‘Strategic stability in S. Asia tenuous because of Indo-Pak differences’

28 Aug 2019


General Ehsan Ul Haq speaking at the event.—Fahim Siddiqi
General Ehsan Ul Haq speaking at the event.—Fahim Siddiqi

KARACHI: “We must be vigilant to the existential challenges of the rise of genocidal fascism of Hindutva in India.” This was stated by retired General Ehsan Ul Haq, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, while concluding his lecture on “Pakistan: National Security Challenges, the Way Forward” at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Tuesday evening.

Gen Haq said Pakistan has been striving to create conducive environment for its citizens to live with dignity in accordance with the wishes of its founding fathers. “Unfortunately, ever since our creation, we have been confronted with challenges in the realisation of our objectives. These challenges have external and domestic dimensions.”

Gen Haq said Pakistan’s strategic environment has been moulded by its location. Mentioning some of the [external] problems, he said there’s the extended strife and consequent destabilisation in Afghanistan, the stunning developments to ‘‘our immediate west, unrelenting hegemonic aspirations of India aggravated by the rise of Hindutva and the unresolved status of occupied Jammu and Kashmir’’.

He said emergence of China as a global power has unfolded a new paradigm, shifting the geopolitical centre of gravity to the Asia Pacific or Indo-Pacific, triggering strategic realignments. The most important of these strategic understandings is between a rising China and a rejuvenating Russia which has projected a new vision of cooperation for development and stability in Eurasia and beyond.

Gen Ehsan Ul Haq calls for vigilance against the ‘rise of genocidal fascism of Hindutva’

Gen Haq said Pakistan shares religious, cultural and social bonds with Afghanistan. No country has suffered more on account of the continuing strife in Afghanistan than Pakistan. Peace and stability in Afghanistan are vital for Pakistan’s long-term prosperity and progress.

Pakistan has been unwavering from day one in its support for a peace process in Afghanistan. The recent rounds of talks in Qatar have raised hopes for peace there. “However, we have to be cautious in our optimism. There’s also a legitimate concern whether a US-Taliban agreement will merely end the 18-year US intervention or will it also bring peace to Afghanistan.”

Gen Haq said regional strategic stability in South Asia remains tenuous because of the differences between India and Pakistan: a history of conflicts, unresolved disputes — particularly the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir — and India’s relentless arms buildup continuously haunt Indo-Pak relations. In its effort to subdue Pakistan, India has unleashed a covert campaign by fomenting terrorism and insurgencies.

Over the last five years of the fanatic Hindu-dominated Modi government, Indian attitude has become increasingly belligerent; it repeatedly spurns Pakistan’s offers for resumption of dialogue on some pretext or the other.

Modi’s admission of intervention in East Pakistan, references to Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, disruption of the Saarc summit process, escalation along the LoC, claims of phony surgical strikes, and generating a domestic hysteria of confrontation have escalated tensions in the region. With a mass uprising in held Kashmir and Indian atrocities in the valley since 2016, operationalisation of CPEC, and thaw in US-Pak relations, India has become even more frustrated and jingoistic.

The stand-off in the wake of the Pulwama attack and the Aug 5 measures to end the historic status of Kashmir did not come as a surprise. For quite some time some international circles and sane elements in India were expressing alarm that Modi and his fascist allies may go to any limit to promote their agenda of a Hindu rashtra (administration).

Gen Haq said India has been a beneficiary of the West’s double and triple standards of disarmament and non-proliferation. On the back of this support, India continuously challenges the credibility of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence. Pakistan on its part will not move away from its policy of peaceful coexistence, while ensuring the defence of its sovereignty and vital interests. In recent past emboldened by its economic growth and “egged on by patronage of the Indo-US nexus”, India’s strategic ambitions against Pakistan have magnified, he said.

Unfortunately, in the post-9/11 environment of Islamophobia, there has been a dilution of national consensus on the existential threat from India within Pakistan. “I hope the fascist mindset of the Modi regime will be a wake-up call for us in Pakistan. As for our western border, we cannot lose sight of the Indo-Afghan security agreement and India’s military and security presence in Afghanistan”.

Gen Haq said Pakistan is hit the hardest by extremism, and “with no regard for our sacrifices we are blamed as the epicentre of global terror”.

Highlighting the internal challenges, he mentioned the following: identity and nation-building, political instability and rule of law, poor governance, provincial disharmony and economic security.

Gen Haq said that for the last two decades the most ominous aspect of internal challenges has been the scourge of terrorism. Pakistan has been a victim and in the frontline in the struggle against extremism. “The good news is that ours has been a success story.”

Giving figures to back up his claim, he pointed out that in 2009 there were 11,704 fatalities in terrorist acts in Pakistan. In 2013, the number came down to 5,379. In 2016, it dropped to 1,800, and in 2018, the number was 600.

Shedding light on the way forward for Pakistan, Gen Haq said there should be clarity on national interests, national cohesion and consensus on core issues, political stability, internal security and economic self-sustenance.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2019