Pakistan’s foreign policy options post Pulwama attack – Ijaz Awan

The Pulwama attack in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), last week, has reactivated the anti-Pakistan propaganda-mill in India. The attack took place in IOK, where the majority Muslim population is demanding its legitimate right of the plebiscite, and not in mainland India. It is no secret that IOK is a highly militarized region, with a ratio of one Indian soldier per seven Kashmiris. In such a densely militarized region, nearly a hundred thousand Kashmiris have been killed along with reports of many Kashmiri women assaulted by the Indian Army. Hence, the Pulwama strike must be viewed in this backdrop.

For India, blaming the strike on Pakistan, especially when a “defunct” organization has claimed its responsibility, without any probe is seated in the guilt where India wishes to deny ground realities. This denial of reality has also helped India fend off attention from its law enforcement agencies, which were primarily responsible for the security lapse, and its human rights violations in the region. This blame game and the excitement to pin the strike on Pakistan has also resulted in a “Faux Pas”, where “India TV”, yesterday, reported in haste how Abdul Rashid Ghazi, killed in Lal Masjid Siege in 2007 in Islamabad, was the mastermind behind the attack.  

Such mistakes not only expose a lack of maturity in New Delhi but also highlight how the ruling BJP thrives on an anti-Pakistan narrative. The global community, however, should be smart enough to connect the dots and deduct whether such a strike, at this point in time, would bring any good to Pakistan? On the other hand, the BJP government also needs to understand and realise that an indigenous freedom struggle cannot be externalized by accusations against Pakistan.

It has now been widely reported that the suicide bomber who perpetrated the Pulwama attack was in the custody of the Indian Army in 2017, where he was tortured and humiliated. Moreover, the Indian media has also reported how the bomber, during his school days, was forced by the Indian forces to rub his nose in the dirt. This, again, suggests why India needs self-reflection for its policies in IOK, rather than blaming everything on Pakistan.

The US administration and Mike Pompeo are also “entertaining” the Indian narrative and are accusing Pakistan-based defunct organizations; something that has gone unnoticed in the celebrated welcome of our Saudi Royal guest. The narrative coming out of Washington, especially when the Trump administration is relying on Islamabad for Taliban peace talks, could also create complications towards the Afghan peace process. 

In terms of regional developments, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari has also warned Pakistan for “harbouring militants” who killed 27 of its elite Revolutionary Guards in a suicide bombing near the border earlier this week. However, Pakistan’s Foreign Office and the Military establishment must record its protest on such baseless and pre-meditated accusations and demand sharing of intelligence for a logical probe.

Both the civil-military leadership in Pakistan needs to tread with care at this critical juncture in time, especially when the country has revived its Foreign Office resulting in increased global bilateral engagements. The current visit by the Saudi Crown prince is one such example.

What Pakistan currently needs is an effective global messaging strategy to present its case and convince the global community why Pakistan has not only achieved monumental success against terrorist outfits, but also gains nothing from harbouring militant groups.  

The author, Major Gen. Ijaz Awan is a retired military officer and a security analyst and expert.


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