Asif Haroon Raja Bureau Chief, Pakistan
Pulwama suicide attack on February 14, 2019 was the biggest militant attack in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) killing 44 CRPF soldiers. In keeping with the script, the blame was promptly put on Jaish-e-Muhammad and Pakistan, and war hysteria was created to teach Pakistan a lesson. Indian news channels, baying for blood, brazenly flouted the basic principles of journalism. The chauvinism of India media and the outrage exhibited by the Hindu extremists and the Hindu hawkish leaders were similar to what had been seen after each false flag operation. The overall regional situation before the Pulwama attack was as under:-
First the Ground Realities
- India by virtue of being far greater in size, population, resources and size of armed forces as compared to all the South Asian States, and also being the darling of Russia, USA and the West, has made Indian leaders, be it from Congress or BJP, intoxicated with megalomania, chauvinism and superiority complex.
- In all its wars, conflicts and diplomatic encounters with its arch rival Pakistan, India had a definite edge on the political, diplomatic, economic and military planes and Pakistan always found itself on a weak wicket.
- Pakistan for multiple reasons has been lurching from one crisis to another and has not developed itself in accordance with its inherent potentials but is blessed with strong armed forces and resilient people.
- During the cold war between the two super powers, former Soviet Union proved to be a more reliable patron of India, while USA never developed trustworthy relations with Pakistan due to its urge to befriend secular and democracy loving India.
- After the end of cold war, Pakistan became irrelevant to USA and India became the strategic partner of USA and Israel.
- After 9/11, the three strategic partners joined by the puppet regime in Kabul had common objectives to destabilize, denuclearize, de-Islamize and balkanize Pakistan. These objectives though not accomplished remain unchanged.
- The US will never initiate any step to please Pakistan at the cost of annoying India.
- USA and Israel have gone out of the way to fulfill India’s economic, military and nuclear needs to make it a bulwark against China and Pakistan, and a policeman of Indo-Pacific region.
- CIA, Mossad and RAW are experts in false flag operations and jointly plan and execute such operations. At times, the trio do so at their own for the fulfilment of their insidious ambitions.
- Although the US want to exit from Afghanistan, but it would like to quit honorably, leave behind a friendly government in Kabul and to retain predominant influence of India in Afghanistan. For this, the US want Pakistan to play a role of its choice.
- Notwithstanding Washington’s friendly overtures, deep inside it is unhappy with Pakistan for refusing to abide by its dictates and wants to keep it under pressure.
- All the aggressive acts of India against Pakistan including false flag operations have been done with the connivance of USA.
- India feels no qualms in backtracking from its promises, telling lies and cooking up stories to convert falsehood into truth and truth into fairytale.
- Keeping defiant Pakistan under a tight leash is in the interest of USA, India and Afghanistan.
- After the occupation of Afghanistan by US-NATO forces in November 2001, USA, India, puppet regime in Kabul installed by USA, Israel, UK and Germany had become strategic partners to fight war on terror as well as to launch covert operations against the regional countries including Pakistan.
- In the backdrop of failure of US-NATO-ANA forces to defeat the Taliban and the latter’s ever increasing attacks to further expand their area of influence forced Washington to accept their demand of holding direct talks with them in order to end the 18-year war, arrive at a political settlement, restore peace and exit from Afghanistan. Trump has announced his intentions to withdraw 7000 troops this year.
- While India and the Kabul regime have been excluded, Pakistan is playing a key role in the ongoing peace parleys and the 5th session was scheduled in Islamabad on 17 February.
- The change of wind in Afghanistan has flabbergasted India as well as Ashraf Ghani regime. Exit of foreign troops would imply return of Taliban to power, loss of Indian influence, fall of Ghani regime and return of Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan. That would mean termination of twin threat posed by Indo-Afghan nexus to Pakistan and loss of base of operation from where RAW-NDS have been jointly conducting covert operations with the help of paid proxies since 2003 and have inflicted over 70,000 human casualties and a financial loss of $125 billion.
- Despite the hostile attitude of Kabul, the new government carried forward the policy of friendship of the previous governments and assured Ashraf Ghani of extending full cooperation but was not reciprocated.
- Iran had been put under severe sanctions by the US, UN and EU after the 1979 Islamic revolution but Iran had allowed the US to invade Afghanistan in 2001 because of its ideological rivalry with the Taliban espousing Sunni Sharia.
- Iran had inched closer to India in the 1980s when the militaries of both the countries had imparted training to Northern Alliance forces sheltered in Iran after the Taliban had taken over power in 1996.
- Tehran and New Delhi had forged special ties with Karzai regime and next with Ghani regime, and particularly after signing the Chahbahar agreement in 2016 which welded the trio into strategic relationship.
- Earlier on, Iran and India had inked a defence agreement in 2002 and India embarked upon a project to connect Mumbai Port with Bandar Abbas and Chahbahar Ports through north-south corridor.
- India is currently upgrading Chahbahar seaport which will be connected with Indian constructed highway and railway line in Afghanistan so as to make Chahbahar as the fulcrum for trade with Central Asia and also to undermine Gwadar.
- India has been buying oil and gas from Iran throughout the period of sanctions imposed on Iran.
- Iran nurtures misgivings against Pakistan on account of latter’s leaning towards the Talban and the Arab states, particularly KSA which is its ideological rival.
- Iran sees development of Gwadar as a threat to its economic interests despite Pakistan wanting Gwadar and Chahbahar to complement each other for mutual gains.
- Irrespective of Iran’s reservations and at times inimical gestures, Pakistan has all along endeavored to address its complaints and to maintain friendly ties with Iran and never gave a tit for tat response to its unfriendly acts.
- Unlike all other immediate neighbors of Pakistan, China is the only country which has maintained friendly relations based on mutual trust and confidence and came to Pakistan’s assistance in all its testing times.
- Inking of $ 46 billion worth CPEC agreement in April 2014 converted friendship into strategic relationship and since then both are tied to guarding each other’s core interests.
- CPEC has become a game changing project for China since it has helped in breaking its strategic encirclement around South China Sea and getting freed from Malacca Strait dilemma. It will also greatly contribute towards the development of China’s One-Belt-One-Road project that will help China reaching the markets of South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe and make it a leading economic power of the world by 2030.
- CPEC is also a game changing project for Pakistan since it breaks the strategic encirclement of India, disrupts India’s plan to isolate Pakistan, and helps in making Pakistan self-reliant.
- CPEC has become a magnet which has already attracted the oil rich Arab States, Central Asian States and Russia.
- A deliberate effort was made by the ones sponsoring the hybrid war to make CPEC controversial and to spoil Pak-China relations. First phase of the CPEC was completed by December 2018 and the second phase for setting up energy parks in each province is underway.
- Special force raised by Pakistan for the protection of CPEC has helped in keeping the saboteurs at bay.
In the past, Russia had consistently vetoed all UN resolutions concerning Kashmir and had always defended Indian stance on all international forums. With India falling completely into the lap of USA and Pakistan’s disillusionment with USA over its double dealings has brought a change in Moscow’s attitude towards Pakistan. CPEC is another attraction that has helped in dispersing the clouds of distrust and animosity and brought them closer. Both have signed several economic and defence agreements and conducted joint military drills. It is quite likely that Russia may not take side of India on the issue of Kashmir or any other military/diplomatic standoff and would prefer to remain neutral.
The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan owing to continued presence of US troops, India acting as a spoiler, and emergence of Daesh, is not to the liking of Moscow. It has cultivated relations with Taliban and has hosted two international conferences to restore peace in the war torn country, which is an indication that it intends to play a bigger role in Afghanistan in future. Russia seem to be inclined toward making a new economic block with China, SCO, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, and at some stage taking the Arab Gulf states in its loop.
- The BJP under Narendra Modi who had been declared a terrorist by the US led West owing to his direct complicity in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom of Muslims, had won the June 2014 elections with a heavy mandate mainly on account of Pakistan bashing. Throughout his rule, Modi has maintained a highly bellicose stance against Pakistan and rejected all peace moves made by Pakistan.
- During his black rule, RAW masterminded staged terror attacks on a boat off Gujarat coast in January 2015, Udhampur in August 2015, Pathankot in January 2016, Uri in September 2016 and now in Pulwama on February 14, 2019. Pakistan was held responsible.
- On the eve of next elections due in April-May 2019, violence loving Modi’s popularity has begun to decline as can be seen by BJP’s electoral losses in five Indian States and plummeting Indian economy. While BJP political fortunes are declining, Congress under Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka are rising.
- BJP, RSS, Shev Sena, Bajrang Dal, Vishnu Hindu Prashad, Sangh Pariwar, Abhinov and several other Hindu extremist groups have been vigorously promoting Hindutva and forcibly Hinduizing minorities living in India.
- Indian Muslims in particular are living under constant fear of being lynched on account of eating beef or slaughtering a cow, or suspicion of disloyalty. Hindu Dalits continue to lead a wretched life in India owing to odious four-fold caste system.
- Among the 18 major insurgencies and separatist movements in India, Naxalite movement has been declared as the existential and most dangerous threat to the integrity of India. One reason is, that Naxalites are strongest in the seven sisterly states in the northeastern India which engulfs the Red Zone where Indian nuclear facilities are located. Not a single insurgency has been controlled despite deploying 800,000 security forces in the troubled States of India.
- Indian armed forces are suffering from series of discipline and moral issues. The Indian Army soldiers are demoralized owing to mistreatment by officers, continuous employment in counter insurgency, prolonged tenures in hard areas, fatigue, low salaries, and poor diet. Cases of senior officers indulging in sex scandals and wife swapping are rampant. Setback in Doklam standoff was another cause of disillusionment. IAF pilots are in low spirits due to too many jet crashes because of technical faults. Every second test of missiles is failing.
- Khalistan movement that had died down after the provision of list of Khalsa leaders to Rajiv government by the PPP government in 1989, it has once again bounced back in India as well as abroad. The Sikhs demanding independent Khalistan have fixed 2020 as the year of referendum to declare independence.
- Opening of Kartarpur corridor has brought the Sikhs further close to Pakistan.
- Sikhs and Kashmiris in distress have bonded together.
- Highly antagonist policies of Modi against Pakistan which included threats of surgical strikes, limited war, false flag operations, water terrorism, and excessive violations across Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and Working Boundary, massive military buildup, threat of Cold Start Doctrine have failed to overawe Pakistan.
- The highly oppressive policies in IOK including use of pellet guns and using rape as a weapon of war have failed to suppress the freedom movement in Kashmir and the gun totting 750,000 Indian security forces are no more feared by the Kashmiris including the children.
- After India became strategic partner of USA in 1991, it painted the armed uprising in IOK to be entirely supported by Pakistan and blamed it for indulging in cross border terrorism. After 9/11, India started constructing a narrative from the time of the engineered terror attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 to paint Pakistan as a terror abetting State. The puppet regime in Kabul and USA teamed up to bolster this narrative. All terror attacks in India or in IOK were put in the basket of Pakistan to get it branded as a sponsor of terrorism.
- Despite best efforts, India failed to destabilize and denuclearize Pakistan, scuttle CPEC and isolate Pakistan and to get it declared as a terrorist state.
- Serving Indian Naval Commander Kalbushan Yadhav in the hands of Pakistan had considerably dented the narrative of India. Something had to be done to influence the minds of ICJ judges on 18 February that it was Pakistan and not India that was sponsoring terrorism.
- Need for a drama was acutely felt in New Delhi to color the mind of the visiting Crown Prince.
- The trio consider Pak Army as the sole stumbling block in the accomplishment of their objectives and hence the urgent need to humiliate it. Pulwama provided an excuse to resort to a small scale military adventure against Pakistan.
- Given the trends that were favoring Pakistan and disfavoring India, another major false flag operation had become a compulsion for the BJP to whip Pakistan and to galvanize the Indian voters of Far Right and win the next elections.
- Modi is a falsifier and the most reckless, crazy, irrational, unpredictable and vengeful leader India has seen.
- The PTI government under Imran Khan (IK) after taking over power in July 2018 was faced with multiple problems, foremost being the economic crisis, political backlash, blackmailing tactics of IMF, and hostile attitudes of USA, India and Afghanistan.
- As a consequence to the negative effects of the hybrid war, Pakistani society was divided on ethnic, sectarian and religious lines while the political parties were sharply polarized. Anti-army brigade spewed venom against the army. The opposition parties had ganged up against the ruling party and both sides were deeply involved in a futile tug of war.
- The Pak media as well as the NGOs were on the payroll of foreign powers and working on their agenda.
- IK was struggling hard to overcome the economic crisis and had succeeded in winning over Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and UAE that were miffed with Pakistan after the Yemen crisis in 2015 and had extended bailout packages.
- Pakistan was preparing for the high profile visit of Crown Prince M. Bin Salman on 16-17 February, who was expected to invest $ 20 billion and establish an oil refinery at Gwadar that would greatly help in diluting the economic crunch.
- Pakistan was working hard to get out of grey list of FATF and crucial meeting was scheduled on 18 February. India made all out efforts to blacklist Pakistan.
- Pakistan legal team had prepared a strong case based on confession of Kalbushan that he was deeply involved in terrorism in Baluchistan, Makran belt and Karachi using Chahbahar as his base of operation.
- Pakistan was busy arranging the PSL matches in Karachi and Lahore and were mindful of the fact that like in the past, RAW-NDS would make an attempt to disrupt it.
- Like the previous governments, the new government also extended a hand of friendship to India. Modi rudely spurned it since he had planned the Pulwama attack to achieve multiple objectives. In his myopic view, war mongering and not peace would help him in winning elections.
After the engineered suicide attack in Pulwama, India has been climbing the escalation ladder under the pretext of avenging the attack. On two occasions IAF jets carried out air intrusions with zero results and had to pay a heavy price for the second intrusion. Pakistan’s befitting response executed with utmost finesse and precision has scaled the frenzy of Indian hawks to new heights and they are squirming with impotent rage. IK’s upright, bold and sensible conduct has raised his stature and has dwarfed fuming Modi on the political and diplomatic fronts. Militarily, Pakistan has definitely gained a moral and psychological edge over India. Internally, Indian jingoism has united the nation and energized their spirits. Pak media is giving a tit for tat response to India media xenophobia. Kashmir cause has been internationalized.
I will write separately about Pakistan’s different type of calculated response which surprised the enemy. Situation is still grim, particularly on the LoC, and Pakistan armed forces and people of Pakistan are ready for any eventuality.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist and author of five books. [email protected]
Brig. General Asif Haroon Raja a Member Board of Advisors Opinion Maker is Staff College and Armed Forces WarCoursequalified holds MSc war studies degree; a second generation officer, he fought the epic battle of Hilli in northwest East Bengal during 1971 war, in which Maj M. Akram received Nishan-e-Haider posthumously.
He served as Directing Staff Command & Staff College, Defence Attaché Egypt, and Sudan and Dean of Corps of Military Attaches in Cairo. He commanded the heaviest brigade in Kashmir. He is lingual and speaks English, Pashto and Punjabi fluently.
He is author of books titled ‘Battle of Hilli’, ‘1948, 1965 & 1971 Kashmir Battles and Freedom Struggle’, ‘Muhammad bin Qasim to Gen Musharraf’, Roots of 1971 Tragedy’; has written a number of motivational pamphlets. Draft of his next book ‘Tangled Knot of Kashmir’ is ready.
He is a defense analyst and columnist and writes articles on security, defense and political matters for numerous international/national publications.