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October 1, 2016

The Kashmir conundrum


October 1, 2016

Relying on nuclear deterrence as our main military strategy against India can be quite a dicey proposition. It requires India to believe that we are crazy enough to actually use nuclear weapons and not care that we could certainly be reduced to a parking lot in return while convincing the rest of the world that we would never do anything quite that outlandish.

The day India can be 100 percent convinced that we will never be the first to fire off nukes is the day it ‘solves’ the Kashmir dispute by sending its troops and bombs across the border. Right now, India’s military superiority doesn’t mean too much since it cannot use its significant strength in numbers or weapons.

Instead it is relying on what is known as the salami-slice strategy – a process of trying to dominate an area or opponent by slowly cutting off little pieces of an opponent, whether militarily or diplomatically. So India will convince Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan to withdraw from the Saarc conference in Islamabad next month and isolate us regionally. It will get the US to tip the scales in its favour internationally so that we feel the world’s sole superpower is against us. It will ban Pakistani actors from working in Bollywood and make it even harder for us to get Indian visas.

It will keep launching what it calls ‘surgical strikes’ against us to see how far it can push us on the military front. These strikes are more of a psychological tactic than a military one. That is why India had to keep telling us it had launched these strikes rather than just let their bombs do the talking; it has to try real hard to tell us, its own public and the rest of the world that it is ready to use violence.

This is a mess of Narendra Modi’s own making. Part of his strategy for coming to power was to relentlessly mock and attack Manmohan Singh for his weakness in response to supposed Pakistani provocations. He made himself to be the man who would respond to attacks like the one in Mumbai by going to war.

It is easy being in the opposition and dreaming of commanding one of the world’s largest armies, particularly when you have the kind of fetish for violence that Modi does. But actually using those forces when there is a slightly-above-zero chance that your opponent will respond with a mushroom cloud is a different matter altogether. This is why Modi will continue to huff and puff but never be able to blow any house down.

Pakistan doesn’t have much of a strategy either. It is hoping to appeal to the morality of the international community and is being slightly inconvenienced by the fact that the international community has no morals. It has no commitment to the cause of Kashmiri liberation so long as India remains an economic powerhouse.

We keep bringing up the UN resolutions on Kashmir as if mention of the international body’s obligations will suddenly spur it into action. But the UN does not care about Kashmir and it specifically does not care about Pakistan. We at best are viewed as a nuisance and at worst as a state that may bring about Armageddon by sparking a nuclear war. Pakistan’s voice will not be heeded at the UN. It is the bad luck of the Kashmiris that they had us as their only spokesmen at the international stage.

This current tussle between Pakistan and India is essentially a propaganda war. Few were likely happier than Modi about the Uri attack since it finally gave him an opportunity to get on the front foot and go after Pakistan. Till then, there had been a slight momentum shift in favour of the Kashmiri people as it becomes hard to avert your gaze when a country is intent on blinding children and shooting down innocent protestors. Now India has managed to change the narrative.

The problem in Kashmir, in the eyes of the international community, is no longer about a liberation movement and a state that is trying to put it down by any means possible. It is a fight over a piece of land between the country with one of the highest rates of economic growth and the country with one of the highest rates of terrorists produced per capita. There is no way for us to win this propaganda war and it is laughable that we are even trying to do so. India has money, a megaphone and actual leverage. We have a tarnished reputation and allies who are so wary of our intentions they may as well be enemies.

Well, there may be one method that could entirely discredit India. We should demand that its talk show hosts, news anchors and columnists have their words beamed to every country in the world. These people are so unhinged that Modi comes off as eminently reasonable and statesmanlike when compared to the warmongers in the media. For them, the biggest question isn’t whether India should invade Pakistan or not but how much of our land it should keep as a reward. Ten minutes of exposure to Arnab Goswami and no one will ever take India seriously again.

It was the Indian media which was the natural constituency for Modi’s threat to withdraw from the Indus Water Treaty since it lacks the nuance to actually analyse his proposal as the nonsense it is. First, cutting off a country’s water supply is an act of war and would prove that Modi has not changed from the days when he was conducting the slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat and getting himself banned from travelling to the US and UK.

Second, it would invite retaliation from China, which would try to block Indian access to water emanating from rivers in China. Third, even if India did want to weaponise water, it has no way of doing. Everyone was so busy giving their instant reactions to Modi’s water threats that no one seemed to realise that a river is not a faucet that can be turned on and off at will.

India might be able to achieve seven percent annual economic growth but it still hasn’t figured out how to instantly dry up a river. The only way it can stop water from flowing to Pakistan is by constructing lots of dams and naturally it can’t do that overnight.

But then logic was never something Modi had too much time for. He is smart enough to realise that once he strikes an emotional chord with the Indian people no one will care how silly his actual proposals may be. And there is no better way to develop a non-logical relationship with your people than by threatening war with a hated neighbour. Modi now has the freedom to do what he wants in India and in Kashmir and none will dare criticise him. For Modi this is mission achieved.

          The writer is a journalist based in Karachi.

Email: [email protected]



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