, non-proliferation as well as trade and investment.

Second, while US support for India’s military build-up is aimed against China, it is Pakistan which faces the primary threat from this build-up. As Pakistan’s strategic partner, China must be asked at the highest level to intensify its strategic cooperation with Pakistan and enable it to effectively counter the advanced military capabilities India is deploying against Pakistan.

Third, Islamabad needs to take full advantage of Russia’s new openness to a strategic relationship with Pakistan and build a relationship covering defence, technology, energy, Afghanistan and countering terrorism.

Fourth, Pakistan and Iran have a common interest in stabilising their Baloch provinces. This can be the foundation for a restored strategic relationship encompassing trade, energy, defence and Afghanistan.

Fifth, Saudi Arabia is strategically adrift due to the erosion of its alliance with the US. Pakistan can extend support to the House of Saud without becoming involved in the competition between Riyadh and Tehran.

Sixth, Turkey’s ties with the US and Nato are also frayed. Pakistan’s already close relationship with Ankara can be expanded across the board.

Last, while the threat from India is existential, it is potential. The hostile intervention from Afghanistan by the TTP and BLA is operational. In the absence of Kabul’s cooperation, ‘surgical strikes’ against TTP safe havens and BLA safe houses should be an active option for Pakistan. Moreover, if Ghani’s government continues to refuse a negotiated peace, Pakistan is well placed to promote an alternative peace process involving those Afghans who are ready to reach a peace settlement based on power-sharing and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn October 16th, 2016

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (33) Closed

Atif Khan Oct 16, 2016 05:25am

When I see Munir Akram's writeup in Dawn, I drop everything to read it.

Continue to please keep us informed.

Arshad Raja Oct 16, 2016 06:37am

Thumbs up !!!

Cheenkapoodle Oct 16, 2016 07:12am

Good point.

Sultan Oct 16, 2016 07:22am

Very good article and spot on description of follies and future course of action has been provided in the simplest way. A must read.

Nadeem Oct 16, 2016 09:54am

Good points. At least we are showing readiness to think alternatives, in transition from our alliance with the west and based on new ground realities. More collective thinking may be required on the part of our Civ-Mil policy makers to converge on something solid.

Khawar Saleem Aslam Oct 16, 2016 10:23am

Very sensible advice to the government.

Fayzee Oct 16, 2016 11:43am

One of a very few articles which not only mentions the problems, but provides solutions and the way forward.

Amin Daha Oct 16, 2016 12:30pm

Again, very well written sir, just like the previous articles by the same author.

Ajmal Oct 16, 2016 01:42pm

The author seems to be living in a la la land

Basit Ali Oct 16, 2016 02:28pm

@Sultan I do not get what is new, we have been hearing this since ages. Do this, do that, and expect the world to listen to us and agree with what WE want and not THEM? Where has it gotten us so far?

Anuj Oct 16, 2016 06:45pm

very well written. I continue to hope for this quality or better fiction from pakistani ex diplomats. Kudos.

Ashar Hamid Oct 16, 2016 06:53pm

Great points

NPS Oct 16, 2016 07:05pm

@Basit Ali, very good and sensible comment from you!

Taimoor khan Oct 16, 2016 07:13pm

Brilliant analysis.

SNB Oct 16, 2016 07:51pm

@Basit Ali Cannot agree more

Ahmed Oct 16, 2016 07:53pm

The solutions given in this article are not realistic. Our main ally the US has abandoned us and has made friends with India to counter the Chinese influence, which to a greater extent depends on peace and prosperity in Pakistan. As CPEC is not acceptable to the US and India and many other countries in the West, so how can they let Pakistan allow China to reap benifits from this mammoth project, so establishment of peace in Pakistan is not in the interest of the US and its allies. Similarly Iran is also tilted towards joining the Indian camp. With Turkey and Saudi we already have good relations as usual. Now Pakistan is being percieved isolated not because of other countries but because the US has replaced Pakistan with India in order contain China. In this scenario Pakistan needs a replacement which could fill the gap created by the US shift. For that to happen Russia will need be brought to play its role. All the other countries will follow suit if China, Russia, Pakistan, North Korea make a bloc to counter the threat of new allaince between India and the US.

auginpk Oct 16, 2016 08:10pm

But who will bell the cat.

Parimal Oct 16, 2016 09:04pm

Suggestions in this article are tired old recommendations. They have not worked for 70 years and why does one think they will work now.

Best suggestion I have is BOTH India and Pakistan should be happy with parts of Kashmir they control. Stop harping for others territory. Work on a solution where two sides of Kashmir have a favorable living and working relationship with reasonably open borders.

Doing so will free BOTH India and Pakistan to focus their energy on uplifting their poor lot and their economy.

Khalid Azhar Oct 16, 2016 09:24pm

Great fan of Mr. Munir Akram's writing style. I hope people at the helm of affairs do look at his valuable opinion.

Arman Oct 16, 2016 09:29pm

India-Pakistan should make sacrifices and solve their differences on Kashmir, taking into account the interests of Kashmiri people. The military build up on the border is unsustainable and is sapping the budget of both countries, which should be spent on food, education, infrastructure and healthcare.

Ilam Oct 16, 2016 10:26pm

Unfortunately, lot many advisors with unlimited options but nobody have got willingness to act. Positive attitude is today more important rather than chest-thumping on nuclear deterrence.

Your Name Oct 16, 2016 11:54pm

There is one more option which we can explore.

We can allow Indian investigators unprecedented access, on par with Americans and Chinese so that they can investigate the alleged attacks emanating from Pakistani soil. Let them satisfy themselves - after all we have nothing to hide. We are the good guys here. We are anyways targeting terrorists and if the Indian investigators find something and someone we can eliminate that too.

This I am sure would bring lasting peace to neighbourhood

Raja farhat Abbas Oct 17, 2016 01:02am

Thank you sir for your sound advice.

AAQIB ALI Oct 17, 2016 03:35am

Fantastic writtenup. Love to read more like this. Kudos to Munir Akram sb...

Kamal Oct 17, 2016 03:38am

It's clear that a majority of people on both sides desire to live in peace. Some radicals with the connivance of some officials and diplomats are successful in dividing us. This will get us nowhere. Let's deal with the radicals, rather than trying to get help from third parties

Ahsan Gul Oct 17, 2016 06:12am

Good analysis and viable solution to India and Pakistan crisis. Our leadership must recognize mind games that India is playing to arouse its public. Thanks

R S Chakravarti Oct 17, 2016 08:40am

There was (and is) too much talk in India about the so-called surgical strikes. But two TV channels played telephone conversations which suggest that they did indeed take place. In one of them, a police officer in Mirpur was fooled into thinking he was speaking to his boss or a senior officer. The other was a tapped conversation between would-be terrorists after the strikes.

Faiqa Oct 17, 2016 11:27am

You always write up to the mark.

Good one Oct 17, 2016 12:17pm

You are spot on! The most balanced piece I've read from DAWN.

onlooker Oct 18, 2016 11:57am

As good as an average write-up & not up to your usual standard Sir. Pakistan is misreading India, best of luck.

ark Oct 18, 2016 12:25pm

The US has been Israel's strong ally. If it has nothing to say about Palestine it could care less about Kashmir. China's human rights record is so dismal (a country where State decides whether you can fast or have more than one child) that Kashmiri uprising would hardly seem to matter. So its time we started listening to the world, to China (because its our strategic partner) and to US (because its a global power). Combat terrorism, period Fancy terms like 'non state actors' don't change what terrorism means. ! Modi is simply a reporter , saying in public what our friends and partners may have been telling us behind closed doors all along

kanwarch Oct 18, 2016 05:08pm

@Parimal I think it is for the people of Kashmir to decide their future and not India or Pakistan. There should be a plebiscite in Kashmir giving them options of Independence, merging with Pakistan or India. Once this issue is resolved in this fair way and according to the resolutions of UN then everything can be sorted later. Till then problem will continue for ever.

Syed Chishti Oct 18, 2016 06:14pm

Both India&Pakistan should stop bleeding each other unnecessarily using IHK Kashmir issue as tool for future conflicts between India & Pakistan. Kashmiri's be given complete independence through self-determination&make them an independent state&safe haven for the world of tourism. Let India&Pakistan remain independent, as free ideological states, if India&Pakistan doesn't want to fight another useless war with nuclear weapons.

Pakistani's are poised for more autonomous provinces within the present existing federation. Pakistan should focus on its defense from external aggression&build its basic institutions for the future generations through education&development programmes.

Kashmir issue must be resolved peacefully in light of UN resolutions&let the life move-on beyond hate&war rhetoric.