Banking on war hysteria


Riaz Missen

WHETHER the war hysteria in two South Asian neighbours will end up in nuclear showdown seems to be a relevant question at a time India is threatening to revoke Indus Waters Treaty and Pakistan taking such a step tantamount to declaration of war. That the two countries possess nuclear weapons and long range missiles in their arsenals makes war all the time an international concern as the consequences will not be limited to the two countries only.
As the civilian leadership of Islamabad and Delhi resorts to war mongering, it is clearly pursuing antagonistically opposite goals. While Pakistan is projecting intifada in Kashmir as a ‘freedom movement’, India is regarding it just a mayhem supported by Pakistan with the help of Jihadi organizations. If Islamabad wants to involve international community to resolve the Kashmir issue on humanitarian basis, New Delhi takes Kashmir as a bilateral issue. Contrary to the past, China has real stakes in South Asia as the region experiences war hysteria. Beijing’s GDP having grown at the pace of 10% during last two decades, it is investing a lot in Pakistan and Central Asia on infrastructure development as a measure to connect itself with Europe through rail and road links. Though the US has not openly opposed China’s ‘Look West’ policy, but it definitely means for it losing strategic influence in Eurasia. Tensions in Middle East and mayhem in Afghanistan all signify a geopolitical upheaval fuelled by the forces that stand opposed to the revival of centuries old Silk Road, connecting Asia and Europe, which China seeks to revive. UK’s withdrawal from EU is also part of plan to scuttle efforts to connect Eurasia.
From China’s viewpoint the South Asian tensions are unfortunate as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is on the way right now but it is something that is natural. It is because the project has been undertaken at a time trust gap between Pakistan and New Delhi is still wide enough to let matters pass quietly. India has neither been consulted nor invited to participate in such a strategically important project. India’s frustration over the CPEC resembles the one it experienced at the time of the launching of the War on Terror. The then BJP government, after failing to convince the Bush Administration that Pakistan should be bombed first, for the reason that it was ‘epicenter of terrorism’, before dislodging the Taliban regime had launched its silent war to make the frontline state weak and fragile. Using the pretext of attack on its Parliament, it amassed troops on Pakistan’s borders for a year diverting the neighbors’ attention and providing enough opportunity to the Taliban/ Al-Qaeda outfits to reassemble and consolidate their position in FATA. Playing up the Indo-Pak tensions in 2003 elections, the MMA, an alliance of religious parties, won the slot of the Opposition leader in National Assembly and made government in the then NWFP other than securing mayorship of the port city, Karachi.
Undoubtedly, Pakistan suffered a lot due to India’s opposition to its frontline state in the US-led War on Terror. Though Islamabad came in the open to claim that India was supporting militants to carry out acts of terror on its soil at the time of launching the National Action Plan (NAP) in 2014 but it seems quite clear that the strategy was in operation since Pakistan was declared by the US as the frontline state in War on Terror. BJP is drumming up war and threatening to revoke Indus Water Treaty apparently to vent its frustration over the CPEC. It will get nothing out of its bad rhetoric against Pakistan but emboldening the right-wing groups in the society.
New Delhi’s warmongering is also a disservice to democratic existence of Pakistan. The ruling parties of the country, which have wasted national wealth through fiscal mismanagements and corruption, have found an opportunity to deflect public pressure for strict accountability. The feudal lobby, wearied of the inflow of tomatoes and potatoes from eastern border, has made even PTI rally behind the government as Modi govt issues warning to revoke Indus Waters Treaty.
The sorry state of affairs, whereby India and Pakistan have severed ties and got SAARC summit postponed, speaks loud of the narrow mindedness of the leadership. The political parties grab votes by promoting fear and anarchy not by upholding a promising agenda of socio-economic development. They don’t care where the world is moving under the spell of global age. Even democracy has not urged them to come closer for a greater cause. In India it is BJP. In Pakistan almost every party that has ever had a chance to rule Pakistan as a whole or in part is all there to point scores on border tensions. They chant war slogans without realizing the dangers it involves for the people whom they represent.
— The writer is political analyst based in Islamabad.