J&K: Pakistan’s next steps

Decision to abrogate Article 370 has dismayed Pakistan as the special status encouraged separatism


Given the speed and alacrity with which Pakistan has moved after August 5, 2019, the day the constitutional and administrative decisions on Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) were taken by the Indian government, proves the dismay caused in Pakistan. As long as a special status existed for J&K, separatism was a live phenomenon. The Pakistani narrative has seen much traction in Kashmir because it was against India, although, it hardly supported the core Kashmiri intent of Azadi. The Indian argument that history had overtaken the UN resolutions on J&K and these were now void flew in the face of the special status India continued to accord to J&K, leaving it as a territory whose status had yet to be settled. However, the abrogation of J&K’s  special status and its down gradation to a union territory put a spoke into Pakistan’s larger game plan because India put the stamp of integrated Indian territory on J&K. 25 years ago through another bold action India had passed an All Party Joint Parliamentary Resolution on February  22, 1994, declaring that the entire territory held by the then Maharaja of J&K belonged to India. 

The Pakistan Army along with the other elements of the deep state know that time is not on their side and that India’s new approach to countering the proxy hybrid conflict could get more effective by the day. As it is the three track strategy of instigating internal turbulence through established networks, external castigation of India by influential members of the international community including institutions, and enhancing alienation using its usually very effective communication strategy, has thus far all come cropper. However, Pakistan’s strategic thinkers would also be closely monitoring the situation within J&K and re-strategising based upon some assumptions.

The start point is the projection by Pakistan that the Kashmiri population has not accepted the Indian government’s decisions. For that there is a need for the world to see that their is violence and mayhem on the streets. By itself that may be insufficient although Pakistan would be happy to see some casualties; in 2016 by contrast 40 or more people had lost their lives in four weeks of agitation; this time it’s just one. The agitation mode is subject to will and stamina and needs much effort at mobilisation. The communication lock down has effectively denied a toehold in this sphere. A series of supplementary violent acts by terrorists against the Army and Police organisations sustains longer than agitation. Hence the need for increasing the strength of terrorists. Local recruitment under current and foreseeable future circumstances will be difficult especially under high levels of army and police deployment and surveillance. Gulmarg and its vicinity has been devoid of infiltration for sometime. Suddenly a surge of activity is taking place there. The Haji Pir bulge is a suitable launch pad and the routes lead directly into South Kashmir where the fulcrum of the current resistance exists. It is also likely that Pakistan will use other less frequented routes and cater for high level levels of attrition that could result from encounters with the Indian Army; this has long been JuD chief Hafiz Sayeed’s strategy. It’s a situation very akin to 1991-92 when foreign terrorists were first used in Kashmir to boost militancy.  

Apprehension that a big terror attack in  Southern or Central India is in the offing could prove right too. With the Islamic State (IS) terror attacks in Sri Lanka on April 2019 the scope for execution and denial by Pakistan has increased manifold. Tactical alliance between terror groups for temporary mutual gain is also not unknown; the ISI garnering services of the IS thus remains plausible. Pakistan’s international focus will remain the projection of the idea of ‘false flag’ in relation to a high profile terror attack, mostly involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs) anywhere in Kashmir’s hinterland or in rest of India. India has worked insufficiently on this till date and its diplomatic campaigns must include nailing the Pakistani lie on false flag. 

The adoption of offensive information and psychological warfare awaits the lifting of the communication lockdown of Kashmir. Mobile internet facility being denied in Kashmir has been frowned upon by Indian intelligentsia and international clamour to restore this ‘human right’ has been increasing. Pakistan’s propaganda machinery awaits the full lifting of the lockdown to flood the networks of social media with enough seditious literature and messages.

While Indian counters to this have been developing these are yet insufficient; this is where the focus of Delhi’s efforts must lie forthrightly and boldly citing national security and adopting a balanced attitude towards human rights.

This is the other issue on which the UNHRC will not remain the last bastion of Pakistan’s focus of painting Indian human rights record in different colours. We should remain alert to continuing our efforts to counter Pakistan’s propaganda in international think tanks and the high profile media where Pakistani traction continues to remain high.

Pakistan will find that the partial and progressive success of Indian agencies in taking control of financial networks will largely block its ability to mobilise support and run terror activities. It’s strategy is once again likely to shift towards fake currency and funding from within India. This is where other borders such as along Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab are likely to be activated for induction of fake currency.

Lastly, the diplomatic support to India and relatively cool attitude towards Pakistan on the part of GCC countries is likely to peeve Pakistan no end leading to renewed efforts by it to cultivate negative opinion on India in these important nations. The media in these countries is important too and it’s opinion makes international opinion in the Islamic world. India’s engagement with the GCC media too is warranted even as all eyes now await 27 September the day the UN General Assembly.

Syed Ata Hasnain, a retired lieutenant-general, is a former commander of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps. He is also associated with the Vivekananda International Foundation and the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

This article was originally posted by DNA India. It was posted here with the author's permission.