Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Indo-Pak tension reflects age-old antagonism

These are tense times along the India-Pakistan border.
On Oct. 2, heavily armed terrorists attacked two Indian army camps leading to a fierce gun-battle. Two terrorists and one solider were killed, according to India’s federal Home Ministry spokesperson.
The attack was seen as Pakistan’s response to India carrying out "surgical strikes" in "Pakistan occupied Kashmir." But India claimed it was destroying terror launch pads, which Pakistan has contested.
The one-upmanship began after a Sept. 18 attack on an Indian army base in Uri on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir where 19 soldiers died. It was one of the deadliest attacks in years.
Now the talk of the town is — will this continue and escalate?

Now the talk of the town is – will Pakistan retaliate yet again and escalate the already tense situation both along the borders and also deep inside both the countries. The relation between India and Pakistan has remained adrift and discordant over the last six decades. Even as the hawkish Hindutva point of view in India – something cherished by Prime Minister  Narendra Modi and his government – plays holier than thou, it would be irrational to blame Pakistan alone. Both the countries are at logger heads since 1947 due to mutual apprehensions and at times deliberately nurtured apprehensions. While New Delhi says it has walked the talk in favour of talks, Pakistan’s allegation is that India has always played a big brother role and the machinations of Indian National Congress and the colonial masters under Lord Mountbatten had prevented emergence of Pakistan as a true homeland of Muslims as envisaged.
There are many reasons for Indian army’s retaliation to the terror attack of September 18 – which New Delhi says has been carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad militants with aid and logistic support of regular Pakistani army. Well, of all these one reason is the domestic polity in India itself. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi of Hindu fundamental Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) has been under pressure to deliver on his election promise.
“It is a timely action. The entire political class in India is behind Indian army at this juncture. But with regard the political leadership of Narendra Modi government, their approval to army actions are actually guided by the pressure of domestic politics. The Uri attack had exposed Modi’s Pakistan policy and even radical BJP leaders have demanded ‘a complete jaw for every tooth’,” says socialist leader Dharmendra Yadav of Samajwadi Party. 
In fact, others tend to agree. Another senior parliamentarian Sharad Yadav of Janata Dal – United says, “Prime Minister Modi had to act as he has created the mood for such hyped expectations. In run up to 2014 parliamentary polls, Modi displayed his chest and said he would use his 56-inch chest to teach Pakistan a lesson”.
However, ruling BJP leaders say the actions were expected as Pakistan was literally playing with the patience and the long rope Modi government had given to Pakistan in its efforts to establish a purposeful dialogue. “My Prime Minister (Modi) invited Nawaz Sharif (Pakistan PM) for swearing in ceremony in 2014. A number of efforts were made to reach out to the political leadership. Modi even made unscheduled visit to Lahore to wish Sharif on his birthday on December 25, 2015. But they reciprocated with terror strikes at Pathankot airbase and Uri army camp,” points out BJP spokesman Shrikant Sharma.
But Sharma and other BJP leaders are happy in the manner things have progressed so far. This is according to the script they must have presumed and many ruling Ministers in the government have not hesitated to turn these episodes as a personal victory of Modi – the grand suggestion being Prime Minister has emerged a “politically decisive and stronger leader” vis-à-vis his predecessor Manmohan Singh of Congress party.
But the apprehension now is whether the situation would escalate. Though rattled, Pakistan has so far given only mixed signals. Initially, they denied about ‘surgical strikes’ and tried to give an impression that the Indian side was making a false claim – on the other hand Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has chaired a number of meetings with military commanders and others and reacted with no unambiguous assertion- “Our desire for peace should not be taken as a sign of weakness’.
In the overall emerging scenario, post-Uri attack and the surgical strikes, India has handled its cards well and able to corner Pakistan diplomatically.
In recent week, four of the SAARC members – including Afghanistan, Bangladesh (both Islamic countries), Sri Lanka and Bhutan have decided to stay away from the summit meet initially scheduled to be hosted by Pakistan in November. Among the global powers, the US, UK and Russia have backed Indian actions against terror hideouts.

There is yet another element to the unfolding developments. The antagonism towards India from Pakistani side is largely seen from Punjabi (Pakistan) point of view and this is given to bitterness of partition in 1947. The people of Balochistan and North West Frontier Province in Pakistan rather have “high expectations” from New Delhi in their battle against Islamabad hegemony. In fact, Baloch rebel leader
Brahumdagh Bugti, fighting for independence, has sought political asylum in India. Baloch nationalist leaders and activists have welcomed the cross-border surgical strikes by India.
"It's a great day which gives up hope. This should have been done long back... we welcome this audacious move by India. Pakistan is a haven for terrorists” said Sher Mohammad Bugti, spokesperson of Baloch Republican Party (BRP). 

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