South Asia’s changing political and security dynamics – Ijaz Awan

When Pakistan sided with the US – in the 1980s – to check the Soviet Union’s expansion in Afghanistan, it played a key role in ensuring that the Soviet Union was unsuccessful in establishing its foothold in the region. Not only that, as a consequence, Pakistan also welcomed and housed millions of Afghan refugees on its soil, besides training the freedom fighters to “liberate” Afghanistan from the Soviet Union.

At that time, these actions and support for the Afghan cause was considered “just, humane and democratic” by the global community. The Afghan “Mujahedeen” were considered “Freedom Fighters”, “Rebel Leaders” and “Holy Warriors” by the US, and were proudly hosted in the White House by the then US President Ronald Reagan. 

However, these Freedom Fighters were “used and abandoned” by the US for its Cold War against the Soviet Union, leaving Afghanistan in years of chaos and Civil War. It seemed as if the US never cared about the destruction and the Taliban rule in Afghanistan until the 9/11 attacks took place, which changed everything!

This time around, after the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, the US took a 180 degree flip and decided to go against the same “Mujahedeen” it had once supported against its Cold War rival. Moreover, not only that, the US also “forced” Pakistan into an alliance against these groups and expected us to take similar action against these fighters (who were later designated as militants and terrorists in years to come).

In the coming years, Pakistan became the battleground for providing the Sea, Air and Ground Lines of Communications to the US and NATO forces, making it a target of the militant and terrorist attacks. In addition, successive US administrations, continuing to fail in Afghanistan, started externalising their failures on Pakistan and persisted with the mantra of “Do More”.  

When Pakistan was busy on its Western border with the US War on Terror, which had spilled over into Pakistan, India took full advantage of the situation by upping the ante against the Kashmiri people, and using force and violence to suppress the indigenous voices demanding freedom and right of self-determination in the Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK). Moreover, India aped the US “blueprint” by not only calling the indigenous freedom fighters in Kashmir as “terrorists”, but also started externalising all its security lapses on Pakistan.  

The recent suicide attack by a young Kashmiri on the CRPF Forces in the IoK provided India with another excuse of diverting the international community’s attention from the freedom struggle in the region by pinning the attack, without evidence, again on Pakistan. The Indian narrative of “Pakistan-backed terrorism in Kashmir”, which was somewhat sold until recently, failed to sell among many sections of the global community as Indian aggression, post-Pulwama, exposed how whole situation was used by Indian PM Modi and ruling party BJP for political gain. 

New Delhi should now learn from the US why violence and force would never achieve any settlement in the IoK, as witnessed in Afghanistan with Washington finally negotiating with the Taliban, who were, until recently, called “terrorists” in the US discourse. However, these terrorists have now become “stakeholders” in the Afghan peace process. Moreover, India should ask itself how many more years, dead bodies, and violence can it afford before realising that it has to settle the Kashmir issue one way or the other. The just cause of Kashmiri peoples’ right to self-determination cannot be suppressed through guns, rather, it can only be solved through dialogue.

In its efforts to hide the misery of the Kashmiris from the outside world, India has not only refused visas to fact finding missions, but has outright rejected the idea of mediation on the Kashmir crisis. It is also ironic where Pakistan that was, until recently, branded as an “extremist” state is now cracking down on the extremist groups, whereas India, previously considered a “secular” state, is constricting space for its minorities and voices of reason.

Cow Vigilantism and forced conversions are two major issues that are now rife in India under PM Modi and his BJP government. Adding to that, the secular and rational voices are slowly losing space on the mainstream media to ultra-nationalist and “loud-mouthed” pro-BJP analysts, who have thrived on stirring a pro-Modi and pro-War narrative in India.

Under these circumstances, the international community needs to ponder whether India’s nuclear weapons, under a PM who loves beating war drums and uses “wars” for political gains, are in safe hands? And whether India is as peaceful and peace loving as it had falsely made the global community believe?

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


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