The new dimension in strategic matrix
Lt General K J Singh
The resurgence of demand for vacation of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) is the new milestone in Indo-Pakistan strategic exchange. Though earlier rubbished as mere rhetoric, it is now being discussed as likely possibility. Bilawal Bhutto, heir apparent of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has been asking Prime Minister Imran Khan to stop fretting about Article 370 and focus on saving POK. It is indeed like forcing reckless batsman on to back foot. Pakistan since partition has taken revanchist line, aiming to gain control of entire state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Malevolent line of thinking was fuelled primarily by parity (getting more than even with India) fixation, self-appointed guardianship of faith (ideological frontiers) syndrome and above all gross under estimation of Indian capabilities, notably a belief that India lacks will power and intent to take on Pakistan.
Khakhi Generals have been repeatedly leveraging first mover advantage combined with nuanced and cultivated facade of irrationality to gain control of escalation matrix in strategic exchanges to retain initiative. The narrative of Kabayali Lashkars in 1947, infiltrator task forces with provocative names like Babur, Khilzi and Ghaznavi in 1965, Razakars in East Pakistan, Mujahids in Kargil and the on-going proxy war in J&K has continued unabated. Horror story has been punctuated with inciting and supporting of rebels in the North East and Khalistan terrorists. In keeping with our forgiving nature, new generation of Indians, obsessed with present situation in valley has little idea of now forgotten links between erstwhile Pakistan and militant groups in the north-eastern states dating back to 1952. Utilizing East Pakistan as staging post, sanctuary, weapons and training, including Chinese assistance, was funnelled to Naga militants.
This misadventure continued till ’90s with scope extended under complicit military rulers of Bangladesh to include many other groups, notably United Liberation Front of Assam. The entire story has been documented by Hein G Kiessling in highly acclaimed book “Faith, Unity, Discipline: The ISI of Pakistan”.
India, in contrast, has been tentative, reactive and defensive and was able to grab control of strategic inter play, only temporarily for brief periods during liberation of Bangladesh and Operation Meghdoot in Siachen. This appears to be now changing with Balakot surgical strikes and revocation of Article 370. India seems to have called off nuclear bluff, discovered new strategic space below nuclear sabre rattling and even injected sense of shock and awe in Rawalpindi General Headquarters. It is indeed heartening to note that for once, we are in control of escalation matrix and are living up to the name of ‘fox land’, used by Pakistan to describe us in their war games.
The call for re-integration of POK is not all about being wily but fits in with our concept of ‘Dharma Yudh’ or struggling for the right cause. The vast stretches of occupied territory originally included Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Shakshgam valley and even Aksai Chin. Even if Pakistan is given benefit of doubt on Aksai Chin, illegally seized by China in ’50s, while India slept, it cannot be absolved of criminal act of gifting away 6,993 sq km of strategically important, Shakshgam to Chinese in 1963. Even worse was diabolic plot of engineering secret Karachi pact on April 29, 1949 with forged signatures of founder president of POK, Sardar Ibrahim Khan and chief of J&K Muslim Conference, Ghulam Abbas. Pseudo agreement separated and legitimized forcible occupation of 72,971 sq km of GB.
The entire occupied territory was technically in ‘stand still’ mode and act was executed without consultation with local populace, India and not even reported in media. By this act, Pakistan took direct control of GB. The sordid plot was kept secret for 59 long years till revealed in the court proceedings of high court of POK in 1990s and later included in the so-called Constitution of POK in 2008.
Shia soldiers of Northern Light Infantry were misused as cannon fodder in Kargil and their sacrifices and mortal remains were not even acknowledged by ungrateful Pakistan Army. With their leaders in exile, 18 lakh Shias in GB face increasing persecution. The entire region is being subjected to demographic and cultural inversion, on the lines of Hanisation of Xinjiang. Their natural resources like gold mines have been handed over to Chinese companies.
Vast hydrographic potential of this region is planned to be tapped as part of China–Pakistan Economic Corridor. It is ironical that GB is being subjected to ecological plundering with submergence of large tracts of territory. In one case, reservoir is planned to be situated in GB and power house in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, thereby giving royalty benefit to the latter.
Residual POK, which is only 13,297 sq km and one sixth of GB with population of 40 lakh is facing increasing marginalization of local Kashmiris and Mirpuris by Punjabi Pothoharis and Pashtuns. The province has sham democracy with no voice in Parliament and parties demanding freedom are not even allowed to contest in local elections. All dissent in GB and POK is suppressed brutally under Schedule IV of notorious Control of Terrorism Act. On the other hand, earthquake of 2005 was utilized by Hafiz Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Dawah affiliated NGO Falah-e-Insaniyat to proliferate Madrasas and radicalism creating terror launch pads.
Liberation of POK, or at least strategic stretches vital for our security, is likely to be long, tedious and tough struggle entailing building up of required niche capabilities and asymmetries besides tacit nod or at least acquiescing stance of relevant powers. In the interim, it is good bargaining leverage to retain initiative on strategic matrix.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.