It is now emphatically clear that Pakistan’s generals are in no mood for peace with India. Coming eight months after an attack on IAF’s Pathankot base, Sunday’s attack in Uri that led to 20 soldiers being killed, is one of the opening scenes of a well-choreographed plan thrashed out in Rawalpindi GHQ.
There are indications that Pakistan’s army wants to provoke the Indian leadership to sanction military action. In January, the Modi government was not provoked by the attack on Pathankot base. Instead, it sought to enlist Pakistani help to isolate or name the non-state actor behind that attack. However, another attack like the one in Uri that has led to the death of the highest number of soldiers in 17 years is bound to test India’s patience.
Pakistan’s military has been informed that weapons found on killed terrorists in Uri had Pakistani markings. Fingers point to the role of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a handmaiden of Pakistan's army. The attack on Uri camp comes in the backdrop of Kashmir Valley protests and Pakistan’s decision to run a high-voltage campaign in world capitals to highlight India’s alleged occupation of Kashmir. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to support Balochistan’s independence has further riled Pakistan’s military and government.
In the coming week, the two countries will fight it out at the UN General Assembly where Nawaz Sharif will blame India’s human rights record in Kashmir and demand the right to self-determination in Indian Kashmir. Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will expose Pakistan’s backing and support for terrorism in India and rest of South Asia, apart from highlighting Pakistan’s occupation of Gilgit and Baltistan.
Rising temperatures in India-Pakistan relations suit Pakistan’s generals.
They have been wary of India’s growing relations with Afghanistan and Iran. Last week, visiting Afghan president Ashraf Ghani — while addressing a think-tank in New Delhi — spoke at length on how Pakistan was patronising terror groups on its soil to attack his own country and India. The Nawaz-Modi détente was frowned upon by the army, which has now capitalised on protests in the Valley to push forward the Kashmir issue globally. While western powers particularly, the US government, have become more vocal about Pakistan’s support to terrorism in India and Afghanistan, Islamabad has gone into overdrive to highlight protests in the Valley and seek India’s condemnation by world powers.
For the past two months, Pakistan’s civilian government was egged on by generals to take an aggressive stance towards protests in parts of Kashmir and spread anti-India venom across the globe. Tainted by the Panama Papers revelations that he and his family owned foreign bank accounts, Nawaz found that Kashmir would be a handy issue to divert their attention. Pakistan’s government, media and civil society used the two-month-old protests in Kashmir Valley as a handy tool to divert attention from the internal security situation in their country. On Sunday, a section of the Pakistani media was quick to hint that India was behind the Uri camp attack as it sought to divert attention from the developments in Indian Kashmir.
Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif has been very vocal in his support to protestors in the Kashmir Valley. On 7 September, he called Kashmir 'Pakistan’s lifeline' and said, “We shall continue our diplomatic and moral support to the freedom movement at all levels”. Raheel, one of Pakistan’s most popular army chiefs is due to retire in November. There is much speculation over his next move after he publicly denied seeking an extension of tenure. There are reports that Nawaz, on his return from the UN General Assembly, will seek Raheel’s nod for his successor’s name.
Rising temperatures in India-Pakistan relations suit Pakistan’s generals
Daily Times has reported that Raheel has chosen Lieutenant-General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who led the massive 10 Corps — that has the responsibility of the LoC and has extensive experience of serving in Pakistan-held Kashmir — to be his successor.
A Kashmir-centric strategy will stay as the focal point of the relationship between India and Pakistan. Rawalpindi’s patronage of “good terrorists” to create further violence in the Kashmir Valley and attack the Indian military will continue with greater zeal in the coming months. India-Pakistan relations are set to worsen as Pakistan’s generals become more determined to foment trouble in India. The Modi government will be hard-pressed to tackle the evolving situation as pressure grows for taking revenge on Pakistan, while internationally there is pressure on New Delhi to not get provoked.