Insecure Pakistan in the backdrop of US withdrawal from Afghanistan is faced with twin dilemma of international marginalization as part of fast receding regional relevance further marred by growing internal turbulence and political instability, and deteriorating economy.
These fears are heightened by India’s rapidly developing economy, political stability and fast paced modernization of its armed forces resulting in growing international status and standing. For Pakistani military fed on the belief as Christian Fair puts it ‘accepting the status quo with India is a defeat, such a scenario is an anathema that it is loathe to accept. This ideological perspective is important and remains the driver that is forcing the Pakistani Army in taking calculated military risks as a manifestation of its continued struggle which it must continue and persevere, if it is not to accept defeat. According to Fair this behaviour of Pakistan is a result of it being fundamentally a dis-satisfied state which seeks to increase its prestige, through spread of its ideology and religion in pursuit of its revisionist policies.
Seen in the above context Pakistan’s attempts to hot up the LoC with unprovoked firing is an attempt to breach the status quo and to persevere with ‘India threat’ syndrome. The question is what are the larger strategic motivations for provoking India?
Firstly, Pakistan looks upon itself as an incomplete state whose political, economic and security ambitions have been thwarted by it being used as a pawn in the great game played largely on the American behest. As a consequence it finds itself both economically and internally unstable and on the verge of being a failed state. Furthermore the political entities in Pakistan believe that this state of play has allowed the military to gain an upper hand in civil military relations dynamics effectively undermining all attempts to build strong political and economic institutions that would have helped 186 million Pakistani’s to come out of their perpetual poverty. There is a sense of envy not only against its larger neighbour India but other SAARC countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, who are relative economic success stories.
Pakistani military on the other hand believes; it is the inept political class and their personal ambitions together with the machinations of the great ‘Satan’ the United States which responsible for the deplorable state of affairs in the country. Support to radical forces, involvement in Afghanistan and support to terrorist elements to fight proxy war are all underwritten as ‘just cause’ as also the perfidy to bleed India through thousand cuts. Nuclear weapons are seen as the crown jewels that provide Pakistani state security from any Indian misadventure in the backdrop of growing conventional asymmetry. Pakistani military believes that nuclear umbrella provides impunity from executing successful proxy war against India
With fractious political structure and growing threats to the nationals security and mind set of being cornered from multiple directions Army believes that it is the only coherent and capable instrument of the state that can meet the multiple challenges and threats that the country faces. Hence despite democratic pretensions Pakistan remains a country under military siege with largely blurred democratic pretensions.
This scenario for Pakistan is hugely exacerbated by politically stable and rapidly developing India, fast emerging as an important regional and global actor. What is worse is that developing India could in the medium run become economically and militarily as strong as to practically create an unbridgeable asymmetry in comprehensive national power. Further in Pakistani perception if the power gap is allowed to grow it could lead to great internal turbulence resulting in the country’s balkanisation given the dilemma of internal insurgencies in Baluchistan, FATA and instabilities in Karachi, Sind embers of which are heating up Southern Punjab as well.
Why Continued Firing along the LoC
Within the above backdrop firing along the LoC has three possible manifestations. At one level it is an attempt to keep pressure on Kashmir and create insecurity along the border by the combined nexus of Pak Army, ISI, the terrorists under the UJC supported by the separatists in the J&K. Aim is to keep the status quo in flux. By putting stories of great efforts by Pakistani Army to thwart Indian armies nefarious designs an attempt is being made at national mobilisation under trying and highly unstable political situation at home. It is also to gain public sympathy and support for the army providing it greater flexibility in flawed civil – military relations. In short it is an orchestrated plan by the Army in support of which it is quite capable of provoking India and even escalating to achieve its objectives. Pakistani army believes that it can take such a risk of escalation in the back drop of its effective nuclear capability.
Second is the “K” factor. Over the last few years there has been perceptible decline in militancy and cross border terrorism. Kashmiri separatist leaders like Gilani either too old or Mirwaiz Umar Farookh too weak to sustain the so called separatist struggle, other leaders like, Yasin malik and Shabir Shah are attempting to pick the gauntlet but have yet to establish their credibility.
It is in this milieu Pakistan is now trying to revamp its entire apparatus in the Kashmir valley, with eye on the forthcoming elections (likely to be postponed to Mar – Apr 2015 owing to floods). This is being done by attempting to induct as many as possible of the nearly 1000 militant cadres reported to be waiting to infiltrate across the LoC. What is worrisome for Pakistani handlers is that militancy and terrorist strikes are not providing any tangible results, or attempts to exploit post floods anger working.
In the last one month alone nearly 17 terrorists have been killed in the Kashmir Valley (including dozen of them in attempted cross LoC. infiltration). In addition owing to effective counter infiltration and terrorism operations over the last one year there is no worthwhile terrorist leadership left in the valley capable of leading disruption of impending polls or spread antipathy and instigate civil strife during the forthcoming months. Thus it has become an imperative to induct and embed terrorist leadership before the onset of winters.
Interestingly attempts at infiltration in North and South Kashmir, traditional focus of infiltration has been far and few. There appear to be two reasons; one Pakistan does not want to be seen as disrupting the flood relief work in the valley, something which could become potential source of alienation and second; vulnerability of its Lines of Communication should India resorts to massive retaliation. For these apparent reasons focus of Pakistani firing and escalation has shifted to South of Pir Panjal.
As a result Pakistani firing is largely concentrated to traditional areas of Rajouri and Punch as also cross International Border that includes, sectors such as Sambha, Rabirsinghpura, and Chicken’s Neck in Akhnoor etc. Pakistan, increase in intensity and firing on civilian positions both along the border and in depth is part of an orchestrated strategy aimed at provoking India to relocate civilians to depth areas thereby facilitating infiltration. Locations of cross border tunnel are proofs of Pakistan’s nefarious designs.
Third aspect of the Kashmir factor is the impending elections. Successful elections which could throw up electoral arithmetic in which centrist forces become powerful power brokers would result in a government that would follow strong nationalist policies severely curbing the separatist space. The manner in which India reacted to Huriyat leaders meeting Pakistani High Commissioner should have made absolutely clear to leadership that India with growing international support will brook little or no dissidence from these groups operating outside the constitutional process.
Apart from above factor it appears that Pakistani military is attempting brinkmanship to bring beleaguered Pakistan back into global relevance by focusing on Kashmir (the forgotten dispute) lest it loses its relevance with western and global focus shifting to new kind of Islamic radicalism the ISIS.
Need to follow three pronged strategy, swift, sharp and effective response backed by controlled escalation, must form the military response to Pakistan’s provocations. India should be in no doubt that Pakistan as is its wont could attempt at escalation misreading Indian resolve. It is imperative therefore that both the Indian political and military leadership leaves it in no doubt the cost of such escalation. Second India should expose Pakistan’s crass attempts to rake up tensions in the subcontinent, by adequately exposing its nefarious designs both in Kashmir and rest of the country. There should be no talks till such time Pakistan mends its ways and agrees to meaningful dialogue.
On Kashmir post flood reconstruction work must gain both momentum and fair distribution. State administration must be encouraged to show empathy in distribution of relief. Time has also come for another round of dialogue with all shades of opinion in Kashmir including separatist leadership but strictly within the confines of Indian constitution. In so far as dialogue with Pakistan is concerned should be made clear that India wants peace but will not bow down to such provocations. Pakistan must rescind from cross border firing and terror.