India, bitter irritant in South Asia

1689

SRH Hashmi

BY ending the special status of India-occupied Kashmir, India has shown utter disregard to its own Constitution, to the international community which regards Kashmir as a disputed territory and to the Security Council Resolutions. Of course, Indian treatment of Kashmiris has been the biggest dispute and the main obstacle to the development of decent relations between Pakistan and India and the two have fought quite a few wars over the issue. However, casting aside past bitterness, on coming to power, Imran Khan repeatedly extended a hand of friendship to India and even took practical steps to prove his good intentions, for example, following terror attack in Pulwama for which India habitually blamed Pakistan, when Indian fighters violated our airspace, Pakistan captured the pilot of one of the shot-down jets, but released him soon as a gesture of goodwill. And on a request from India, Pakistan even allowed Narendra Modi’s plane to use Pakistani airspace – closed after Pulwama incident – on way to attend Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting. And there, against all expectations and Indian statements, Narendra Modi and Imran Khan had a meeting.
And just when things seemed to be brightening up, we heard of five Pakistani soldiers embracing martyrdom and one wounded in IED blasts in Chamb sector of Azad Kashmir, very near to the Line of Control. And considering the location, it would not be unreasonable to assume that it was the work of Indian Army which wanted to avenge its humiliation in actual fighting as well as at the international level, with its claim of downing a Pakistani F-16 jet proven wrong with US Defence officials confirming after actual count that all Pakistani F-16s were intact. And that surely took the relations between the two neighbours back to square one. And now we have this extreme step from India. In view of all this, one could be excused for assuming that the hope of improved relations between the two is little more than a pipedream and that giving up trying would be the only sensible course. However, considering that estranged neighbours happen to be nuclear-armed, giving up trying could prove suicidal. Also, with the source of Pakistani rivers under Indian control, by simply curtailing the supply of water when we need it most and at other times by releasing excess water in the rivers and causing floods in Pakistan, India can, and does cause substantial damage to us.
And of course, by using its considerable presence and influence in Afghanistan, India can, and does mischief in Balochistan and elsewhere in Pakistan. Pakistan already has in its custody a serving Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who ran his network of terrorists from Balochistan for years. So, realistically thinking, what are our options on Kashmir now? Well, we have fought a few wars with India over Kashmir. But the only war in which we made significant gains was in 1947/48, whereby we liberated territory right up to what is presently known as the Line of Control. But then this war was fought mainly by the Tribal Lashkars. In the later wars of 1965 and 1999, we did not make any gain and only lost men and money. And in the 1971 war, we actually lost half of Pakistan.
With Donald Trump seemingly losing appetite for big wars, India may also have dropped its ambition of becoming the Asia’s Big Brother by eclipsing China with the help of US military power. And with Kashmir irritant removed, and having failed to isolate Pakistan, India may be persuaded to develop friendly relations with Pakistan which both United States and China advocate. India may also be desperately looking for a way out from the mess it has just landed itself in. Anyway, it is incumbent upon the leaders of India and Pakistan to join hands and bring stability to the impoverished region, followed by peace, progress and prosperity to its unfortunate people who have suffered far too much and deserve better.
— The writer is senior political analyst based in Karachi.