War drums are beating between India and Pakistan, and beating feverishly. Unsurprisingly, the crux of the jingoistic narrative on both sides of the India-Pakistan divide is none other than Kashmir, on which the two have gone to war twice before—in 1948 and 1965. The matrix from which the narrative is spawned is highly emotionally charged. India has been engaged, for the last 80 days, in quelling an uprising that has so much in common with the legendary intifida (popular uprising) of the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
For the first time in the Kashmiris’ struggle for their rights against India, it’s stonethrowing youths versus the heavily armed Indian soldiers in the valley. The world has long been accustomed to the Palestinian youths fighting off the Israeli occupation army with nothing but stones and brick-bats; the scenario has been ingrained deeply on the conscience of the world. But in the Kashmiri context, its reprise is novel.
India feels the Kashmiri upsurge is its domestic headache. It’s not prepared to tolerate any outside fingers poking in, or voices of concern raised from outside. Pakistan rubbishes the Indian claim of Kashmir being a domestic issue of India. It has UN resolutions, still figuring on the UN dossier of unresolved international imbroglios, to show for its prerogative to question India and hold it responsible for what it decries as a reign of terror in thevalley. Eighty days of unstinted curfew in most parts of the troubled land, and a toll of casualties now in the three-figures and creeping up by the day, are Pakistan’s alibi to hold India responsible for unmitigated atrocities against unnamed civilians.
India has routinely pointed the finger in the past at Pakistan for infiltrating ‘terrorists’ from its side into Kashmir to stoke up the flames of discontent, unrest and agitation. This time around, however, that one paradigm-fits-all doesn’t measure up. Infiltration may stoke up an uprising but can’t keep it going for nearly three months with unremitting fervour. The new mode of youth-participation is unique, and has been triggered by the killing of that iconic young militant Burhan Wani at the hands of Indian security forces. As many an outside observer has commented, the Kashmiris, for the first time, have a local hero to mourn and get inspired from.
The killing of 18 Indian soldiers, on September 18, at the brigade headquarters of Uri, is, ostensibly, the trigger and catalyst of this chorus of jingoism from both sides. India thought the cold-blooded murder of its soldiers had Pakistani finger prints all over. Within 12 hours of the gory incident, it held Pakistan responsible for the mayhem. The sensation- prone news media, shooting from the hip, had gone to town even earlier, claiming the spent bullets had Pakistani markings. It feigned no remorse when Indian defence sources debunked the e pisode of Pa k i s t a n i markings.
The war of words thus begun has been given an uptick by Prime Minister Modi’s rhetoric at a Kerala public meeting, on September 24, where he named Pakistan as an exporter of terrorism and warned that he was prepared to take Pakistan on the battlefield. Earlier, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had devoted almost the entire length of his ritual address at the UN General Assembly to India’s heavy-handed suppression of the Kashmiris’ struggle for emancipation from Indian rule. Nawaz later boasted that he had presented before the world body the ‘case of Kashmir’ and hoped it would awaken the conscience of the world.
So India seemed to be returning the compliment by threatening to isolate Pakistan in the comity of nations. He proclaimed it as his ‘mission’ to blacklist Pakistan as a promotor of terrorism. The Indian government may well covet its latest mission. But, as of now, there’s hardly any indication of Pakistan being isolated in the international community or abhorred as a ‘pariah’.
It may entirely be coincidental, but as the Indian government was belting out its dire warning to Pakistan to beware of isolation, a contingent of Russian soldiers was getting ready to hold joint military exercises with their Pakistani counterparts in the mountains of Pakistan—a first time, ever, display of military co-operation between the two. India needed no reminding that Russia is the oldest ally of India, while Pakistan used to be firmly tethered to the American camp during the Cold War. What a change of fortunes for Pakistan that while its oldest ally US is threatening Pakistan with sanctions, Russia has lifted its arms embargo from Pakistan and is all poised to fill its arsenal. Another disappointment to India’s mission to isolate Pakistan may have come from Iran—Pakistan’s brotherly Muslim neighbour, courted, lately by India to circumvent Pakistan for access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. In his meeting with Nawaz in New York last week, President Rouhani made a formal plea for Iran to be taken on board the fledgling China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China is financing this multi-billion dollars project to pave its access to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. While India may have eyed the project with suspicion, the Pakistani establishment lobbyists have routinely drum-beated that India, in league with US, is determined to subvert and sabotage the CPEC.
Turkey, another of Pakistan’s steadfast friend, along with China, and the 56-member strong Islamic Conference Organisation (OIC) have all been articulating on behalf of the Pakistani brief on Indian ‘atrocities’ in Kashmir. That must give heart to Pakistan studiously shepherding the cause of its Kashmiri ‘brethren.’ The cacophony of sympathy to Pakistan’s case of Kashmir, as Nawaz claims, should worry India about the prospects of success to its crusade of isolating Pakistan, internationally. The odds don’t add up.