Asif Haroon Raja l
India and Pakistan became independent countries in 1947 but India till to-date has not reconciled to Pakistan’s existence. Kashmir which was left behind by the outgoing British as an unfinished agenda of Partition has remained a bone of contention and has bedeviled their relations. India has been defying UN resolutions giving right of self-determination to the Kashmiris on one pretext or the other for the last 72 years. Each and every Pakistani leader extended a hand of friendship but was spurned by India.
The already tense and strained relations between the two arch rivals flared up after India blatantly abrogated Articles 370 and 35A of Indian Constitution on 5 August and made the disputed Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) integral part of India. Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh were declared as the two newly created Indian Union Territories.
What it implied was conversion of Line of Control (LoC) in J&K and Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh into permanent borders. Both Pakistan and China rejected India’s claim saying it is in complete disregard of the UN resolutions and international and bilateral agreements. New Delhi, however, hastened to state that the new arrangement didn’t affect the status of LAC with China.
Fascist and Hindutva loving Narendra Modi couldn’t have gambled to take this perilous step to annoy two nuclear powers in its immediate neighborhood without a wink from USA and Israel, both having their axes to grind. He had already taken on board Arab Gulf States.
Modi couldn’t have locked down 9 million Kashmiris in IOK for 10 months and subjected them to horrendous oppression without the support of his patrons. Promulgation of anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and NRC law in December 2019 followed by new domicile law to change the demography of Muslim dominated IOK were part of the bigger design.
Megalomaniac Modi’s madness didn’t end here. India’s civil and military leaders started hurling threats of annexing Azad J&K (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). A new map was circulated showing AJK-GB part of India, and Aksai Chin in occupation of China, as part of Ladakh. Taking into account the Indian force level of 950,000 regular and paramilitary forces in IOK, the threats carried weight.
The chain of events taking place in quick succession following the subjugation of IOK were part of the overall game plan conceived by Indo-US-Israeli nexus to place India at a higher pedestal in the region.
Reasons which impelled Modi to initiate risk-filled acts:
- Pakistan couldn’t be denuclearized; conversely, it managed to keep its missile and nuclear programs safe and secure and further fortified them.
- Plans to bleed, demoralize and exhaust Pak Army and paramilitary forces through massive covert war backfired and the Army emerged more strong and robust.
- Billions of dollars spent on the proxies and propaganda war to destabilse and discredit Pakistan were washed out after Pak Army, Frontier Corps and Sindh Rangers managed to break the spine of foreign funded terrorist groups operating in FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and urban Sindh.
- Fencing of western border and now the southern border on fast track by Pak Army have given a lethal blow to RAW-NDS sponsored cross border terrorism from Afghanistan and Iran.
- Afghanistan where India has invested $ 3 billion so as to consolidate its influence and to pose a twin threat to Pakistan’s security has almost slipped out of its hands since Taliban’s return to power is a foregone conclusion.
- Noting the ever rising fervor of freedom movement in IOK, it had become clear that sooner than latter Kashmir, which India had illegally annexed in October 1947, will breakaway. 700,000 occupation forces deployed in the Kashmir Valley since 1990 couldn’t extinguish the flame of liberty. This was exceedingly worrisome for Indian leadership.
- Unlike the pliant regimes of PPP and PML-N that could be easily swayed or pressured by US and India, the incumbent regime led by Imran Khan is not pursuing an outright policy of appeasement, and is repeatedly naming Modi regime as fascist and racist regime which is anti-peace with expansionist designs.
- CPEC which is the flagship project of China’s Belt-and-Road-Initiative (BRI) has shaken the global ambitions of USA, Israel and India wanting to dominate the world. CPEC has not only welded together China and Pakistan as iron brothers, but has opened avenues for China to become the leading economic power of the world and for Pakistan to become self-reliant. This is unacceptable to the Indo-US-Israel nexus.
- The US is desperate to pullout from Afghanistan safely where it spent over $2 trillion without achieving any of its objectives. It is also keen to retain a toehold in the country, or else establish a military base in the near vicinity. Ladakh as a base fits the bill wherefrom it can easily monitor China, Iran, Pakistan and Middle East. The three strategic partners are nurturing this wish.
- Failing to subdue Pakistan through bloody proxy war, low intensity conflict along the LoC, and water terrorism, and then failing to disrupt development of CPEC through acts of terrorism, or to spoil China-Pakistan relations through propaganda war, India schemed to absorb whole of J&K in two or three phases in line with Gen Bipen Rawat’s policy of limited war.
- GB has more value for India since its seizure is the only other way out left to block CPEC, which originates from Kashgar in China and enters Pakistan at Khunjarab in GB. Another sour point for India is Pakistan’s plan to build Diamir-Bhasha dam in GB as part of CPEC project, which will be detrimental to India’s plan to make Pakistan water scarce. India has built 24 water storage dams on three rivers flowing into Pakistan from IOK.
- Allowing USA and Israel to establish military bases in Ladakh and making it a strong military garrison will not only ward off threat from China to Ladakh, but Ladakh will also provide shortest and only route to India to approach GB, scuttle CPEC, and pave way for taking back Aksai Chin.
- With GB in the bag of India, Pakistan-China contiguity will get dislocated.
- Another possible reason of abrogating the special status of IOK was to provoke Pakistan to launch an offensive across the LoC, as it had provoked Gen Yahya to declare war against India on the western front on 3 December 1971, thereby allowing India to once again declare Pakistan an aggressor and itself a victim of aggression, and after gaining sympathies of the world, launch counter offensive in GB-AJK.
- Last but not least, both the US and Israel have been baiting and goading India to lock horns with both Pakistan and China by playing upon boastful India’s penchant to become a global power. Both have been milking India by selling most expensive armaments.
India calculatedly upped the ante
With these considerations in view, India first carried out a false flag operation in Pathankot on 14 February 2019, in which 40 Indian CRPF soldiers were sacrificed. India backed by USA and some European nations promptly blamed Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Pakistan. Purpose was to garner Hindu votes for Modi’s re-election in May 2019 by fomenting war hysteria against Pakistan, defaming Kashmiri freedom struggle, preparing grounds for blacklisting Pakistan by FATF, and above all creating justification for launching a surgical strike.
On 22 February, twelve Indian Mirage-2000 took part in the air intrusion on an imaginary hideout of JeM in Balakot to avenge the deaths of Indian soldiers. Vigilance and forceful chase by PAF jets forced the intruders to fly back in panic and hastily drop 3 Israeli supplied Spike missiles in a deserted hillock causing no damage.
Pakistan’s befitting response
Although Indian mission was a complete failure, PAF gave a befitting response on the night of 26 February. The attacking jets locked three high value targets (Command HQ, Brigade HQ, ammunition dump) deep inside IOK, but under the policy of restraint, hit vacant areas in close vicinity of intended targets. Gen Rawat survived by the skin of his teeth, but a loud message was conveyed not to mess with nuclear Pakistan.
These strikes were followed by an air duel on 27th morning in which PAF jets struck down one Su-30 flown by Israeli pilot and one MiG-21 flown by Wing Comd Abhi Nandan of IAF and captured the latter after he ejected. Another Indian helicopter with its crew was downed by panicky Indian air defence.
Pakistan also responded to India’s plan to strike 8 targets inside Pakistan by Brahmo cruise missiles by deploying its missiles to hit 16 Indian cities. It took the heat out of Indian jingoism and temporarily broke the escalating cycle of violence.
Amalgamation of IOK by India
Notwithstanding the series of humiliating setbacks suffered by India, Modi’s re-election once again pumped him up to implement his fascist agenda which he couldn’t accomplish in his first term.
What encouraged ultra-supremacist Modi to change the status of IOK, maintain aggressive posture along the LoC in J&K, to continue brutally oppressing Kashmiris in IOK in contravention of 4th Geneva Convention, refuse to lift curfew in spite of the Covid-19 and mounting world pressure was his hope that he will be able to deflate the spirits of freedom fighters in 4-6 months by killing Kashmiri leaders, putting young boys in torture cells, raping women, jailing all political leaders, closing down their shops and businesses, and disrupting phones, TV and internet.
The other reason which comforted him was the raised troop level to 9,50,000, enabling Indian Northern Command (INC) to enforce lockdown with impunity, maintain defensive balance and have sufficient forces for offensives in GB and AJK at an opportune time.
While snatching the special status of IOK, Modi either discounted the Chinese factor, or was assured by his benefactors that China would not react due to its contracting economy for the first time in last 40 years, brewing tension in South China Sea, USA backed Taiwan reiterating its independent status, trade war with USA, the US recognizing Tibet as independent state, Trump blaming China for spreading Covid-19, and threatening to cut all ties, CIA sponsored protests of liberals in Hong Kong (HK) funded by National Endowment for Democracy based in Washington, and Trump’s pledge to revoke special status of HK in reaction to new extradition bill for criminals promulgated by Beijing.
What emboldened Modi to absorb IOK was Pakistan’s frail economic conditions together with internal political polarization. He saw it as an opportunity to exploit and seize the moment.
The other possibility that cannot be ruled out is that in case current corona pandemic is US inspired and was China centric, it would have been assumed by the trio that China would be too engrossed in fighting the virus and will have little heart for any external adventure.
The US having declared China as its number one enemy is otherwise clamoring to emasculate China by stunting its economic and military growth through pampered India bloated as a counterweight to China and pivot of Indo-Pacific region.
With Ladakh under its belt, it became easier for Indian INC to execute a military operation in GB and annex if not whole, at least part of it through which CPEC passes. There would be still enough forces to undertake one main and two auxiliary efforts in AJK.
Indian military had stepped into Siachin Glacier in 1984 with an eye on GB and to monitor Karakorum Highway. RAW has been using that platform to stir political trouble in GB with the help of Balwaristan movement.
To undertake an offensive in GB, Indian military speeded up construction of 260 km long road along Shyok River to connect it with Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) near Karakorum Pass in last October under the plea that it was well inside the LAC. DBO, situated 8 miles away from Karakorum Pass was upgraded from a company-size post into a brigade-size military garrison with an airbase in 2019. This is what alarmed and spurred China to defeat India’s dangerous designs before it was too late.
To be continued
The writer is a retired Brig, war veteran, former Defence Attaché’ and Dean of Corps of Military Attaches’ in Cairo, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Center, Member CWC PESS and of Veterans Think Tank, and Member Council TJP.