As I put my daughter to sleep, the television runs a news ticker of an unfortunate event where forty Indian security personnel have been killed as a result of car bomb in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK). Making these the deadliest attacks on Indian forces after Uri attacks. The immediate thought that crosses my mind is that these attacks are likely to be blamed on Pakistan and will determine the course of relationship between India and Pakistan through twenty-nineteen and possibly beyond. One wonders if the relationship between these two neighbors will continue to be governed by hostility – making hostage the generations to come.
The new government in Pakistan has extended well-meaning proposals to India, it is yet to be seen if Modi government uses this incident to gain support in the upcoming elections as it did in the Gujarat by-elections in 2017 by upping the anti-Pakistan rhetoric and violations of ceasefire across the Line of Control (LoC). This could well be a part of May Surprise, where Modi may capitalize on this terrorist incident for the upcoming general elections in May 2019.
While the loss of lives is regrettable; one is reminded of the famous saying, “if you live by the gun, you die by the gun.” Unfortunately, violence is what Kashmiris in IoK have known for over seven decades at the hand of oppressive Indian forces. The avenues to peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue have been foreclosed by occupying Indian forces and their adamant political leadership bent upon use of force as the only tool for suppressing Kashmir’s freedom movement.
South Asia is termed as a nuclear flashpoint by some experts primarily because of the lingering Kashmir dispute that has led India and Pakistan to wars and conflicts – often raising the possibility of an eventual nuclear exchange. In situations like the one at hand, India has always blamed Pakistan for such attacks before conduct or completion of any impartial investigation of the incident. Such an approach helps India gain international sympathies and divert the attention of domestic audience from atrocities that their government has continued in IoK for over half a century. 9/11 attacks in the U.S. provided India with a pretext for conveniently labelling Kashmiri struggle for freedom as terrorism. It should not come as a surprise if tomorrow Indian government blames Pakistan for these attacks. This has been part of Indian statecraft for quite some time now. Similar incidents from the past provide insight into Indian methodology of blaming Pakistan for any terrorist attack in India or on territories illegally occupied by it. Indian approach in the Pathankot attacks, Uri attacks, and expedient trial of Mumbai attacks are very telling.
Almost exactly three years ago, at the start of 2016, Indian Air Force base at Pathankot was attacked, resulting in killing of six security personnel. These attacks were hurriedly blamed on Pakistan despite the fact that indigenous Kashmiri freedom fighters (United Jihad Council) accepted the responsibility of the attacks. These attacks derailed the scheduled dialogues between Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan. While Pakistan agreed to cooperate in investigation of the incident, Pakistan’s joint investigation team (JIT) was not allowed access to evidence or the actual scene where the attacks took place. Leading them to conclude that Pathankot attacks were a false flag operation, designed to malign Pakistan.
In September of the same year, there was another attack on occupation forces in Uri. This time, nineteen Indian soldiers lost their lives. Like Pathankot attacks, Pakistan was blamed for these attacks as well even before the operation of Indian security forces was over. The Indian media was again baying for blood. India subsequently claimed that it had conducted so-called surgical strikes across the LoC; ostensibly to satisfy its domestic audience since UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan stated that there were no indications of such strikes. India also withdrew from attending the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s (SAARC) summit, which was due to be held in November of that year. Pakistan could not conduct any investigations because India failed to provide any material evidence.
The delay in ongoing Mumbai trials in Pakistan is also considered to be a source of bitterness in Pakistan-India relations. Pakistan’s eminent lawyer and former law minister Mr. Ahmer Bilal Soofi highlighted at a seminar, on 6th February 2019, how India was violating its obligations under the UN Security Council Resolution 1373 by not cooperating with Pakistan on Mumbai trials. He also highlighted that what India shared with Pakistan as “evidence” were photocopies of the documents, which would not be admissible even in Indian courts. By rejecting Pakistan’s offer for a combined prosecution, India strengthened the case for accused. It appears that India finds it expedient blaming Pakistan in order to isolate it than cooperating with Pakistan to logically conclude the outstanding disputes – Mumbai trials being one.
Both Pathankot and Uri attacks paved way for Indian cancellation of Foreign Secretary level talks and postponement of SAARC summit. These developments in 2016, allowed Modi government to use anti-Pakistan rhetoric to secure wins in Gujarat elections in the following year. It is otherwise visible that anti-Pakistan card is still relevant in domestic Indian politics.
These episodes indicate a regular pattern in Indian behavior that whenever the environment is conducive for dialogue, BJP government uses such attacks to primarily achieve four objectives i.e.raise terrorism related allegations against Pakistan to avoid dialogue that will eventually require India to deal with Pakistan as an equal and require resolution of outstanding disputes; delegitimize Kashmiri freedom struggle as terrorism; gaining international sympathies to pursue Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation; and serve domestic political ends.
The Valentine Day attack on Central Reserve Police Force is likely to be used to achieve favorable outcomes in the upcoming elections in May. These attacks might as well be used to create a pretext for another farce surgical strike, as was hinted just five months ago by the Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, who believed that the time was “ripe.”
Despite the fact that Pakistani PM has vowed to take two-steps towards peace in return for India’s one, Indian leadership appears to be interested in making short-term gains rather than durable peace and stability in the region. Stability and peace in the region is not disturbed by the large standing armies or development of nuclear weapons; it is rather hostage to Indian leadership’s arrogance and unwillingness to peacefully resolve the outstanding disputes and use such terrorist attacks for their narrow political objectives.