Rejoinder to Praveen Swami
Asif Haroon Raja
Praveen Swami in his apparently innocent and well-meaning article titled ‘The Time might have come for India and Pakistan to talk’ has made designed distortions in the recent past history of the two archrivals. Messages have been conveyed in a subtle way under the guise of revival of talks and friendship. The motivation behind writing this article is the floating rumors in India about the possible Indo-Pakistan talks that were abruptly stalled by India after the attacks in Mumbai on 26 Nov 2008.
He says that for weeks rumors have proliferated in New Delhi’s diplomatic and policy communities on the existence of a secret India-Pakistan diplomatic channel on Kashmir. The rumor mill adds color to the story by asserting that India’s NSA Ajit Doval visited Islamabad secretly. Another version talk of a meeting held between high officials in London and Washington. Topics for discussion ranged from the fate of Kashmir, to the future of Afghanistan, and to the trial of Kulbushan Jadhav, incarcerated in Pakistan on espionage charges. He shrewdly omitted terrorism charges.
He erroneously claims that after the Sept 18, 2016 terror attack on an Indian army camp at Uri, when Modi directed the Indian military to adopt an aggressive posture by striking across the LoC whenever any attack took place in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), accordingly a surgical strike was conducted on so-called launch pads of militants in AJK on 29 Sept 2016. He claims that since then, there has not been a single Jihadi attack in India. In other words, the so-called surgical strike deterred Pakistan.
This is an absolute false claim and travesty of truth since no Jihadi attack was ever launched in India or IOK from Pakistani soil under state sponsorship and no surgical strike has ever been launched by IAF other than the one on 24 February 2019 in reaction to the Pulwama terror attack on 14 February 2019 for which Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Pakistan were wrongly accused by India. Pakistan effectively gave a hard blow to India on 26th and 27th February. The world press has covered all the events in copious details.
It is now an established fact that Pakistan was blamed by India for all the terror attacks which took place in India between 2001 and 2008. JeM, Lashkar-e-Taiba and ISI were held responsible. This was done under a well-calculated plan to get Pakistan declared a terror abetting state. These included the attack on Indian Parliament in Dec 2001, Samjhota Express train in 2007 in which 60 Pakistanis were burnt to death, Malegaon and Hyderabad Mecca mosque and Mumbai attacks. In each attack, Muslims were the victims.
Indian investigator chief inspector Hemant Karkare investigating Malegaon terror attack arrested a gang and proved before the law court that all the attacks were conducted by local Hindu extremists belonging to Abhinov outfit which was headed by a serving Lt Col Srikant Purohit. The accused confessed their crimes. Fake Hindu saint Aseemanand also reconfirmed it and so did the authors of 4 books written by Indian and German authors. India’s Home Ministry officials like Sushil and Atish Sharma submitted affidavits in the Supreme Court asserting that the Mumbai attacks were an in-house affair and masterminded by RAW-Mossad-CIA to demonize Pakistan and Kashmiri Mujahideen.
It is unfortunate that Pakistan tied to its policy of appeasement didn’t put India on the mat, particularly after India failed to furnish an iota of evidence to substantiate its charges. After Mumbai attacks, India cut off diplomatic relations with Pakistan, stalled composite dialogue, stopped Samjhota train service and declared terrorism as an inexcusable sin more important than the Kashmir issue. Like in 2002, India deployed its strike formations against Pakistan and threatened to launch an offensive under its Cold Start Doctrine. The US and the West fully supported India’s version and pressed Pakistan to allow IAF to conduct surgical strikes on Muredke and so-called militant camps in AJK. The Indian jets took off to strike the intended targets but had to fly back when Pak F-16s confronted them. The whole drama was drummed up and sensationalized on concocted charges. Since then, Pakistan has been bending over backwards to resume talks but India has continually spurned it.
Encouraged by Pakistan’s muteness, India continued to build a narrative to paint Pakistan as a terror abetting country and India a victim of terrorism. To strengthen its narrative, India continued to stage false flag operations in IOK which included engineered attacks in Udhampur, Pathankot, Uri and Pulwama. On each occasion, Pakistan sought evidence and extended full cooperation to India but the latter couldn’t furnish shred of evidence since those were stage-managed. Pakistan on the other hand has tons of evidence to prove that India is the biggest terrorist state in the region and has shared it with all concerned. Above all, Pakistan has a serving Navy Commander Kulbushan in its custody who confessed his acts of subversion in Baluchistan, Mekran Coast and Karachi and has been awarded death sentence. He has sought mercy but sticks to his original stance that he is guilty.
Praveen repeated the oft-parroted narrative that IAF successfully destroyed the sanctuary of JeM at Balakot, which had been blamed for the Pulwama attacks. Factually the air intrusion on February 22, 2019 was a complete fiasco. 3 Israeli supplied precision guided Spike missiles were hurriedly dropped on a hilltop by Mirage 2000s, which felled few pine trees. Diplomatic community was escorted by the then DG ISPR Maj Gen Ghafoor to the site and the true picture was widely commented by the world media. It was a huge embarrassment for IAF and India.
In order to hide RAW-NDS massive cross-border terrorism against Pakistan from Afghan soil from 2002 till to-date, Praveen cleverly quoted Afghanistan intelligence (NDS) claiming that the ISI was running a cell in Nangarhar, led by Kashmiri Jihad commander Abdul Gani Dar, to train Indian jihadists. It is a well-established fact that the two agencies have provided safe havens to several banned runaway militant groups and had established 70 training camps/centres to train and equip proxies. At Nangarhar, Ajit Doval brought ISIS elements from Iraq and Syria in 2014 and were married with Jamaat al Ahrar, an offshoot of TTP. Nangarhar became a bastion of ISIS (Khurasan) which was eventually cleared by the Taliban in 2019.
Praveen brings out another revelation that at a May 27, 2014 meeting, outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave Prime Minister Modi a set of unsigned notes, containing records of secret negotiations to seal a Kashmir deal with Pakistan’s former military ruler, Gen Pervez Musharraf. In essence, the deal involved autonomy for Kashmir — in return for the Line of Control becoming a permanent border. This could be nearer to truth since Musharraf had offered out-of-box solution to India. But for the lawyers’ movement which sprang in March 2007 and led to ouster of Musharraf, the shady deal on Kashmir with LoC as an international border would have materialized.
Praveen says that New Delhi might not be willing to countenance autonomy for Kashmir today — but it is possible that Pakistan’s army chief, Gen Qamar Bajwa, might be willing to discuss options. Among the ideas floated during these negotiations was hiving off Gilgit — a region Islamabad has long claimed sovereignty over, arguing it seceded from undivided Kashmir prior to independence — from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India, in turn, was to closely integrate Ladakh.
He added, events in both countries have resulted in exactly that outcome: Ladakh became a Union Territory last year, and Gilgit is in the midst of a political process that could lead it to become the fifth province of Pakistan. What he infers is that Gilgit- Baltistan (GB) can be traded for Ladakh the control of which is now in the hands of China.
It is customary for India that whenever it finds itself cornered it becomes soft and offers resumption of talks which Pakistan gladly accepts and boastfully claim it a diplomatic breakthrough/victory. The moment the heat is off, India removes the mask of friendship and shows its true colors. India has never missed any opportunity coming its way to harm Pakistan and of late has been threatening to break Pakistan into four parts and to make it water scarce by stopping the water in three rivers. Contrary to India’s hawkishness, Pakistan’s successive regimes have behaved mawkishly. They never availed opportunities to settle the Kashmir dispute, or to avenge the 1971 humiliation. Pakistan has suffered on account of traditional defensive and apologetic stance of leaders and and their never ending quest to befriend India. For the Pakistanis, Kashmir cause is very near to their hearts and they think differently.
Currently India finds itself stuck in most precarious situation since it has failed to muffle the voices of 8 million Kashmiris, China has struck India at a highly sensitive spot in the Himalaya region, which has deprived India of control over Ladakh and its offensive option against GB, and rendered its 3 Corps at Leh and Siachin vulnerable. Above all, Iran has ditched India and befriended China. Afghanistan has slipped out of India’s hands. Lowering GDP, rising corona pandemic and mounting anger of Indian minorities against Modi regime, together with dozens of separatist movements including Khalistan movement have made India vulnerable and combustible. It is in the backdrop of these unpleasant events which has forced stubborn Modi regime to knock at Pakistan’s door and find a way out of the impasse. Most critical is Ladakh, the loss of which will have grave ramifications for India.
To regain control over Ladakh, which is a disputed territory, the tutored writer is suggesting granting GB to Pakistan as a quid pro quo for reverting Ladakh to India where it plans to establish Indo-US-Israel military bases. Praveen misses the point that China is now 4th stake holder to the dispute of J&K and without its blessing no headway can be made. It would also demand a quid pro quo.
Praveen subtly casts aspersions on Gen Qamar Bajwa by insinuating that in meetings with British diplomats, the General is believed to have asserted his commitment to peace, noting that Islamabad had not escalated support to jihadists after India rolled-back Kashmir’s special status last year. What he implies is that Pak military has all along been supporting Jihadists in IOK. Secondly, what he assumes is that Pak military has abandoned the marooned Kashmiris in order to keep the hope of peace with India alive.
Instead of Pakistan feeling skeptical in the backdrop of India’s evasive and anti-peace tactics, Praveen says that New Delhi is entitled to be skeptical of the promises made by current civil-military leadership since similar promises were made just before the Kargil war and 26/11. In order to undermine the heroics of the Kashmiris in the face of extreme odds, he goes on to say that Kashmiri jihadists are under-trained and grossly under-equipped.
He ignores the hard fact that after the installation of electrified fence all along the LoC in 2005 duly fortified by Israeli supplied radars and fortified posts together with three layered defence in depth, even a sparrow cannot go across undetected. Freedom movement in IOK is completely indigenous and the freedom fighters learnt the tactics to fight and survive the hard way. The armed uprising started in 1989 and currently the 3rd generation born amidst the rattle tattle of guns is resisting the occupying forces with stones in their tiny hands. They neither need training nor motivation since their sole slogan is Azadi and making J&K part of Pakistan. His second part of being ill-equipped is factual. What he should have mentioned is that Indian Army and paramilitary forces despite being well-equipped, need lot of extensive training and motivational courses.
Praveen slyly tries to link ISI with terrorism by suggesting that it has gone at least some way in turning-off the terror pipeline. He forgets that the seeds of cross border terrorism were sown by India for the first time in in this region in 1971, and RAW has been using terrorism as a choicest tool against all the seven South Asian States.
He reveals that 200 hours of discussions in the 30 meetings on the draft agreement on Kashmir took place at Dubai and Kathmandu between the interlocutors of Gen Musharraf (Ambassador Riaz, Tariq Aziz) and of Manmohan (Ambassador Satinder Lambah). These meetings took place secretly. If true, it was abhorrent since neither the Pakistani public, nor civil society or the intellectual class or the main stake holders Kashmiris were taken into confidence. Kashmir was being divided over their heads. Similar exercise had taken place between the interlocutors of Nawaz Sharif (NS) and Vajpayee to agree upon Chenab formula. Both proudly claim that Kashmir resolution was within grasping reach. NS in his 3rd tenure pursued the same old path and was termed as Modi ka yar. The incumbent regime under Imran Khan has also been wishing to establish friendly relations with fascist Modi regime, which is anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan.
While Praveen mentions about violence which in his view persists since 2014, he makes no mention of record breaking atrocities committed by over 700,000 Indian occupying forces, given license to kill, kidnap, torture, maim, destroy and rape without fear of accountability. The surge took place after the martyrdom of Burhan Wani in July 2016 and kept intensifying with every passing day. Use of pellet guns to blind the teenagers and gory practice of killing the youth in fake encounters, and gang raping of girls/women were not deemed fit to make a mention of.
Praveen draws satisfaction over his supposition that the level of violence is not intense enough to threaten India seriously, but adequate to bog down the administration and political system. He hides his discomfiture and doesn’t pick up courage to ask as to how come such a huge force deployed in a narrow valley has been unable to subdue few hundred Mujahideen (terrorists in Indian language) after employing excessive force for the last three decades. Over 100,000 Kashmiris have been martyred. There are thousands of widows and half widows who do not know whether their husbands are alive or dead.
Praveen once again twists facts by making a false claim that troops along the Line of Control continue to trade fire on a near-daily basis. In his view, it is an expensive exercise which history demonstrates has done little to deter cross-border terrorism. He adds, neither New Delhi nor Islamabad is any closer, today, to a decisive victory in Kashmir, than they were in 2014. What he fails to mention is that after the peace treaty signed in August 2003, which was honored till Mumbai attacks in Nov 2008, thereon Indian military has been continuously breaching the agreement by resorting to unprovoked firing across the LoC. This unholy practice accelerated after Modi took over power in June 2014. Innocent civilians living near the LoC are the main victims of senseless firings. Heavy artillery/mortars and even cluster bombs have been fired on civilian localities. International media, Human Rights Watch and diplomatic community based in Islamabad have physically seen the extent of human losses, and damage done to the villages. India has nothing to show because the counter action by Pak Army is confined to Indian military posts only; the civilians living across the LoC are also Muslims.
To conclude, one can say that this is a one-sided view and kite flying at best, particularly at a time when China and India are confronting each other. There is no way Pakistan can afford to be seen negotiating with India behind China’s back. People of Pakistan are otherwise suspecting that Kashmir has been bartered away. They are feeling upset over non-action of the rulers to provide relief to the Kashmiris in distress. In any case, what has India to offer? Nothing, except platitudes and false promises.
More importantly, for the move to be meaningful, it has to include the people of Kashmir. It also requires Modi to give Pakistan grounds for trust and prepare public opinion inside India. There are no signs of it nor can he afford to go down that route having done what he has lately done. The suggestion has either not been thought through properly or is intended to secure India’s flank in any possible struggle with China.
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member CWC PESS & Veterans Think Tank. [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.