War games

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  • And what they cost

“When we go to war, we are all putting on hoods and pulling the hangman’s lever. And as long as we send our armies on the rampage – whatever the justification – we will go on stringing up and shooting and chopping off the heads of our ‘criminals’ and ‘murderers’ with the same enthusiasm as the Romans who cheered on the men of blood in the Colosseum 2000 years ago.” – Robert Fisk

The drums of war grow louder by the day on the heels of the Pulwama attack in Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK). The facts stand as such: on 14th February a suicide bomber crashes a car packed with 300kgs worth of explosives into a convoy of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), killing almost 40 Indian paramilitary personnel and allegedly injuring 70. The blast took place in Pulwama, close to Srinagar. Less than 24 hours later, Jaish e Muhammad (JeM) takes responsibility for the attack. India’s ‘knee-jerk reaction’ does not take long to follow and the blame is placed squarely on to Pakistan’s shoulders. Soon enough, India promises revenge and violence while Pakistan attempts to control the temperature by offering to investigate in the light of any evidence, but at the same time making it clear that any act of aggression will be met by an equal reaction.

Prime Minister Imran Khan denies any involvement in the Pulwama attack and urges the Indian government to seek the reasons for the attack in its brutal occupation of Kashmir. Meanwhile, the Indian media grows impatient, while baying for Pakistani blood, it dishes out its venomous propaganda in order to shove its narrative down the collective global audience’s throat. The hysteria in India has by now reached fever pitch and Modi’s war mongering is clear for all to see. India seems to be incontrollable in its bloodlust. At 2:55 am, 26th of February 2019, Indian air force jets intrude Pakistani airspace, claiming to have thrown 1000kg bomb to “destroy” JeM “training aground in Balakot”, no proof is shown for the alleged surgical strike. Meanwhile DG ISPR holds a press conference and with photographic evidence, dispels the notion of any strike having taken place and confirms that the Indian jets were scrambled and sent back, he then opens the floor to press questions. February 27, 2019, 10am, Pakistan Airforce conducts a response to Indian aggression and shoots down two Indian MiG 21 Bison jets and takes an Indian pilot prisoner.

These are the facts of the case as they stand. It is important to note certain things have been made abundantly clear. First off, the Modi-led Indian government has a predetermined plan to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and politically and they are willing to go to any length in order to achieve that goal. It started off by testing the waters with Uri, a ‘surgical strike’ carried out in 2016 by alleged Indian troops on the ground. No proof of such a strike was ever provided and Pakistan has vehemently negated that such a strike ever occurred. In true Bollywood fashion, India was quick to make a film on the so-called military excursion so as to document its side of the narrative. Despite its economic might and diplomatic clout on the global stage, a Modi-led Indian government is in no mood for peace and stability. What matters is that the BJP-ruled states remain BJP-ruled. Voters, elections, ratings, is what seems to be fueling the egotistical, brash and hysterical reaction of PM Modi and the Indian media. Some more facts, currently India is facing a plethora of separatist activities (other than the Kashmiri movement) within its own clearly defined borders. Starting from Indian Punjab, Maghalaya, Nagapur, the Naxalite insurgency are some of the more prominent and active movements in India. Modi needs a scapegoat to throw under the bus in front of his voters and it has been made abundantly clear that an anti-Pakistan approach wins votes in India.

Secondly, the aftermath of the killing of 22-year-old Burhan Wani was grossly miscalculated by Indian leadership. His funeral was reportedly attended by more than 50,000 mourners. The following day 19 civilians were killed during clashes by security forces. This paved the way for a months-long civilian uprising against Indian occupation which resulted in the killing of 120 civilians and the blinding, or partial blinding for countless others who were subjected to being shot by controversial pellet guns. These are, again, undisputed facts from various news sources. This says a lot for the Indian claim that it is in fact not an occupying force, rather an administrative one. The presence of 600,000 Indian troops negates the very premise that Kashmir is a functional state. The mass rapes committed against Kashmiri women by Indian security forces, the beatings, torture, and systematic attack on Kashmiri dignity is a testament to the fact that India is a brutal occupying force.

The drums of war grow louder by the day on the heels of the Pulwama attack in Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK)

Burhan Wani was symbolic of the youth of Kashmir that has grown up under the shadow of occupation. So, while he is dead, his memory and what he stood for remains alive and well and continues to invigorate the Kashmiri struggle against occupation. It will serve India and the world well, if they recognise their position and the plight of Kashmiris. Unfortunately, Narendra Modi refuses to hear the discontent and together with the BJP is planning on diluting Article 35A that grants special status to Kashmir by empowering the legislature of Jammu and Kashmir to define “permanent resident” of the state and the rights and privileges enjoyed by these permanent residents. It also underlines the fact that Kashmir is a disputed territory. In order to prevent any of the potential fallout, hundreds of Kashmiris are being rounded up by Indian police. Hurriyat leaders and eve pro India Kashmiri politicians are decrying the move. Mehbooba Mufti, chief minister of Kashmir, has warned the centre, “Don’t play with fire; don’t fiddle with Article 35A, else you will see what you haven’t seen since 1947. If it’s attacked then I don’t know which flag the people of Jammu and Kashmir will be forced to pick up instead of the tricolor.”

Thirdly, and probably one of the most important facts to have emerged from the ensuing crisis is that the response to India’s act of obvious violation of UN resolutions did not elicit any swift statements of condemnation for India’s blatant aggression from around the globe. It is pertinent to note that if the situation was reversed, the global noise of protest would be deafening. This is not to point the finger solely at the double standards observed by the world, but also indicative that Pakistan’s complacent foreign policy over the years has yielded little result when it comes to putting forth our narrative. To expect Shah Mehmod Qureshi to breathe life in foreign relations overnight is to expect a miracle. Yet, he has played his part well, the clarity with which he has taken aboard the opposition demand to boycott the OIC conference due to the presence of India’s foreign minister was commendable.

Pakistan’s lax foreign policy goals and inability to identify its direction has harmed our position on the global stage. If we are to fight India’s attempt to isolate Pakistan from the world, this government and those that follow must keep a uniform approach to foreign relations. The fact that the Indian government and military both took it upon themselves to act as judge, jury and executioner without any warning or sharing of plausible intelligence launch a “preemptive strike” and almost got away with it is incredulous. Pakistan must, get its act together if it is to fight the Indian propaganda mechanisms.

PM Imran Khan has addressed the country and briefed its citizens on Pakistan’s official position while offering another peace overture to his Indian counterpart. It is disappointing that the maturity shown by a country that is often blamed for everything that may happen across the border has not been reciprocated. So, while the media in India beats its repertoire of drums of war, it fails to inform citizens that this boisterous, aggressive narrative if allowed to develop into fruition will come at a cost: mutually shared destruction. As PM Khan reiterated, the beginning of all wars are premeditated and calculated, their consequences and ends were not.

“Surely, in an age when our governments no longer contain men or women who have experienced war, we must now lead a people with the understanding of what war means. Not Hollywood. Not documentary films.” — Robert Fisk (The Independent, 28th January 2006).