India raises the ante
As political uncertainty deepens in Pakistan, India has raised the ante by heating up the Line of Control in Kashmir, lending credence to the perception that in the wake of American withdrawal from Afghanistan it would like to burnish its 'indispensability' for regional peace. New Delhi has been angling for the role of a regional policeman for years, and it seems it believes its time has come - thanks to mounting political chaos in rival neighbour, Pakistan.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2013
We don't know if there are any contributors here in Pakistan to India's hegemonic mindset; but who knows - may be someone is playing into its hands, albeit unwittingly. The free-for-all power-grab contest that is on in our country is indeed an open invitation for outside interference, and that our political masters are unaware of this looming threat to national security we have no complaint. For them all that matters in life is power and to have it no 'sacrifice' would be too expensive to be rendered. But that doesn't seem to be our military's mind and sense. Apparently, the GHQ was conscious of the fact that something was cooking in New Delhi; General Kayani's speech at the Sialkot garrison underscoring the need to "fully remain prepared to respond to full spectrum of threat, be it direct or indirect". And India-spurred flare-up on Line of Control is part of that threat spectrum.
That Line of Control has often been violated and the armies across it accuse each other. But the matter would be resolved at the level of area commanders. But the latest spurt is of entirely out of that pattern; here having killed a Pakistani soldier well within the Azad Kashmir territory the India military high command lost no time in accusing the Pakistani side of carrying out a raid in its area and then made the most preposterous claim of mutilation of bodies - something no professional army would do and Indians know it. Also, quite contrary to the routine even before the Indian army's spokesman could tell the story the India media was up in arms accusing Dr Manmohan Singh's government of being cowardly and defensive. One had expected a colourful comment by Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid on this. That it would be followed up quickly by the threats-loaded press conference of the Indian army chief followed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's terse remarks was a highly unexpected development. Not only do the two seem to have shunned discretion warranted by their high offices, the follow-up action by the Indian authorities is clearly suggestive of India's increasingly belligerent posture towards Pakistan. Within hours of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remark that "it cannot be business as usual" with Pakistan not only did the Indian Home Ministry suspend the much ballyhooed visa concession to elderly Pakistanis it sent home packing the just arrived Pakistani contingent of Indian Hockey League. That Indian prime minister and army chief have been swayed into this hard-nosed positions by some angry Hindu fundamentalists or TV channels is an entirely implausible argument.
India is clearly and without any shadow of doubt convinced that New Delhi feels its time to muddy the Pakistani waters has come. Now that after a great amount of effort Pakistan seems set on a democratic trajectory India is working to subvert that process by raising the ante of aggression - a tried and tried tool in the Third World. Indian attacks were entirely unprovoked; how grossly illogical would be the thought that Pakistan military would like to open another front when it is so broadly engaged in the war against terrorism within the country. May be, as one would like to think, India strategists are of the view that let there be a situation that the general public comes to believe that security of state is more important than democracy and election is put off earning Pakistan immense international public reproach and political isolation. But this is a dangerous game. If anti-democratic forces win in the end India would be an equally bad loser; its security too would be at peril. Given the Congress-led government's anxiety not to be on the wrong side of Hindu fundamentalists and supra-nationalists its aggressive posturing is understandable, but only to that extent. It must not trivialise the hard-gained peace on the LoC only to appease a certain section of the Indian society - if that's the reality and not a planned conspiracy to muddy the Pakistani waters.