No one has ever accused the Pakistani army of intellectual brilliance. But no one expected it to make two tactical blunders in the space of a few days.
The first error was the cold-blooded murder of Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz by Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists, armed, funded and trained by the Pakistani army. This egregious stupidity will alienate Kashmiri youth whom Rawalpindi has spent years and crores to subvert into stone-pelting India-baiters.
Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz.
The brutal torture and murder of 22-year-old Fayaz, a Kashmiri and proud Indian Army officer, rips the mask off Pakistan. Young Kashmiris now see, if they hadn’t already, the face of a nation so immersed in its enmity towards India that it will treat Kashmiri youth as collateral damage. Local Kashmiris’ support for Pakistan will never be quite the same again.
The second tactical error committed by the Pakistani Army was to kidnap Kulbhushan Jadhav from the Iran-Balochistan border, put him on trial in a military kangaroo court, find him guilty of espionage, and sentence him to death. Several consequences will now follow.
First, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), after its initial hearing, will adjudicate on the matter. In the meantime, the Pakistani Army will use the fig leaf of its amendment restricting the ICJ’s jurisdiction on national security. The amendment was rushed through on April 29, 2017, by Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi, after India sought consular access to Jadhav an unprecedented 16 times.
By internationalising its dispute with Pakistan for the first time since a 1971 reference to the ICJ, India has broken away from the stubborn insistence on bilateralism in its relations with Pakistan. I have long argued that there are key strategies India must adopt to defeat Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir and support the freedom movement in Balochistan.
As I wrote: “Pakistan craves equivalence with India. It recognises it can’t claim parity economically, militarily or diplomatically. The only way it can do so is to engage India in a permanent, low-intensity conflict. A part of this strategy is plausible deniability while inflicting damage on Indian soldiers, police and civilians. Pakistan’s rehearsed script: attack, deny, engage. Now is an opportunity for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make a strong public statement on Pakistan-abetted terrorism and take questions from the media. This is the time to assert his leadership. The statement must spell out the government’s broad intent and strategy on Pakistan. It need not disclose details of any covert operations on Pakistani soil that may or may not be under planning. But unless Pakistan is made to pay, it will not stop.”
The incarceration of Jadhav and the murder of Lt Fayaz present India with an opportunity to turn the situation around in the Valley, where anger against the Indian security forces is real but where Pakistan’s role is now seen with increasing suspicion.
The Indian government must move quickly across three fronts. First, deliver in full the flood relief funds promised three years ago. A government that doesn’t keep its word to its own people is not a government that deserves to be trusted. The Modi government must not fall into this trap. Bridge the trust deficit, don’t widen it.
Second, focus on the Kashmir economy. Today the state lives off the annual subsidy of over Rs 25,000 crore the Centre gives it. Much of this goes into the wrong hands. Development in the Valley is abysmal. The government must invest in the Valley, first through public sector units and then incentivise private sector companies to invest, provide jobs to youth and refurbish infrastructure.
Holding the final GST Council meeting of 32 state and Union Territory finance ministers in Srinagar this Saturday is exactly the kind of confidence-building measure the Valley needs to integrate itself with the rest of India’s economy.
Just four days after the murder of Lt Fayaz, 2,000 Kashmiri boys and girls (yes, girls) turned up for a physical and written exam for the post of sub-inspectors in the Jammu & Kashmir police. The desire for a better life is strong among Kashmiri youth. Pakistan-paid stone-pelters are in the minority. But the PDP-BJP government’s ham-handedness has allowed a narrative to gain currency that implies the opposite.
Now that the Pakistan army has shown the Kashmiri people its real terrorist face by torturing and murdering an unarmed young Kashmiri army officer, public opinion in the Valley will shift. India must seize the moment.
Third, use this opportunity to change the narrative. The horrors of life in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) must be highlighted. Is that the alternative home Kashmiris seek?
In conversations with ordinary Kashmiris, the common refrain is they want neither India nor Pakistan, just independence. On digging deeper, Kashmiri youth concede that greater autonomy within India is actually their preferred choice.
The lessons for the Indian government from the Jadhav and Fayaz tragedies are several. Focus on two.
First, don’t hesitate to internationalise disputes with Pakistan. As a terror sponsor, it is Pakistan which has most to lose when global adjudication forces the world to condemn it. Second, keep your promise to the Valley: funds, investments, jobs.
Kashmiri stone-pelters are paid by the ISI by the day. Wean them away into real jobs by investing in the Valley’s atrophied economy.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)