Pak’s Anti-India Actions: Revert To Pre-9/11 ‘Free-For-All’ Era?

When it comes to Kashmir, Islamabad has always cut its nose to spite its own face, writes Manoj Joshi.

5 min read
Image used for representational purposes.

Pakistan’s decision to expel the Indian High Commissioner, stop trade, and close an air corridor, is a signal that we may be returning to a free-for-all era of the 1990s that culminated in 9/11.

At first sight, the Pakistani action could be self-defeating since it is equally, if not more, affected by cutting off ties with India. But Islamabad has always had the ability to cut its nose to spite its own face, when it comes to Kashmir.

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Those in India who thought that close ties between New Delhi and Washington would tilt the global scales in India’s favour have been proved wrong.

Initially, the Ministry of External Affairs let it be known that India had kept the US informed about its Kashmir plans, and indeed run it by them as far back as February.

But on Wednesday, 7 August, US officials pointedly denied this. A tweet by Alice G Wells, the ranking US State Department official dealing with South Asia, said: “Contrary to press reporting, the Indian government did not consult or inform the US Government before moving to revoke Jammu & Kashmir’s special constitutional status.”


India-Pakistan Row: What US’s Potential Role As ‘Honest Broker’ Means

In fact, an official spokeswoman was quoted by Reuters as saying that Washington supports “direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues of concern”.

According to a PTI report, the official said that the US was following the Indian legislation on the issue and was aware of “the broader implications of these developments, including the potential for increased instability in the region.” The spokesperson went on to add that the US would urge “respect for individual rights, compliance with legal procedures, and inclusive dialogue with those affected.”

Now, it has been revealed that Wells will be traveling to the region for an extended 10-day tour. Clearly, the US is concerned about the potential of India-Pakistan tensions to undermine its Afghan policy, with the sub-theme that the region is returning to its status as the “most dangerous place in the world.” More importantly, Washington has signalled that it will play the role of an ‘honest broker’, rather than the friend or ally of India that many in New Delhi had clearly hoped it would.

Clearly, Washington now believes that it needs to keep Pakistan close, given the evolving Afghan situation.

As for New Delhi, it has been a bit of a disappointment when it comes to aligning with US interests in the Indo-Pacific.

Why China Is Unlikely To Participate in Pakistani Adventurism

Indeed, if there is a silver lining in the international reaction to the Kashmir issue, it is the position of China. On Tuesday, the official foreign ministry spokesman had voiced “serious concern” about the move by the Indian Parliament to split the state.

In fact, spokeswoman Hua Chunying had specifically criticised the creation of the Ladakh Union Territory saying that it undermined Chinese sovereignty.

But, this was a pro forma response which both India and China indulge in when it comes to the issue of their disputed border. India has criticised China for its development projects in Gilgit Baltistan on this score.

Beijing claims and occupies Aksai Chin in the new UT of Ladakh, as well another area in PoK, the Shaksgam Valley, which was handed over by Pakistan to China as part of a border settlement.

There has been a distinct shift in the tone and tenor of Sino-Indian relations post-Wuhan, and in October 2019, Modi is expected to host Xi at a return informal summit in India.

Chinese telecom giants are doing good business in India, and New Delhi is expected to soon take a decision on Huawei’s participation in India’s 5G roll-out.

Given all this, and the Chinese troubles with the US, they are unlikely to encourage or get involved in Pakistani adventurism.

J&K Remains An ‘International Dispute’ In Eyes Of US & China

Even so, both US and China’s responses make it clear that no matter what steps India has taken, in the eyes of China, US, and indeed other powers, J&K remains an international dispute that needs to be resolved through dialogue between India and Pakistan.

But a lot of this depends on the emerging ground situation in the Kashmir Valley. It is much too early to predict which way it will go.


Why Modi Govt Shouldn’t Have Gone After ‘Pro-India’ Parties

If you believe that the people will quietly make a 180 degree turn and hail closer integration with India, you can also believe that pigs can fly. Where there was 70 percent alienation in the Valley, today it is likely to be 100 percent.

The Modi government has egregiously gone after the ‘pro-India’ parties like the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party who have played a stellar role in blunting the edge of separatist sentiments in the Valley in the last thirty years.

The danger is the J&K Police, which was reportedly disarmed before the 370 action.

J&K Police have played a key role in defeating the insurgency, and if there is disaffection there, it could have consequences for the counter-militancy campaign in the Valley.

Will Pakistan Renew Proxy War Or Be Satisfied With Diplomatic Action?

This is where Islamabad comes in. For the past several years it has not been able to push either trained cadre or weapons into the Valley. If it steps up the effort, it will certainly find willing local recruits.

So, what remains to be seen is, whether Pakistan decides to renew its proxy war campaign in the Valley, or whether it will be satisfied with its diplomatic action, and by raising the issue in international forums.

If the proxy war intensifies, the international community, led by the US, is bound to increase pressure on India and Pakistan to resolve their dispute.

Trump’s repeated mediation offers are pointers to this, as is the official American reaction to the Pakistani decision to snap ties with India.

What New Delhi Must Do Amidst Dire Global Geopolitics

We are in a very different and difficult geopolitical conjuncture today. There may be superficial similarities between the pre-9/11 world and today, but as American political scientist and commentator Ian Bremmer has pointed out, the reality is that the global situation is probably much more dire: relations between China and the US are on a track of no return; Hong Kong may be on the verge of a PLA crackdown; climate change is signalling its onset repeatedly with little mitigative action; US and Iran are an incident away from war; even stable allies like Japan and South Korea are at each other’s throats; and Brexit is upon us.

Responding to all these will demand that New Delhi undertake agile diplomacy, create fluid coalitions, and take decisive actions.

At the same time, it must ensure that we do not become collateral casualties in other people’s wars. Modi and Amit Shah may have dealt with the domestic aspects of Jammu and Kashmir with great artifice and self-confidence. But there is an international aspect as well involving Pakistan, US and China, which is immune to the magic wand they have wielded.

(The writer is a Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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