Diwali message to Sharif

Diwali message to Sharif

Diwali message to Sharif, India and Pakistan share two types of “border” in Kashmir. One the 720-km long Line of Control (LoC) and the other 198-...

India and Pakistan share two types of “border” in Kashmir. One the 720-km long Line of Control (LoC) and the other 198- km-long International Border (IB). Both “borders” are mute witnesses to Pakistan’s failure to realise its juggler vein, Kashmir, despite staging two mini-wars, two full-scale wars and umpteen rounds of deadly skirmishes over the past six decades of its existence as an independent sovereign country, where democracy remains at the mercy of the Army. In recent times, Pakistan has been trying to achieve with the help of jihadis what it could not achieve either politically or militarily.

Only once in the past, in the year 1999 to be precise, Pakistan had resorted to incessant artillery bombardment of both the IB and LoC. It was a prelude to the Kargil misadventure of Gen Pervez Musharraf, the then Pak Army Chief. The Prime Minister of the day was Nawaz Sharif. He maintains even today that he was unaware of Musharraf plan. And for his part, Musharraf hotly contests that claim even now. Truth is a casualty in the land of the Pure.

The second year into Nawaz Sharif’s third innings as Prime Minister is again marked by artillery bombardment of the IB and the LoC. One of his ministers has gone to town to warn India that Pakistan is a nuclear country, and, therefore, it should not be taken lightly. This is an indication that the Pakistan Army and the government are on the same page.

Sharif has Kashmir roots. His family belongs to Shopian district in the Kashmir valley. His father, Muhammad Sharif, migrated in 1947 to Lahore via Amritsar. His wife, Kulsoom, is the grandniece of the famous Kashmiri wrestler - The Great Gama.

In 1999, the objective of Pakistani bombardment was to draw the Indian attention away from the impending Kargil adventure. So, what could be the objective this time around? Not another Kargil-type mission? Unlikely, given the dependence of Pakistan economy on the IMF dole which in turn depends on not annoying the United States!
According to knowledgeable security and strategic experts, Pakistan’s intention this time around appears to be different and it is as much political as military. One give-away to this intention is the latest Musharraf speak on Kashmir in a TV interview. The garrulous retired general is known to have an opinion on every subject under the sun, M S Dhoni’s hair style including, and offer it unsolicited.

So much so, his three–liner, “Kashmir is waiting to be incited. Pakistan is capable of inciting violence. Lakhs of people in Pakistan are willing to fight for Kashmir too,” is true to form. The babble has a message, probably unwarranted, and it is that Pakistan hopes to create disturbances behind the Indian lines of communication and logistics and induce panic by catching the forces defending the LoC and IB by surprise.

The artillery bombardment has already forced evacuation of an estimated 28,000 people from the border villages. This has had a deleterious effect on the local agrarian economy. It may also mean that the “sources” of information for the army have dried out because whether it was the Kargil invasion or the tunnels near the IB, the locals have always sided with the India to the dismay of Pakistan. Two tunnels, for instance, were discovered by the farmers in South Kashmir. One tunnel from Pakistan side into Northern belt of Punjab was also unearthed by local farmers. These tunnels confirm that that Pakistan is developing, what Musharraf once called, “a front and back manoeuvre” to catch India off-guard.

For the attacker, the tunnels are of great advantage. One the intruder can bypass the barbed wire fence and the minefields. Two depending on the width of the passage as many as 30,000 troops can be transferred into the battlefield within an hour. This technology is available off the shelf in North Korea, which had helped Pakistan in its quest for nuclear bomb and missile technology.

It is pertinent to point out in this context that North Korea had built four such tunnels through solid rock under the Demilitarised Zone into South Korea in preparation for an invasion. That invasion never came, but it is a different matter. Put simply, it is time for Indian military planners to factor in the possibility of “tunnel adventurism” with east of Icchogil canal (Pakistan’s main defence line against India), where colonies of ex-servicemen have come up with official patronage, acting as the launch pads.

Militarily, Pakistan doesn’t appear to have achieved any objective with its border bloodbath. India has been walking the talk that Pakistan would have to pay an “unaffordable price” for the “mischief” on the LoC and IB.

“When Pakistan used to fire, we always had a shield in our hand. This time we also have a sword”, Defence Minister Jaitley said the other day as the border situation remained “hot.” And as if driving home his message, he added: “Our conventional strength is far more than theirs (Pakistan’s). So if they persist with this, they'll feel the pain of this adventurism.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has spent Diwali with the troops in Siachen, has joined Jaitley in congratulating Indian forces for “responding to aggression with courage”. And both have said that it is upto Pakistan to create an atmosphere for talks.

This was a bargain unexpected for Pakistani civilian and military leadership at a time when their two political objectives have proved to be damp squibs. The UN Secretary General has stonewalled their plan to make the world body to intervene in Kashmir. The ISI agents have failed to instigate the Kashmiri people whereas the Indian Army and disaster management services have won people’s trust and goodwill with their rescue effort during the recent floods.

It is wrong to say that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the all- powerful Shura of Corps Commanders at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi are not on the same page when it comes to K-word. Both are loath to see India rebuilding the flood-devastated Kashmir, and the Kashmiris reasserting their commitment to the ballot by electing their new lawmaker in another couple of months. Turn of events shows that their goal is set to remain as elusive as Musharraf’s 1999 plan to redraw the LoC, and dictate terms of a final Kashmir settlement. Also, Sharif’s hope that the Army would be off-his back and stop propping up puppets with its attention riveted on K-world. Well, Sharif has not bargained for this Diwali message!

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