Pakistan was born to serve the strategic interests of the West. Its creation was artificial, unprecedented, and based on the geo-strategic perceptions of the world powers who acquiesced to stand as mute spectators to one of the largest migrations and genocides in history.
Pakistan was an idea that had little basis, no historical or cultural affinity, no commonality in values, language, food habits, way of life or beliefs save one – religion. Championed by a leader whose dream did not last beyond even its first year, he was promised the impossible – a nation separated by 4000 km and a people who had nothing in common except that they believed in the Koran. That dream was shattered in 1971 barely 24 years after its creation, testimony to the machinations and motives of a self-serving West.
The unbridled aspirations of a fledging state-led it to one fiasco after another. In its quest to integrate the state of J&K by treachery, perfidy & deceit she was embroiled in four unsuccessful and utterly disastrous wars with India, one resulting in its decimation and the creation of a new nation, Bangladesh. From its very inception, Pakistan was duped by a sympathetic British government that promised Jinnah the whole of J&K as well as Bengal.
When that promise lay in tatters by decisive action by Indian troops after the Instrument of Accession was signed by the Maharaja of Kashmir, the British stepped in, manipulating the progress of battle (remember the Chiefs of both armies were British Generals) to stop the Indian Army from running over the disoriented and defeated Pak Army and integrating what is now called Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) with the state of J&K. That action became the basis of the oft-heard Pakistan narrative that “J&K is an unfinished agenda of Partition”. It also gave Pakistan an opportunity to manufacture a false sense of victimhood which remains to date.
Meanwhile, internally the dream of a democratic Islamic Republic was short-lived as the Army stepped in to take over the reins of power within a decade of its existence. The British trained Pakistan Army was already in the Western camp when it joined the CENTO and SEATO in the early 50s. Supported by the West, the US-UK combine encouraged the Pakistan military and extended support in the belief that they could control Pakistan for their strategic ends.
Starting from the unsuccessful 1951 Rawalpindi Conspiracy led by Major General Akbar Khan, Pakistan lost its democratic credentials to a series of successive military coups. In 1958, General Ayub Khan took over the reins of Pakistan followed by General Zia ul Haq who, in 1977, overthrew Bhutto and had him hanged, and then the unceremonious removal of Nawaz Sharif in 1999 by Gen Parvez Musharraf. Today, Pakistan Army has become a power on to itself described often by the phrase that while nations have an army, the Pakistan army has a nation!!
Ever since Pakistan has realised the futility of capturing J&K as a chimera, she has shifted the strategy to integrate J&K by unconventional means. The strategy is multi-pronged which looks at a combination of sub-conventional military strategy and information warfare as a means to an end. While the sub-conventional strategy is best described as “death by a thousand cuts”, the information warfare strategy is in many ways a direct lift from the Chinese “three warfares” which looks at the troika of legal, media, and cyber warfare.
Pakistan’s legal warfare is largely driven by its attempt to generate international support through misinterpretation of various UN resolutions, media warfare by driving an aggressive narrative against the Indian state in the media space through social media, paid print and electronic media, and finally, targeted cyber-attacks to undermine India’s strident march to progress and development. India’s consistent stand on the implementation of the UN resolution on holding a plebiscite in J&K, subject to complete withdrawal of the Pakistan Army from POK, does not find favour in the Pakistani narrative and continues to be rejected by Pakistan.
Pakistan understands that the Kashmiri population on either side of Line of Control is highly emotional. The Pakistani narrative has an emotional tag line “Kashmir is a jugular vein of Pakistan” and portrays India as an ‘illegal occupier’ of J&K. The narrative was unfolded by winning over influencers and leaders in Kashmir like Ghulam Nabi Fai, Mohammad Ayub Thakur, Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqui, impressionable students from Regional Engineering College, Medical College, Kashmir University, the Jamat-e-Islami, the members of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and All Parties Hurriyat Conference [APHC], who crafted the ‘Azadi [freedom] movement. This narrative was funded generously by reaching out to the Islamic world, viz, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE, etc, and lavishly used to sustain this movement.
The bad policy followed by illegal funding through narcotics resulted in the Kashmir movement going astray. The ISI had its hand in the till and the Pakistani Generals raked in huge money all the while espousing the Kashmir cause to cover their ill-gotten wealth. A study by some researchers in 2016 indicated that for every rupee sent from Pakistan for stone pelting, only 10 paise was reaching the pawns who executed the act.
Till about 2018, proxies of Pakistan in the Valley used alternative channels of funding themselves, however slowly these networks started getting choked. When the long arm of the Indian judicial establishment got its clutches on senior APHC leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and he realised that the gravy train had reached its end, he announced his resignation and openly conceded that corruption was the cause of his resignation. There is ample proof that the so-called ‘self-determination struggle’ is not driven by ideology but by money.
While the Indian Army addressed the kinetic operations eliminating terrorists and created conditions for the political process to kick start, the non-kinetic part was not addressed effectively. With secular and apolitical credentials and limited resources at hand, Army was particularly handicapped in the information warfare domain. The hugely popular Operation Sadhavana, now into its second decade, did make an impact and continues to support social activities, empowerment, and job creation with its meager resources.
Even today, the Army engages almost 20000 youth on an everyday basis through a host of activities, managing 43 Army Goodwill Schools spread over J&K and Ladakh, organising over 200 medical camps, 150 veterinary Camps, conducting 100 capacity building tours, a large number of sports and cultural events, and many such activities. Nevertheless, much more needs to be done to win the perception management battle. To contest and defeat Pakistan’s IW strategy led by the DGISPR, India needs to increase its commitment by a magnitude. DGISPR runs a vast media empire virtually running huge social media farms, hired agencies, and has social media cells embedded in all its diplomatic missions.
Pakistan was taken completely by shock and awe on August 5, 2019, when the Government of India revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave ‘special status’ to J&K. In the last two years, the people of Kashmir have welcomed the change in J&K, notwithstanding criticism by the PAGD, a group of ‘entitled politicians who find themselves side-lined and the APHC which is facing an identity crisis, ever since its gravy train fell off the track. Imran Khan’s government is grappling with a new reality that confronted them in J&K.
Except for expressing solidarity by resorting to dramatics and theatrics like standing still for one minute, stopping all traffic for one minute, and honking in front of PM Modi’s picture placed at an Islamabad road crossing, precious little has happened to roll back the historic transformation in J&K.
A series of gaffs by PM Imran Khan can best describe the frustration and lack of cohesive response to the abrogation of Article 370. He reportedly said that by abrogating Article 370, New Delhi has “Gone against [Indian] Constitution… against a verdict of their Supreme Court as well as against that of J&K High Court.”, a tacit acceptance of the Indian judiciary’s view on the issue. On another occasion he thundered that Article 370 abrogation violates UNSC and UNGA resolutions on Kashmir, little realising that the decision taken by the Government of India was without any reference to UN resolutions or directions from UNSC, leaving analysts bewildered which UN Resolution was in fact violated!!
At another gathering, Imran Khan alleged that Article 370 abrogation violates the Shimla Agreement. The Simla Agreement states that “the 1972 Agreement on bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, also known as the Shimla Agreement, which states that the final status of Jammu and Kashmir is to be settled by peaceful means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.” This elicited a classic retort from Pakistan’s Peoples Party [PPP] Chairman Bilawal Bhutto who said “Earlier, Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir was on how we will take Srinagar. Now, under Imran Khan’s government, we have been forced to think on how we will save Muzaffarabad”!
It is evident that Pakistan’s narrative on J&K is fast losing credibility and relevance. With enough happening on the Pak – Afghan border, violence, and insurgency in Balochistan, unrest in POK over the rigged elections, and disobedience in Gilgit Baltistan over the unfair distribution of wealth as well as exploitation by the Chinese driven CPEC, Imran Khan and his government are hanging by a slender thread.
Moreover, a tired and over-committed Pakistan Army facing a binary stretch has sued for a cease-fire with India on the LOC, a realistic acceptance that it is time to give up the terror as an instrument of state policy in J&K. It is best that the Pakistan government revisits its policy on J&K and come to terms with the new reality of the changing equations in the UT of J&K.
Courtesy: Maj Gen Mandip Singh SM, VSM (Retd)