The Pulwama attack has exposed new fissures in India-Pakistan relations. Just as the news about the gruesome killing of 44 paramilitary forces was unfolding in the Indian occupied Kashmir, the Indian media, in grip of ultra-nationalist sentiments, not only accused Pakistan for conducting the ghastly act, but also demanded from the Indian government “a matching and befitting response” against Pakistan.
Going overboard in their reaction, the politicians, cutting across ideological lines, frothed a similar anger. The only sensible voice in this chorus was of the former Chief Minister Jammu & Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah, who reprimanded a young journalist for falling into the inadvertent blame game of accusing Pakistan without knowing the ground realities in Kashmir.
He made correct assessments on the Kashmir issue: One, the insurgency in Kashmir was indigenous and not entirely dependent on Pakistan. Two, India rather than talking to the Kashmiris was using force to quell dissent. Three, guns will not unravel the Kashmir conundrum.
As the cacophony of pushing Pakistan to the wall continued, another fit of anger from the Indian policy makers hit the headlines: India withdrew the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status from Pakistan.
It has remained a pattern. Any in case of an attack on the Indian soil, Pakistan is suspected of plotting the attack. In another pattern, the international community too joins India on its ride of self-pity, without demanding concrete evidence of Pakistani involvement from India.
Here, Pakistan is not only blamed for carrying out the Pulwama attack, but the jury is also out on giving Pakistan the taste of its own medicine. The US Ambassador in Pakistan met with Pakistan foreign office personnel with an advice to restrain the non-state actors from infiltrating into Kashmir. In yet another pattern, the video released on social media, allegedly by Jash-e-Muhammad, the outfit having taken the responsibility for the attack, has been instantly accepted as “hard evidence”.
Ideally, the self-confession video of a young boy surrounded by arms and heavy guns should have shaken India out of its slumber and seeing where its youth is heading. After all, when India claims Kashmir to be its Atoot ang (the indispensable part), the Kashmiris, irrespective of their caste, creed and religion, are a responsibility of the state of India.
Will India ever understand that Kashmir is not merely the name of a territory, and that a territory is just a meaningless piece of land without citizens?
Let us brave the fact that the aspirations, the dreams and the will of the indigenous population always win at the end of the day. Let us face the reality that by throwing the Taliban-induced insurgency in Afghanistan into Pakistan’s basket, the US could not for too long turn its eyes from the real issue of returning the ownership of Afghanistan to where it belongs.
Kashmir is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan and the resolution lies in understanding what the locals want from both the countries. But what has India chosen to do? Shut down the remaining doors of interaction with Pakistan. Whether its stubbornness or a calculated move, this policy of focusing on isolating Pakistan, rather than on the suffering of the Kashmiris that led to the Pulwama attack, will backfire. The message received by Kashmiri freedom fighters is of a state still bent on using the muscular side of its brain instead of where the wisdom lies.
Of late, South Asia has been in the grip of arms race and with this new episode it might get fierce. Recently, in October 2018, India has signed a deal with Russia to buy five S-400 missile systems worth US $ 5.4 billion, one of the biggest defence deals in Indian history. By the time this missile system is delivered in 2020, Pakistan might as well have developed a counter strategy to balance power against India.
China has already agreed to sell Pakistan 48 military grade drones. According to Pakistan’s National Command Authority, Pakistan’s Ababeel missile, a Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRV), is equipped to counter the Ballistic Missile Defence System of India. In a similar attempt to enhance its second strike capability, India has launched its first domestically built nuclear-powered submarine. Pakistan has vowed to counter this move as well.
In the perfect analogy of bullet versus butter, what would have been left for the development of the poor, who are in millions in India, after spending $2 billion into building Arihant, the nuclear power submarine? And Pakistan too, on the cusp of a balance of payment crisis, would also have to leave its own millions in the swamp of poverty to balance the power equation.
Sooner or later, there will be a solution to Kashmir with Pakistan on board. The moderate and liberal voices in India, from within and outside, have pressed Delhi to take the dialogue route with Pakistan. But India has been rejecting Pakistan’s every overture to interact. The Composite Dialogue offered the perfect methodology of incrementally reaching a solution to contentious issues, but India has stalled the process because it wants to about “terrorism” before talking on any other issue.