It is now two weeks since India and Pakistan, through their respective Director Generals of Military Operations (DGsMO), have recommitted themselves to the maintenance of the ceasefire protocols established in 2003. Ayesha Siddiqa, one of Pakistan’s most authoritative analysts, has commented that the move has the approval of General Qamar Bajwa, who is the last word in the country. He would not move on this sensitive route without a well-established game plan. Hence, the decision is not an “off the cuff” by the DGsMO but part of a well-conceived plan which is possible only through protracted negotiations.
It is interesting to see how the game plan is evolving. The Pakistan Army runs a virtual dictatorship in the country and, controls the media too. It has, over the years, put in place a well-established methodology of getting its message through. First, the Pakistan Army’s information wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), gives out a terse statement. Then, many journalists and so-called intellectuals are placed conveniently in all segments of the media, take the statement and the message forward.
Accordingly, in this instance, the ISPR chief Major General Babar Iftikhar, has given out a statement saying, “Since 2014 there has been a huge spike in ceasefire violations leading to great losses especially of civilians including women and children. Since the population affected on both sides constitutes ‘Our Kashmiri Brethren’, we have remained eager for the hostilities to end.” The crunch of their loaded message lies in building the narrative of “our Kashmiri brethren on both sides of the LOC.”
It is from here that the paid media has taken over. A storyline has been planted that India has continuously remained the aggressor along the LOC with indiscriminate firing leading to the death of innocent civilians and destruction of civilian property. On the other hand, the Pakistani Army has responded with restraint and maturity, targeting only Indian bunkers, taking care not to cause damage to civilian life and property.
In the second part of the storyline, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being specifically targeted through innuendos of being a warmonger and in his tenure an unprecedented spike in ceasefire violation has been witnessed. There are constant references to the Pulwama attack as an election gimmick by the ruling party and India’s defeat in the subsequent air actions. Of course, the time tested theme of human rights violation of the “Kashmiri people” by Indian forces is being vigorously pursued.
Funding Farm Agitation in Bharat
“The dynamic between India and Pakistan has held the region hostage for a long time. I admire the fact that despite the Indian Government’s stir-crazy attitude our civil and military leadership continues to remain convinced of the importance of peace in the region especially between India and Pakistan,” said Farrukh Khan Pitafi, one of the paid columnists in a Pakistan daily newspaper, The Express Tribune. “For long I have argued that Pakistan should reach out to the Indian diaspora given that the Modi government is becoming a liability for the South Asian diaspora,” he added.
This second statement adequately explains the huge involvement of foreign money in the ongoing farm agitation in India. Causing dissension in India through employed stooges from within the Indian community abroad has, since long, been a potent tool of Pakistan Psychological warfare. Now, through statements like the one made by Farrukh Khan this process is being strengthened.
Delivering Anti-India Rhetoric
In the next phase is political brinkmanship. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that India should think “how successful has been its Kashmir policy,” implying that the desired success has remained elusive. “Pakistan is always talking about peace, we want the Kashmir problem to be resolved as per aspiration of people, we spoke of peace earlier now also we are speaking,” said Qureshi.
Ominous hints are being thrown about Pakistan having prepared dossiers on Indian ceasefire violations along the LOC and human rights abuses in Kashmir for information of the entire world. The paid strategic analysts are at great pains to emphasise that “pressure is being mounted on India” for which reason the country is organising the “sham visits of European Union delegates to Kashmir.”
India needs to remain alive to the fact that there cannot be universal acceptance of the ceasefire being a positive development even if it has the backing of the Army Chief. The Pakistan Army always has a strong fundamentalist element backed by powerful militant warlords that frown upon such acquiescing activities. This is the deepest of the deep state
The final political statement emanated from Prime Minister Imran Khan. “When I came to power I approached the neighbouring country and PM Modi and said that we must sit and resolve differences. There is only one difference, all we want is that the Kashmir issue be resolved according to the UN resolutions,” he said.
The well-coordinated media blitzkrieg launched immediately after the ceasefire recommitment makes it quite apparent that Pakistan has taken this step with the objective of building upon its shattered international image. The requirement has been felt in view of a new Government being in place in the US whose patronage is crucial for the country. The second critical factor is to get out of the stigma of remaining in the Grey List of the FATF for years
India also needs to remain alive to the fact that there cannot be universal acceptance of the ceasefire being a positive development even if it has the backing of the Army Chief. The Pakistan Army always has a strong fundamentalist element backed by powerful militant warlords that frown upon such acquiescing activities. This is the deepest of the deep state.
Now that Pakistan’s end game is out in the open, the Indian response should be a demand to take the initiative forward through a holistic commitment from Pakistan that includes along with the ceasefire—an end to proliferation of terrorism from its soil; a complete control upon its fundamentalist elements and an acceptance that Kashmir is and always will remain an integral part of India. India would do well by not remaining in any illusion of a lasting peace being the outcome of this initiative. She should, as such, not look for peace in penny packets.
(The writer is an academician and a columnist)