Face the Enemy

The proxy war against Pakistan will not stop as long as India continues to counter insurgency operations in J&K

Pravin Sawhney

“This (proxy) war must stop. Many soldiers are sacrificing their lives and I don’t know when this government will take some concrete decisions… There are forces who have vested interests,” said retired lecturer Devraj Gupta, father of Captain Tushar Mahajan, who died fighting terrorists on February 22 in Pampore in south Kashmir.

Army soldiers take position during the operation
Army soldiers take position during the operation

Few are asking the question that Mr Gupta had raised; certainly not the government, nor the army leadership. Since both have their reasons, the proxy war, unfortunately, will continue, with likelihood of — at Pakistan army’s initiative — snowballing into a limited conventional war.

Talking with Pakistan is getting difficult for India; more difficult would be what to talk that abates, if not stops, the proxy war. The Modi government has made it clear that the Kashmir resolution is not on the table. While Jammu and Kashmir is a part of the comprehensive bilateral dialogue agreed by both sides in December 2015, from India’s viewpoint, there are numerous issues associated with it that could be discussed. For example, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and so on.

Moreover, for talks to commence, India’s condition is that Pakistan must demonstrate sincerity by tangible progress on 26/11, Pathankot and now Pampore terror attacks. While India would like to stick to its terms for talks, there is pressure from the US and Russia — India’s strategic partners — that both sides resolve outstanding issues. Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps China too see merit in the bilateral engagement between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif government is bending over backwards to start talks with India because it desires some say in Pakistan’s foreign policy which has been hijacked by its army’s leadership. For this reason, Islamabad accepted its army’s condition that the Prime Minister’s national security advisor should be an army officer nominated by the army chief, General Raheel Sharif. Despite resistance from its army and their strategic Jihadis assets, it has managed to file First Information Report (FIR) against unnamed Jihadis regarding Pathankot attacks. Raids have been launched across Pakistan to nab a few Jaish operatives involved in the attacks.

Pakistan’s foreign affairs advisor to the Prime Minister, Sartaj Aziz has made efforts to inform the Indian media that the Jaish chief, Masoor Azhar, named as the mastermind of the Pathankot attacks identified by India, has been under ‘protective custody’ since January 14. Aziz also said that a special investigation team from Pakistan is ready to visit Pathankot to collect evidence soon, and that Pakistan waits to hear from India to start the bilateral dialogue.

What Aziz did not say, however, is that more terror attacks from Pakistani soil into India would stop. This will be decided by General Headquarters, Rawalpindi, based upon their assessment whether the bilateral dialogue was making sensible headway. Terror, for them, is linked to meaningful talks. While selected by the Prime Minister, Pakistan’s army chief draws his authority from three extraneous sources: total control over nuclear weapons; the nine corps commanders; and friendly Jihadis, who form the first line of offence against India. Both the director generals of the Strategic Plans Division which controls Pakistan’s nuclear weapons’ assets, and the Inter-Services Intelligence which sustain friendly Jihadis like Jaish and Lakshar report directly (and only) to the army chief.

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