Escalating Indo-Pak tensions
Relations between India and Pakistan have historically been characterized by bitterness and hostility. Conflict has usually prevailed over cooperation, though the two countries continue to face several common challenges, such as terrorism, cross-border air pollution, locust control, COVID-19, water shortages and floods, which should bring them together to collaborate with each other. Ironically, India has opted to halve its diplomatic personnel in Islamabad by first asking a similar number of Pakistanis working in the High Commission in New Delhi to return to their country.
Clearly, New Delhi is on the wrong path here.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, won a landslide victory in the last elections on the plank of Hindutva, an ideology that is not only rooted in Hindu supremacy but also discriminates against Indian Muslims and advocates a tough approach toward Pakistan. The Indo-Pak relations are, therefore, not likely to improve during the BJP rule.
India’s new political outlook has negatively impacted its relations with other neighbors as well. This largely explains why South Asia, which happens to be one of the most happening regions of the world, is not too integrated. This is despite the fact that connectivity promotes travel, people-to-people contacts, trade and peace. Beijing seeks to promote that in the region and beyond through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which seeks to connect Xinjiang with the Arabian Sea through Pakistan, is its flagship project. While it promises to change the economic geography of the region and seeks to benefit every country in the neighborhood, India thinks of CPEC as Chinese ingress into its backyard. Instead of promoting its own connectivity with Central Asia via Pakistan, New Delhi has chosen to be a spoiler.
Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint that cannot be ignored. By making Ladakh a union territory, India has also introduced the China factor into the equation. The current situation is fraught with danger and should be defused as early as possible. The Arab countries, friendly both to India and Pakistan, can play a role here since the Indo-Pakistan peace is in the interest of the entire region.
India’s unilateral abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A of its constitution, which constitutes a clear violation of its international and bilateral commitments, was a seminal development with colossal consequences. Not only did it negatively impact the fundamental rights of nine million Kashmiris but also upset Pakistan and China. While the Kashmir valley has now been opened to other Indians where they can reside and buy property, the strategic region of Ladakh is also directly ruled from New Delhi. This area is very close to the Chinese-controlled Aksai Chin and not very far from the northern areas of Pakistan which provide CPEC entry. Galwan valley that witnessed the recent Sino-Indian clash is in northern Ladakh, a strategically important area.
The Karachi Stock Exchange came under terrorist attack on June 29 and the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility. The BLA is a terrorist organization prescribed by the United States. The ghastly act was condemned by several countries and international organizations. The government of Pakistan strongly suspected that Indian agencies had a hand in the terror attack. Islamabad also believes that India may stage a false flag operation in Indian administered Kashmir to justify a surgical strike in Pakistan. The degree of mutual suspicion is high and ominous as India tries to conceal its Galwan valley embarrassment by adopting a hawkish policy toward Pakistan.
Not long ago, the United States and China used counsel restraint to both South Asian nuclear-armed states with positive results. The Sino-Indian relations are not ideal since New Delhi has become part of Washington’s policy to contain Beijing. However, the US is deeply embroiled in its own problems related to the coronavirus pandemic and racial inequality during this election year.
Meanwhile, human rights violations are increasing by the day in India occupied Kashmir, and Pakistan cannot remain a silent spectator. There are daily ceasefire violations on the Line of Control in Kashmir, a smokescreen created to hide the region’s real issues. A UN military observers’ group stationed on both sides, was evicted by the Indian government years ago. It would not even allow the OIC Kashmir Contact Group members to visit the occupied area. Clearly, there are quite a few skeletons in the Indian cupboard.
As Indian atrocities increase in Kashmir, Pakistani authorities are under mounting pressure to do something about the situation. Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint that cannot be ignored. By making Ladakh a union territory, India has also introduced the China factor into the equation. The current situation is fraught with danger and should be defused as early as possible. The Arab countries, friendly both to India and Pakistan, can play a role here since the Indo-Pakistan peace is in the interest of the entire region.
- Javed Hafeez is a former Pakistani diplomat with much experience of the Middle East. He writes weekly columns in Pakistani and Gulf newspapers and appears regularly on satellite TV channels as a defense and political analyst. Twitter: @hafiz_javed