Last week, the Indian army suddenly began heavy shelling and firing on Pakistani villages across the line of control (LoC) dividing the disputed state of Kashmir between the two countries. This occurred as soon as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned from his visit to the United States. Later, Indian fire spread to the villages across the international border, in sheer violation of international laws.
The unprovoked Indian firing continues and has left dozens of civilians dead and wounded, besides destroying several houses. The Pakistani army has now evacuated all villages close to Indian border and is now responding to Indian fire.
Strangely, besides violating the cease fire, Delhi has been continuously accusing Pakistan of doing the same.
If viewed in the perspective of general elections India is going to have in a few months, the entire episode of shelling on Pakistan and the media frenzy looks perfectly normal. Kicking up hatred against Pakistan and creating war-like tension on the LoC has been the regular practice of Indian politicians and governments for over three decades. Mobilizing anti-Pakistan sentiments has been the key factor in winning elections for almost all political parties in India. Every party proved itself a bigger enemy of Pakistan than its opponents.
Veteran leader of Kashmiri freedom struggle and chairman of All Parties Hurriyet Conference, Syed Ali Gilani immediately dubbed the Indian firing on LoC as political gimmick and election stunt. He said Congress was trying to attack on Pakistani controlled Kashmir in order to prevent the Bharatiya Janata Party from winning and thwarting hawkish hardliner Narender Modi from becoming next prime minister of India.
A media frenzy
Indian media, which religiously follows Delhi’s policy on foreign affairs and Kashmir, is taking large strides in fanning the war hysteria among Indian voters and political parties. Pakistani media is also trying, rather unsuccessfully, to match its Indian counterpart in portraying a war-like situation on the border. Interestingly, Pakistani media has shown quite an independence from the influence of Indian culture and media trends in recent days. Known for its obsession with Indian music and culture, to the extent that even the serious stories are not shown without the touch of Indian music, Pakistani media has now started showing Kashmiris’ protest they stages on Oct. 27 to mark Indian army’s occupation of Kashmir state.
Mobilizing anti-Pakistan sentiments has been the key factor in winning elections for almost all political parties in IndiaMansoor Jafar
Pakistan’s soft-spoken President Mamnoon Hussain has also issued strong warning to India against continuation of LoC shelling which, he said, would be responded to with equal vehemence. Pakistan’s army chief has already stated that it was time to reply Indian provocation and added that army was ready for that.
The most plausible reason for the sudden Indian firing on Pakistani forces and villages in the pre-electioneering scenario is strife between Indian politicians in the run-up campaign. But, the fact should not be ignored that Delhi has bitterly frowned on Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s appeal to the world community to intervene for solving Kashmir dispute, while he was in Washington recently.
Responding to Nawaz Sharif’s appeal for world intervention in the Kashmir dispute, Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid promptly said there was no question of accepting world intervention on the Kashmir issue after both the countries had already acknowledged it as a mutual dispute. He reiterated the Indian stance that Kashmir was an integral part of India and nobody should raise any question on that count. The Indian foreign minister also mentioned the recent release of Washington’s aid to Pakistan and said Delhi duly hoped that Washington should consider the fact that she was a strategic partner of India and make is sure that any financial aid from Washington should not be used to damage India’s security and military interests.
Though Salman Khurshid’s statement was a mere reiteration of Indian policy on Kashmir and Pakistan, this rhetoric has been becoming more and more self-contradictory with the increasing voices of independent observers criticizing Delhi’s control over Kashmir and Indian army atrocities on unarmed Kashmiri Muslims. Pakistan has always indicated that Kashmir was not merely a dispute between two countries but it was a global issue that could throw the world into a nuclear war anytime. Besides, it was Delhi which took the lead in making Kashmir a global issue by inviting the United Nations to mediate and solve it.
The history of the matter
In 1948, the then Indian Prime Minister Nehru moved the Kashmir issue before U.N. General Assembly, and the world body in its resolutions decided that Kashmiris should be given the right to self-determination through a plebiscite in which they should decide if they want to be part of Pakistan or India. Those resolutions kept on figuring on U.N. meetings until 1957 but India always refrained from holding the plebiscite.
In the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, Delhi captured over ninety thousand Pakistani troops as POWs who surrendered after being sandwiched between the Indian army and Delhi-backed insurgents in the then East Pakistan. It was in this scenario that Islamabad’s new government led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had to negotiate with Delhi for the release of POWs through the infamous Simla accord. Under the doctrine of necessity, late Bhutto had to acknowledge Kashmir as a bilateral dispute instead of a global issue.
This fact should not be ignored that Indian governments had been dragging Washington into even the minor exchange of fire between the Indian and Pakistani army at LoC, yet they are not ready to acknowledge the freedom of 12 million Kashmiri Muslims as a global issue despite the fact that the U.N. had recognized their right to freedom and self- determination.
In its bid to become a regional super power (or regional policeman) India had been sticking to its rhetoric of Kashmir as integral. On the other hand, Nawaz Sharif has always been an ardent supporter and advocate of holding talks with India on all issues and had manifested his positive intentions on many occasions especially by making the Lahore Declaration with the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee during his visit to Lahore.
Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based in Islamabad. He can be reached via Twitter: @mansoorjafar