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May 27, 2020

Imran’s warnings on false-flag operation: Kashmir may not be the only vulnerability (Comment)

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May 27, 2020

On Monday, 18 May, London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a global think tank of note, launched a detailed study identifying the drivers of urban violence in what it described as ‘fragile states’. Karachi along with Kabul, Mogadishu and Nairobi is listed as one of the global troubled spots where a combination of antagonistic social groups, rival political interests, criminal networks and a rapidly increasing population has contributed to violence and the diminishment of state authority. Far from being just the scenes of violence, these cities have been important accelerators of conflict, the report stressed.

No correlation but last week, Prime Minister ImranKhan once again repeated his fear that Indian Prime Minister Modi’s fascist regime may carry out a false-flag operation by accusing Pakistan of phantasmagoric infiltration of ‘jihadi johns’ across the Line of Control to disrupt the Indian government’s alleged attempts at bringing back normalcy to the terror-torn Occupied Kashmir.

Earlier, in a triple tweet on 17 May, Imran wrote; “Modi's RSS-inspired doctrine on IOJK [is] very clear: First, deprive Kashmiris of their right of self determination by illegal annexation of an occupied territory. Second, treat them as less than human by a three-pronged approach: one, trying to crush them with brute force including inhumane weapons like pellet guns against women & children; two, imposing an inhumane lockdown depriving Kashmiris of basic necessities from food to medicines and three, by mass arrests of Kashmiris especially youth & isolating IOJK from the world by cutting off all communication links. Third, by trying to show Kashmiris’ right to struggle for self determination guaranteed in the UNSC Resolutions as terrorism being abetted by Pakistan - to create opportunity for a false-flag operation against Pakistan while detracting world attention away from the Indian state terrorism in the Indian Occupied Jammu Kashmir.”

Imran tweeted on 6 May as well saying he had been warning the world about India’s continuing efforts to find a pretext for a false-flag operation targeting Pakistan. “Latest baseless allegations by India of ‘infiltration’ across LoC are a continuation of this dangerous agenda. The indigenous Kashmiri resistance against Indian occupation is a direct consequence of India's oppression and brutalisation of Kashmiris. The fascist policies of the RSS-BJP combine are fraught with serious risks. The international community must act before India’s reckless moves jeopardise peace & security in South Asia.

A closer look at Imran Khan’s tweets reveals his persistent argument wherein Modi government is shown as a violator of international laws and conventions not only in Kashmir but also within India. He has more than once likened the RSS-BJP combine to German Nazis. In a tweet on 3 April, he said: “The RSS inspired BJP leadership in the 21st century openly speaking about the 200 million Muslims just as the Nazis spoke about the Jews.

Responding to Imran Khan’s tweets, Hindustan Times’ Executive Editor Shishir Gupta had suggested in a television programme that the Pakistani Prime Minister’s statements might be a ruse to hide the alleged infiltration from Azad Kashmir into India. “Around 450 terrorists are waiting to infiltrate into India. This number has increased from 240 in April. Idea is to create mayhem, chaos and violence and foil the Indian government’s efforts to bring normalcy in Kashmir.” Quoting unnamed intelligence sources for the above numbers, Gupta opined that Kashmir provides a trick to Pakistani government to digress the people’s mind from issues like economy and the damage done by the coronavirus pandemic, he claimed.

Imran’s domestic and Indian critics may say he is desperately trying to smokescreen the pressure on his underperforming government in the times of coronavirus. Economy and governance are other quagmires for his largely inexperienced cabinet. Without completely sidestepping the potency of Imran’s argument or the acidity of the consequent criticism, some facts need not be overlooked before overcooking the showdown-on-LoC disputation. Dr Ejaz Hussain, a London-based academic and strategic analyst, who has regularly advised Pakistani governments and the British bureaucracy on matters regarding South Asia, thinks that India attacking the LoC analysis made repeatedly by some of Pakistan’s national security pundits is myopic.

He argues that the planners in the South Block are fully aware of the Army-PAF strong interoperability regime capable of hitting back more powerfully with ultimate alacrity and agility. Also, India’s Northern Command is over-stretched due to its heavy engagement in the north against China and deployment against the fiery and fervent denizens of Occupied Kashmir.

Hussain contends that the Indian Northern Command’s three Corps - XIV (Leh), XV (Srinagar) and XVI (Nagrota) - are short of logistical supplies. Their troops are increasingly demoralised and their periodical replacements are taking much longer than normal. After 5 May skirmishes around Galwan Valley and Naku La Pass (northern Sikkim) between People’s Liberation Army troops and Indian forces, the situation is extremely tense. Against this backdrop, India would be foolish to do anything mischievous in Gilgit-Baltistan or the up north of Pakistan, he said.

Narendra Modi, according to a British journalist who requested to remain anonymous, privately told a group of British businessmen of Indian origin during his 2015 visit to London that his government would regularly celebrate ‘Diwali’ on the Line of Control. And that is exactly what his government has been doing for years now. Indian battalions deployed along the LoC continue to shell the civilian population of Azad Kashmir. This is what they’re trained in or perhaps their eventual rule of engagement - kill the innocent civilians to spread harassment and fear. Anything beyond that could turn into a worst nightmare for India, a former DGMO told me in a private conversation.

Parts of Baluchistan remain another tinderbox. Recent attacks on security personnel and consequent loss of life coupled with persistent martyrdom of soldiers and civilians along the Line of Control and in the hitherto unsettled Waziristan are not minor cuts that can easily be accepted or tolerated in peace times. But can Pakistan stop India from exploiting the political mess and growing administrative dysfunction of political elites running the Centre and provinces. The city of Karachi which is still a hot-ash will continue to be a prime target for planners of chaos and disruption and Pakistani federal and provincial Intel agencies will need to intensify monitoring and surveillance through conventional human intelligence. A hawk-like surveillance is needed to watch local and internal facilitator ready to sell loyalties for a few quid.

Internally, Imran’s government would gain by employing conciliatory politics. His party has not been particularly successful so far in claiming, taming or transforming Karachi through performance. Harsh posturing could only harm. The Prime Minister needs to take all parties along when it comes to matter of national security. After all he can’t be the sole spokesman for the country and its vital interests post 18th Amendment.