What are we dealing with?

February 27, 2020

India’s numerous public pronouncements that Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan belonged to it must not be ignored. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has reiterated this...

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India’s numerous public pronouncements that Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJ&K) and Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) belonged to it must not be ignored. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has reiterated this stance.

Talking to soldiers in Kashmir on the occasion of Holi in the aftermath of the abolition of Article 370, he stated that Pakistan illegally occupied parts of Kashmir, which, according to him, “still stings”. The BJP president and other senior BJP leaders, including Federal Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, have repeated the same stance on different occasions.

Moreover, we should be aware of the fact that as far back as in 1994, the Indian parliament had passed a unanimous resolution stating that the aforementioned places lawfully belonged to India. A recent statement by the Indian army chief stating that if instructed by the parliament, the armed forces will “take appropriate action”, should be a cause of concern for Pakistan.

For Islamabad, in order to ward off any such move from India in the near to medium term, it must urgently focus on the following areas:

Make sure that people, especially those dealing with India, have the right understanding of everything that is going on in Modi-led India. For example, despite all the news reports and opinions published on the subject in Pakistan’s print media, it appears that a very few among us have got a clear understanding of the idea and meaning of ‘Hindutva’.

How many of us have actually read ‘Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?’ by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar? We need to encourage ourselves to read the relevant texts so as to be in a better position to deal with it. Similarly, there is a lot of talk in Pakistan about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, but very few among us appear to have a clear idea of what exactly this amendment is all about, because many of us have not read the Citizenship Act of 1955 itself, which has been amended.

The same seems to be true about our lack of understanding of the UN resolutions concerning India and Pakistan, and so on. Therefore, one area in which more homework needs to be done, so as to make sound policies towards India, is to read more and more about the country, and read original documents.

India’s position on the aforementioned regions is not new. The question which needs to be addressed is: why does it feel confident to raise it now? It appears that one factor that has led to more aggressive posture on the part of New Delhi is the fact that several of the important roads which are part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor pass through Gilgit-Baltistan. The US and India make no secret of their opposition to the China-led Belt and Road Initiative.

We know that the containment of China is a stated policy of the US under the Trump administration. It is an open secret that India is as much interested in containing China, if not more, as the US is. Therefore, Pakistan’s diplomatic troubles needs to be understood in the context of a complex interplay between international developments, and must be handled accordingly.

Policymakers in Pakistan need to do some soul searching and find out why the US, and even some Muslim Arab countries do not appear to be forthcoming in Pakistan’s support. Therefore, Pakistan needs to take the requisite measures to urgently repair its relationships with these countries and seek their diplomatic support in dealing with New Delhi.

The third element, closely connected with the second, is that of the state of the economy. One of the main reasons as to why the world is more inclined to work with India is its vibrant economy, with an impressive growth over the past three decades. For any country to be taken seriously, it needs to have a dynamic economy, one in which other countries have economic stakes. Therefore, Pakistan needs to make itself economically attractive. This is a medium to long-term objective. But work on it can begin immediately so as the world knows that it is serious in correcting course.

And, finally, putting one’s own house in order is what needs to be focused on. Internal political and social instability weakens the polity and gives leeway to external powers to promote their agendas. Credible political and electoral processes, coupled with rule of law, strengthen state, society, and economy overall and enable it to safeguard its interests with confidence.

Therefore, in order to strengthen its hands externally, Pakistan needs to pay attention to its internal political and social stability. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had once famously said thus: “Peace at home, peace in the world”. That perfectly applies to every country.

And last, though not the least, enhancing hardcore defence capabilities is what deters adversaries from committing misadventures. Although it is hard to see Pakistan matching India’s defence capabilities in the conventional domain in the foreseeable future, Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities need to be in order and projected with caution and sobriety. Referring to the same too frequently on different forums, reduces, rather than enhances, the deterrence value of such weapons.

The writer is research analyst at theInstitute of Regional Studies,Islamabad. Views are personal.

Email: ilyasakbarkhangmail.com

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