Raza M Khan
Speaking at Dhaka last year, Modi had proudly boasted about India’s role in the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. Later, on India’s Independence Day, he overtly supported the secessionists in Balochistan and offered Indian citizenship to a few.
Following him, many of his ministers threatened to cut Pakistan “into ten pieces”. India continues to blame Pakistan for the freedom movement in the Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK), including the indigenous and unprecedented uprising in 2016. India is also continuously violating the LoC and targeting innocent civilians in Azad Kashmir, since September 2016.
Exploiting the leverage of its upper riparian status in IOK, Modi has threatened to denude Pakistan of its fair share of water from the Indus, Chenab and the Jhelum rivers. The new Indian army chief recently spoke of the possibility of more ‘surgical strikes’, disregarding the hazards of the escalation of conflict. Pakistan has, so far, ignored these provocations. But they have given rise to apprehensions in South Asia that Modi could initiate a war with Pakistan, while falsely hoping for a military victory – as it did in East Pakistan in 1971. As Modi is a staunch RSS ideologue, this scenario is not overly hypothetical. But are we vulnerable to further fragmentation, as our nemesis desires?
Pakistan has certain weaknesses which India has exploited in the past and will continue to bank upon in the future. The so-called Doval Doctrine refers to some of these susceptibilities and emphasises “working on the economic, internal security, and political vulnerabilities of Pakistan”. This doctrine also aims at “Pakistan’s international isolation, defeating its policies in Afghanistan and making it difficult for it to manage internal political balance”.
Repeated acts of Indian state-sponsored terrorism, the use of Indian consulates in Afghanistan as launching pads for intelligence activities and covert operations inside Pakistan and the current diplomatic posturing of India are clear manifestations of this doctrine. The Doval Doctrine seems to have worked for India for some time, causing euphoria among the rulers in Delhi and evoking an uneasy sense of déjà vu in Pakistan. But Pakistan’s security and intelligence apparatus have succeeded in thwarting the Indian designs, though there was a cost. Out of frustration, Indian rulers may want to up the ante, but the following ground realities will sober them up.
First, the Pakistan of 2017 is very different in many ways from what it used to be in 1971. There is no civil war in Pakistan and the trinity of the military, the people and the government is united in the country’s defence. Second, no worthwhile Pakistani political party has a secessionist manifesto like Mujib’s six-point agenda and our politicians have learnt to share power, in accordance with the people’s desire expressed through the ballot. Third, unlike in 1971, all federating units in Pakistan are now geographically contiguous, well-connected through road, rail and air infra structure and are socio-economically integrated, with Urdu as an additional unifying factor.
Fourth, when India invaded East Pakistan, its armed forces enjoyed 8:1 superiority in army, 11:1 in air force and 12:1 in the navy. Today, the Pakistani armed forces are still numerically inferior to that of its adversaries, but they have a robust conventional and nuclear capability, to effectively thwart any aggression and inflict unacceptable losses on the invader. It must be recalled that there is no embargo on the import of the sinews of war by Pakistan and Russian military or diplomatic support to India may not be as forthcoming as it was in 1971.
Fifth, despite concerted, state-sponsored efforts by India to destabilise Pakistan, we have almost won the war against domestic and foreign terrorists. This has created new opportunities for economic revival and attracted major foreign investments that will ensure that Pakistan can sustain essential expenditure on its defence and security. Finally, India’s support to Pakistani dissidents and its belligerent actions and propaganda has had two positive effects. It has revived and revalidated the two-nation theory and visibly united the people of Pakistan. These are, indeed, the most reassuring developments for us.
Modi must not dare to indulge in any adventure against Pakistan. If he does, he will witness an ignominious defeat. Needless to say, Pakistan’s response will be swift and measured and it will not hesitate to use any or all means at its disposal to defend itself. In the event of a war, India may itself disintegrate due to its vulnerabilities in Kashmir and fissiparous tendencies in Khalistan and elsewhere.
Modi should realise that today the threat to Indian unity is not external. The hazards stem from his abhorrence of non-Hindu minorities, his arrogant style of governance, his racist philosophy and his obstinacy. Modi should also shun the use of religion for political gains, stop blaming Pakistan for his own failures and come out of the 1971 mindset. On the contrary, he and his bellicose ministers and advisers should prudently opt for negotiations rather than a confrontation to resolve contentious issues with Pakistan, such as the core issue of Kashmir and the Indus Waters Treaty.
Meanwhile, Pakistan must warn the US that frequent Indian threats will compel it to shift its forces from its western borders. That could have adverse effects in Afghanistan, for which Modi must be held accountable. We must take the recent threats to our security from India and its affiliates very seriously and nurture no complacence due to either the successes of the National Action Plan or the strength of our military resources alone. There is no better panacea to overcome the grave challenges to our freedom than unity, political amity, provincial harmony and the equitable distribution of economic opportunities and resources within the country.