While Indian political and military leadership is busy in eating their words pertaining to surgical strikes, Pakistan’s response to escalation by India has been prudent and systemic. Starting from initial response by the foreign office and ISPR, Pakistani leadership utilised the last week in firming up its response. The week started with a meeting of all parliamentary parties’ leaders, then moved on to an All Parties Conference (APC), meeting of National Security Council (NSC) leading to joint session of parliament, followed by Army Chief’s visit to the Line of Control (LoC). While fissures are clearly visible in the voices from within India, there wasn’t a single voice of dissent, entire Pakistani nation has demonstrated that it stands by the cause of Kashmiri people for their right of self-determination, and in condemning India for triggering uncalled for escalation starting with Narendra Modi’s provocative Independence Day rhetoric .
A member of the state assembly from Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), Engineer Rashid, revealed on October 6 that the Indian army was filming a fake operation in the Leepa valley to present as evidence of its so-called surgical strikes. “Very credible sources confirm that the Indian army is filming videos in the Nowgam and Leepa sectors, adjacent to the border, to show as if it is carrying out covert operations in enemy territory,” he quoted by the Greater Kashmir newspaper. He also stated that the BJP staged the surgical strikes drama in order to boost Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s profile as prospective Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP), where election are due next year.
Surgical strikes also need to be understood in light of a Times of India story published in June this year. It had revealed that BJP will declare Rajnath its candidate for UP chief minister and that “before doing so, Rajnath may claim to have carried out some big military operation in Kashmir”.
Chief Minister of New Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, came under an ink attack, soon after he demanded of the Indian government to provide evidence that its troops had actually carried out “surgical strikes” by crossing the LoC. Dinesh Ojha, a student leader of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP executed the ink attack. Responding to the BJP’s complaints, Kejriwal said: “If I asked the government] to give a befitting response to Pakistan’s false propaganda, why is BJP so scared and rattled?” “All the newspapers and televisions including Washington Post, The New York Times, BBC and CNN are rejecting the Indian claim of surgical strikes.”
Senior Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma also demanded credible evidence. “The government must expose Pakistan’s denial. It has all the tools and instruments to do so.” Sharma, disapproved of attempts to ban Pakistani artistes and cricketers in India. He said it was “not correct” to brand every citizen of Pakistan, including artists and sportsmen, a “terrorist”. Yet another Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam termed the claim fake and said the BJP government was trying to derive political mileage from it. Congress’s demand for credible evidence coincides with international suspicions being raised on India’s claim.
Leading US newspaper, The Washington Post, on October 3, published interviews of locals living along the Line of Control. The majority of villagers in the three areas along the LoC said that they did not witness any cross-border movement of troops or hear the sound of any helicopters. Another well-reputed publication, The Diplomat, in a piece titled “Is India Capable of a Surgical Strike in Pakistan Controlled Kashmir?” raised serious questions about the capabilities of the Indian military. According to a BBC Urdu article, when locals residing merely two kilometres away from Indian check-posts were inquired about the strikes they said: “What surgical strikes? That day there was just more than usual firing.” Moreover, the Indian army’s concocted and patchy information also raised more doubts.
India’s state minister for information, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, has already accepted that “no aerial operations were included in the operation”. Rathore’s remarks endorsed the version of the Pakistan army’s media wing, ISPR, which insisted: “there has been no surgical strike by India, instead there had been cross-border fire initiated and conducted by India.” Pakistan Army also took independent journalists to the LoC for first hand observation of the situation on ground, while India has not allowed similar media access.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while addressing the joint sitting of the Parliament on October 05 said Pakistan is against war and wants durable peace in the region by resolving all issues through negotiations. “We have done everything to make India come to the dialogue table, but India did not let it happen. Our efforts were thwarted over and over again,” Nawaz added. “Our desire for peace should be taken as a sovereign nation’s wish”, said the premier. PM Sharif went on to declare that those who talk of ending poverty should know that this competition is not possible with fire and blood. “If they want us to fight them to end poverty, then they should realize that poverty cannot end by driving tanks onto farmlands…They can target through pellets eyes of unarmed people, but cannot blind the entire history and humanity”, PM said. “World powers need to ensure that UN resolutions on Kashmir should be implemented in letter and spirit,” he added. Touching on Uri attack, Nawaz said: “Without any investigation within a few hours India put blamed Pakistan for the attack. Through this one can see what India’s motives are”.
Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah said: “We need to tell the world that India cannot run away from what is on the record. “We all are united for Kashmir”. MQM Chief Farooq Sattar said India’s “warmongering will not only destabilise the region, but the entire world” and international community should be conveyed about this looming threat.
The NSC that met on October 4 expressed complete satisfaction over operational preparedness of the valiant armed forces. A day later, Army chief General Raheel Sharif visited the 10 Corps headquarters and reviewed the situation on the LoC. He expressed “complete satisfaction over the military’s operational preparedness and appreciated the morale of deployed troops and their level of vigilance”.
Escalation on LoC and Eastern borders has shifted Pakistan’s focus away from its efforts to eliminate terrorism from its soil at a critical stage, as it has begun contemplating relocation of troops from its Western to Easter borders. Which is detrimental to the successes made in war on terror, as some of these are fragile and reversible. Around 150,000 Pakistani troops are still stationed there to consolidate the gains. On November 26, 2003, Pakistan and India had entered a landmark truce, brokered by the United States, putting an end to a 14-year-long daily exchange of fire on the LoC. The purpose was to enable Pakistan to relocate its troops from the eastern border to the western front to fight terrorist elements.
India stands duly exposed with regard to its Uri false flag attack, both at domestic and international levels. National Security Advisors of the two countries have held talks, presumably on American behest, for defusing the current standoff that had virtually brought the two hostile neighbours to the brink of war. Nasir Janjua and Ajit Doval have had “candid and frank discussions” on the current strain in relations between the two countries. There have been contacts at foreign ministers’ level as well. Now instead of talking at each other the two countries are talking to each other. India’s high drama is fizzling away. De-escalation may just be around the corner!
Escalation on LoC and Eastern borders has shifted Pakistan’s focus away from its efforts to eliminate terrorism from its soil at a critical stage, as it has begun contemplating relocation of troops from its Western to Easter borders.