Pulwama attack: The winners and losers

At least 40 personnel of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) of India were killed on Thursday in what has been dubbed the deadliest attack on Indian security forces in the occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir. In this terrible incident, a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into a bus in the paramilitary convoy in the Pulwama district in IOK. As usual, in a knee-jerk reaction, India readily implicates Pakistan for this terror attack. And once again, India chose to do so without sharing any credible evidence, and even holding any formal inquiry into the incident. Strangely, Indian Foreign Office summoned Pakistan High Commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood soon after this attack and lodged a strong protest over it. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also instantly came forward with his signature anti-Pakistan diatribe. He vowed a “crushing response” after warning that those responsible would pay a “very heavy price”. “Our neighbouring country thinks such terror attacks can destabilise us, but their plans will not materialise”, he said.

Reacting to this terror attack, Indian Union Minister Arun Jaitley just ‘renewed’ Indian pledge to isolate Pakistan internationally. He said that India would take “all possible diplomatic steps” to cut Pakistan off the international community. He also announced the Indian government’s decision to immediately withdraw the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan. Pakistan has been enjoying such preferential trade treatment since 1996. On the other hand, the Pakistan Foreign Office has strongly rejected the unfounded Indian accusation against Pakistan following the Pulwama attack.

As a matter of fact, India always prefers to play a typical blame game over every terror incident in the country. It just points the finger at Pakistan in rather a mechanical fashion for every major terror attack on its soil. So, blaming and bashing Pakistan for such attacks seem to have become somewhat a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in India. We have already observed India resorting to similar anti-Pakistan terror rhetoric following the terrorist incidents such as: the 2001 Indian Parliament attack, the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings, the 2007 Mumbai attack, the Gurdaspur attack, the 2016 Pathankot and Uri attacks. On the contrary, Pakistan never jumped to conclusions following any of the hundreds of terrorist incidents inside its territory during the last couple of years. Pakistan never irresponsibly blamed India for these incidents despite having some irrefutable evidence regarding Indian involvement in them. The presence of a high-profile Indian spy cum terrorist Kulbhushan Jadhav in Pakistan is one of such evidence.

Despite the fact a young local Kashmiri boy, Adil Ahmad Dar, has been established to be the suicide bomber involved in Pulwama incident, India looks hell-bent on holding Pakistan responsible for this incident. In fact, Pakistan has never used terrorism as an instrument of its state policy. There is only a distant possibility that Pakistan would plan or execute any Pulwama-like attack inside India. Pakistan is currently busy in combating terrorism and militancy on its soil. At the same, it is also trying to overcome the challenges faced by its economy in the form of sluggish economic growth coupled with crippling current account deficit and fiscal deficit. Pakistan is also currently looking for an IMF bailout. These domestic security and economic compulsions hardly allow Pakistan to take part in any disruptive expedition abroad.

There can be observed a strategic shift in Pakistan’s foreign as well as regional policy from geopolitics to geoeconomics since it formally joined the China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in April 2015. Therefore, Pakistan is now endeavouring to expand its economic ties with the Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, in addition to China. Pakistan is also currently viewing the region through an economic prism. Essentially in line with such policy, Pakistan intends to bring durable peace to the region after developing cordial relations with all neighbouring countries. This is the reason Pakistan has been supporting every peace initiative in Afghanistan. Similarly, Pakistan also wants to make peace with India after resolving all outstanding bilateral disputes. In this respect, Pakistan has recently extended an olive branch to India in the form of Kartarpur Corridor to facilitate Indian Sikh pilgrims in the country. But regrettably, Pakistan’s peace overture has not yet been reciprocated by India.

The Pulwama attack as well as its very timing by no means suit to Pakistan’s national and strategic interests. This incident, and the subsequent Indian propaganda against Pakistan, has somehow undermined Pakistan’s position to play a decisive role in the ongoing Afghan peace process. Similarly, the post-Pulwama attack Indian poisonous campaign against Pakistan has just put Pakistan in rather an awkward position on the eve of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary meeting in Paris which is reviewing Pakistan’s position and actions to combat money laundering and terror financing (AML/CFT) at home. It will certainly adversely impact the “grey-listed” country’s measures in compliance with the 27-point Action Plan prescribed by the international terror financing watchdog. Moreover, the Pulwama attack has also marred the positive image of Pakistan as a potential global investment destination in the wake of the Saudi Crown Prince MBS’s visit to Pakistan. Indeed, Pakistan can’t be such a fool and naive to choose this timing to harm its arch enemy.

In fact, such Pak-India tension is now a perpetual characteristic of the pre-election political environment in India. During this period, some Indian political parties usually try to increase their political capital through anti-Pakistan tirade. Definitely, this time too, the warmongering Hindu nationalist BJP will selfishly exploit Pulwama attack to galvanise and realise its extremist anti-Pakistan vote-bank in the country. Therefore, there is every likelihood that Pak-India military tension would continue to escalate till the polling day in India.

On the globe front, India would use Pulwama attack to advance its well-thought-out and well-planned diplomatic strategy to isolate Pakistan internationally. It has already announced such diplomatic campaign against Pakistan only moments after this attack. India has been exploiting every potential global and regional forum, including the FATF, to label Pakistan a terrorist country. Reportedly, India is preparing to share a dossier regarding Pakistan’s alleged involvement in the Pulwama attack at the upcoming FATF meeting in Paris, seeking Pakistan’s blacklisting by the international watchdog. India would also try to mobilise other multilateral bodies to tighten the noose around Pakistan on the pretext of the latter’s alleged support to defunct militant outfits in the country. At the same time, India would also actively try to marginalise Pakistan’s position and role in Afghanistan as Pakistan has just taken centre stage in the on-going Afghan peace negotiations.

No matter who really is the planner or perpetrator of Pulwama attack in IOK, the executor of this attack is essentially a local anti-India Kashmiri who just hated India and didn’t want Kashmir to be part of India. Speaking to Reuters (a credible UK-based international news agency), the father of slain Pulwama bomber has disclosed that his son became radicalized only after being “beaten up and harassed” by Indian troops in IOK some years ago. This incident should certainly be an eye-opener for Indian political and military leadership which currently believe that India would succeed in suppressing the on-going resistance movement in the valley through military and other coercive means.

Pulwama district of Kashmir has been in the limelight for some months on account of certain Indian brutalities against the Kashmiris. It is the very district where Indian security forces, in a naked display of force, shot seven unarmed Kashmiri civilians dead who were protesting over the martyrdom of three Kashmiri freedom fighters in December last year. So, the oppressed Pulwama district appears to have hit back. It is high time India should seriously review its so-called Kashmir policy to pacify this volatile valley rather than naively blaming someone else for destabilising it.

Mohsin Raza Malik

The writer is a lawyer. He can be contacted at mohsinraza.malik@ymail.com. Follow him on Twitter

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