The suicide attack on the CRPF convoy in Pulwama had raised the stakes between India and Pakistan. Public demand for retribution for the strike was on the rise. The Prime Minister, while pushing forth economic and diplomatic actions left the military option to the armed forces. For most Indians, the military option was the most desired one.
The armed forces acted 12 days after the strike by launching an air strike on known terrorist camps at Balakote, Muzaffarabad and Chakoti eliminating an estimated 350 terrorists. While this was an expected option, it, however, may not by itself be able to force Pakistan to change and act.
The two nations have been at one another’s throat since independence. Whether it be the UN General Assembly, visit by any of their leaders to another country or a forum where one of them is participating; OIC, BIMSTEC, BRICs being some examples, the two continue to target one another.
The border remains active and both blame each other for fomenting trouble in their respective countries. With India’s diplomatic push, Pakistan faces near isolation. Pakistan continues with supporting terror groups in the Kashmir Valley, while seeking to revive militancy in Punjab. Its economy remains in doldrums, with Pakistan expending upto 32% of its planned expenditure on defence.
Pakistan’s attempts at blaming India for its internal ills has had no takers. All attempts at peace between the two have failed. The basic reason why the two nations can never talk is that one is controlled by the army with democracy only a pseudo-front, while the other is a democracy where the army has its specified role.
Backdoor diplomacy has been an ongoing process. It can barely be successful, unless the Pakistani Army is on board. India, on the other hand, has politicians and Pakistan supporters in the Valley who continue suggesting that unless India talks with Pakistan, Kashmir can never be resolved. The fact is that Pakistan continues with its strategy of seeking to enhance anti-India resentment in the Valley, hoping India would lose patience. Operations in the Valley and ceasefire violations along the LoC would therefore continue unabated.
India needs to adopt actions which would impact the Pakistani public and organs of the government. In such an approach, India needs to announce every action which it takes, conveying strongly the aspect of its determination to go through with the measures. The Pakistani public must be made aware that any loss to them is solely due to the stance and strategy adopted by their government, at the behest of the deep state. They must realise that their loss can be overcome only if they force their government to change its ways.
The recent announcement of cancelling the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status, putting in place a duty of 200% on Pakistani products and planning to use its complete share of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT), was the first time such measures were openly announced. There are many more options, both big and small that need deliberations.
A possible measure to drive a wedge between Pakistani people and their government is to stop the issuance of visas for medical treatment. For Pakistani nationals, aware that their own healthcare system and hospitals are in poor shape and lack doctors, India is always a favoured destination. It’s closer and cheaper than travelling to Europe or elsewhere. Visas are issued on an as required basis. In many cases, personal tweets to the Foreign Minister led to grant of visas.
The Government of India should officially announce that it’s stopping the issue of all visas till their government changes its approach. Visas could be granted to minorities in Pakistan including Hindus, Ahmadis and Christians, whenever requested.
The announcement regarding utilisation of all water entitled to it by the Indian government is a welcome move. India should also consider abrogation of the treaty. An announcement by India contemplating the same could trigger political panic in Pakistan. It would also enhance the internal divides in Pakistan.
India has already created the BIMSTEC and BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal), thus moving forward while ignoring SAARC. Pakistan, on the other hand, is desperate to hold the SAARC summit as it seeks to regain legitimacy in the region. India should continue reinstating its position that it would never participate in the summit, unless Pakistan changes its stance on terrorism. This would further convey that India continues to support the development of all nations in the region, less Pakistan.
India’s procurement of the S400 anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia was objected to by Pakistan on the basis that it could change the balance of power in the region. Their foreign office even stated that Pakistan is not desirous of an arms race in the region. It was hit harder when India inducted its nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, completing its nuclear triad. The nation, desperately short of funds, cannot enhance defence expenditure. Forcing Pakistan into a conventional arms race would add to internal pressures, diverting funds from development to military.
India must, at the earliest, seek to reactivate its air force base at Farkhor in Tajikistan. Pakistan has always opposed this base as it could open a new front against them. Deployment of air force assets would add to pressures within the Pakistan security establishment. Post the air strike across the LoC, it would fear a similar action from another front, which would be difficult to handle.
Within the region, as was evident during the meeting of SAARC foreign ministers on the side-lines of the UNGA, India is not alone. Foreign ministers of India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh walked out after sharing their views, thus conveying combined displeasure to Pakistan. Further, it has been eight months since Bangladesh has refused to clear the appointment of the new Pakistani High Commissioner, claiming interference in the country. This combined pressure must continue, in order to convey that even in South Asia, Pakistan is an unwanted entity.
Pakistan, despite support from China and its Arab allies, is seeking a loan from the IMF to tide over its present crises. India must officially push for imposing severe terms on Pakistan for the loan. These should include meeting all conditions of FATF. With the FATF still not clearing Pakistan, it could be easier to push additional restrictions through.
India is too powerful a nation to be cowed down by Pakistan. It can act quietly and yet hit Pakistan and its nationals where it hurts. However, unless it broadcasts its actions in open domain, the Pakistani public would never know the truth and their army and the government it controls, feel the pressure.
Maj Gen Harsha Kakar (Retd)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BharatShakti.in)