- CV Srikar
Ashraf for years wanted to speak out against the illegal occupation of his land. But, it seemed nobody cared about his voice. Instead there were murmurs and chatters on another piece of land adjacent to his’. That land was his mother’s. This land was his father’s. But, both the lands were one and the same. His distant cousins still in his mother’s land were prospering. Here, he only could get one job-militancy. Ashraf lived in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The land next to him was Jammu and Kashmir in India. Ashraf knew PoJK was also Indian. Yet he felt everybody forgot about it. Suddenly last year, he could see people speaking up against the atrocities of the Pakistani forces. There were summary arrests, fake encounters, rapes and murder by the Pakistani forces and their militant partners. India for years was silent about PoJK and human-rights violation there. Not anymore.
For many years, Pakistan had upper hand in terms of the perception game internationally on Jammu and Kashmir. Through its sympathisers in the international news and opinion capitals of London and New York, Pakistan was smart enough to divert attention from its atrocities in Balochistan and PoJK to Jammu and Kashmir. What was even more surprising was that the Indian military presence in J&K was in response to tackle Pakistan sponsored terrorism was portrayed bythe Pakistani sympathisers in the international news capitals as Indian military’s muscle flexing. Sadly, Indian governments were never able to tap into the Indian diaspora all over the world to try to change several negative narratives running against India. India, both militarily and perception-wise, always found itself on the defensive. Even the hanging of Afzal Guru and killing of Burhan Wani was portrayed negatively in the international media, thanks to Pakistan’s well-placed sources.
But, suddenly everything changed 180 degrees after the abrogation of the Article 370. Now suddenly Pakistan is playing defensive. It is literally begging global leaders for funds and some sympathy. Or, that is how an outsider may feel. However, a careful analysis of PM Modi’s decisions and strategic moves in Jammu and Kashmir and on Pakistan will show us that he and his strategic team had already prepared a long-term strategy and only slowly unveiled their cards. The result is that today the government has successfully put the ball in Pakistan’s court. Throughout the last five years, like moves in Chess, India played patient, but extremely smart moves in Jammu and Kashmir. The plan was fool proof. Beginning with Operation All Out, Indian security forces eliminated one by one by one all the terrorist leaders in Jammu and Kashmir. The level of operations was complex and certainly happening for the first time in the valley. Some may argue that similar kind of operations had happened in the 90s. But the security apparatus today has to face threats from blind spots like civilian stone pelters. There is also the new online propaganda by Pakistan. And then, several Indians, knowingly or unknowingly, seemed to toe Pakistan’s line. Also, the looming threat from ISIS was a further cause of worry. Hence, the security operations during the last five years were certainly unique in terms of challenges and scale.
On the non-military front, Indian government aggressively opened up multiple interfaces with Kashmiri people. The primary aim was to interact with them directly. Previously, there was only ‘one pipe’, a group of vested interests who became millionaires siphoning Indian financial support to the union territory, to reach out to Kashmiris. Today, the government is directly transferring funds to panchayats in the UT. Indian government is also encouraging sports and entrepreneurship in the valley in order to further promote peace and prosperity.
Politically, BJP kept aside its ideological differences with PDP to ensure smooth governance in J&K. This again was part of a very clever strategic policy to deny Pakistan any space in Jammu and Kashmir. It is a different matter that PDP had other plans and different motives.
On the diplomatic front, India was increasing massive pressure on Pakistan. Today Pakistan is almost on the verge of bankruptcy, thanks to India’s diplomatic victory in Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Though we have ensured Pakistan to get to grey-list, ultimate victory in FATF will be upon putting Pakistan in the blacklist, which may happen in October. Prime Minister also ensured that he maintained personal rapport with many Middle Eastern leaders in another attempt to further squeeze Pakistan of any support. Middle Eastern countries have traditionally been major supporter of Pakistan owing to religious ties. This despite depending on India for oil exports. No previous government could leverage our purchasing power to also secure diplomatic support from these countries. PM Modi most certainly did. Today many of these countries have even awarded the PM their highest national awards.
The Uri surgical strikes and Balakot air strikes must have come as a major surprise to Pakistan. Pakistan had for years assumed our defensive attitude as a major blind spot. And therefore, they religiously attacked us with major terrorist strikes every year (with full mentorship of ISI), and knew we will only do some diplomatic shouting and then go silent. Not anymore. Today the multi-directional Indian strategic focus has one direction-India first. Every decision is being weighed against this principle. Perhaps future generations of policy wonks will call it the Modi Neeti.
Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech supporting activists from Balochistan and PoJK came as big booster shots to those people. They got energised. The new Indian intelligentsia, comprising those who certainly wanted to see Indian interests first, also supported these activists by inviting them to various forums across India. Only time will tell what will happen to the struggles of those activists from Balochistan and PoJK. But, one thing is for sure: the ball is in Pakistan’s court and Pakistan’s racket is broken!
(The writer, former LAMP fellow batch of 2018, is now working in Chhattisgarh to develop startups by tribals in the state)