NEW DELHI: Rejecting India’s strong warning, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi telephoned yet another Kashmiri separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, on February 2, a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kashmir.
Following his earlier call to Mirwaiz Mohammad Umar Farooq on January 29, a livid New Delhi had reacted by summoning the Pakistani High Commissioner and warning him of “consequences.”
“In recent months, the level at which anti-India sentiments are being pushed (by Pakistan) across the world is unprecedented. I don’t think we have noticed this level of activism before,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar a day later.
Some analysts feel that Pakistan’s new-found aggressiveness on Kashmir stemmed from the belief that it would soon control Afghanistan after the US withdrawal, giving it the strategic ability to put pressure on Indian interests there and divert resources – including terrorists now active on that side of the border—towards India.
Tilak Devasher, former special secretary, Cabinet Secretariat and author of two books on Pakistan, disagrees. For over two decades, “Pakistan observes February 5 each year as Kashmir Solidarity day. In the build up to that, they have events all over the place. This time the intensity may be more in terms of calling up the Hurriyat leaders,” he said. But essentially, “Pakistan is trying to find ways and means to force India to the negotiation table to avoid being isolated in the region,” he felt.
Asked whether Pakistani confidence stemmed from the assumption that it would soon control Afghanistan, he said: “That would be typically Pakistan, counting its chickens even before they are hatched. If it had been some other date, perhaps, but since it is happening around February 5, I don’t think so. Maybe this government in Pakistan feels it has more levers to push against India, and with the Indian government going into elections at this moment, they just think it’s an opportunity to make India look bad.”
Rejecting reports that Pakistan’s antics could also be due to American support, he said: “The Americans are desperate to get out of Afghanistan. Pakistan has understood that, and has extracted its pound of flesh ... This would not have happened without an American nod. But I don’t think that is the case with Kashmir.”