Actions show PM has reached the conclusion that as long as GHQ controls Pakistan, there is no hope for peace.
New Delhi: Since the Pulwama attack on the CRPF convoy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has distanced himself from longstanding security paradigms in dealing with GHQ Rawalpindi’s war on India in the J&K theatre of operations. Although steps for the transfer of the entire amount of river waters eligible to India under the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, as well as measures such as the taking away of MFN status from Pakistan or the withdrawal of much of the exchequer funding provided to enemies of India residing in Kashmir, may be baby steps, yet this is the first time that such measures have been taken at all. By doing this, Modi is setting on a new path, something that his admirers had expected of him in 2014 itself. It is likely that still more (and stronger) realist (as opposed to idealist or saintly) steps will be taken on Jammu and Kashmir by the Central government, such as the revocation of Article 370, thereby giving non-Kashmiris in Kashmir the same rights that Kashmiris have across the rest of India. As such measures relate to national security, they would be outside the purview of the Election Commission. Given the fact that GHQ Rawalpindi has intensified its covert war on India since the surgical strike across the LoC and the 2016 shock demonetisation of 86% of India’s currency, the Modi-directed change in the policy paradigm in J&K has come not a moment too soon.
Throughout his career in public life, Narendra Damodardas Modi has always had immense respect for Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his policies. Hence, on taking office in 2014, Modi handed over responsibility (including for national security) to much the same individuals who had taken care of governance matters under Vajpayee, including in theatres such as Kashmir or Kandahar. The Congress victory in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls prevented Vajpayee from carrying on with policies that he expected would lead to a “peace breakthrough” in India-Pakistan relations, but with the coming to power of the BJP ten years later, the Team Vajpayee members in the Modi government had a second chance to resume what they calculated was the path to cross-border peace. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan was given an honoured place at the Rashtrapati Bhavan swearing-in of the new Prime Minister of India, and during the same visit had personal meetings with Modi in the latter’s efforts at ensuring that the two countries set aside the bitterness of the past and embark on a new course: the “naya path” talked about within the newly elected government, which saw the continuance of prominent members of Team Vajpayee in its upper echelons. Of course, Vajpayee had tried the same personal diplomacy with Nawaz Sharif in Lahore and Pervez Musharraf in Agra, with little success. However, Modi was more confident. As PM, he took the decision to bring on board those having experience of high office during 1998-2004, rather than take the risk of handing over major responsibility to those who had been outside the charmed circle during that period, and indeed had been its critics over numerous issues. Aware of the weight of responsibility that he bore as Prime Minister of the world’s most populous democracy, Prime Minister Modi in several respects opted for a policy matrix on matters of security that was largely consistent with past practices.
It was not in the government, but in the BJP organisation that major changes were made, with the entry of the hard-driving and confident Amit Shah as the party president. Amit Shah introduced a new culture within the upper echelons of the BJP that placed a high priority on immediate tasks getting resolved in a satisfactory manner. The intention was to (a) assist the government in ensuring that the 2019 Lok Sabha BJP tally would be close to 400 seats (as was accomplished by Rajiv Gandhi in 1984), and (b) make the BJP the “natural party of governance” across the states of India. Given a free hand by Prime Minister Modi, BJP president Shah got to work with zest, keeping aside very little spare time for his family and for his friends. Meanwhile, Team Vajpayee notables, who had been inducted into important positions of responsibility by Prime Minister Modi, began adjusting to the “Hands On” leadership style of their new leader, which was a contrast to the manner in which Vajpayee dealt with his responsibilities while in office. During 1998-2004, Principal Secretary and NSA Brajesh Mishra functioned in effect as the Executive PM, taking decisions in the PM’s name with a confidence that came out of the complete trust that he enjoyed not only with Vajpayee but by the family members always with the unquestioned leader of the BJP. Contrarily, in the Modi government, the last word was always with the PM and not any associate.
The world had changed since 1998, but during that period, elements of Nehruvian idealism and Gandhian saintliness remained entrenched in policymaking during the Vajpayee years, leading to several initiatives for peace that were not in practice reciprocated by countries that had for long sought to weaken and contain India, especially Pakistan. It was not an accident that the revival of the Jaish e Mohammed in Kashmir took place in 2003, during the period when there had been for more than two years an open door in the Prime Minister’s Office to Mehbooba Mufti, who was an insistent (and persuasive) votary of a forgiving approach to the separatists and other anti-India groups in her state. The UPA years largely saw a continuation of Vajpayee’s policies under peace-obsessed Manmohan Singh, with the consequence that the overground machinery of anti-India groups in J&K got substantially strengthened and were primed for action once a command came from GHQ Rawalpindi. By the close of 2013, confidence grew within such groups that a practical if not juristic separation from India of the Valley as well as parts of Jammu and Ladakh was only a matter of time. This sentiment, and the logistical and financial support base underpinning it reached the danger level last seen in 1988, two years after Narendra Modi was sworn in on 26 May 2014 as Prime Minister of the Republic of India. His team, overwhelmingly composed of elements from the Vajpayee period, had decided on more of the same medicine that they had administered during 1998-2004, which was a remix of the “Vajpayee Formula” so beloved of Mehbooba Mufti. This reached a crescendo in the alliance between the PDP and the BJP, with the BJP ministers having scant authority in the face of a PDP whose leadership had the same easy access to the PMO as had been the case under Vajpayee. Even Home Minister Rajnath Singh had to step aside where Kashmir was concerned, the way his predecessor L.K. Advani was made to do during 1998-2004. Just as in 1947, Kashmir was seen as an issue that needed to be handled at the highest level of governance, if it was to be solved. It is another matter that it refused to get “solved” during that entire period.
By the close of 2016, GHQ Rawalpindi began to use the cover created by favourable political situations in the Kashmir valley to strengthen JeM units and a logistics and support network in four locations in South Kashmir under cover of the mayhem caused in the streets of Srinagar to divert the attention of the security forces. Terror attacks intensified, as did casualties on both sides. ISIS trainers arriving on visa were infiltrated from locations in Southeast and West Asia, who motivated youths from identified Wahhabi families to train for terror operations, including as suicide bombers. GHQ Rawalpindi kept its own personnel out of such operations, to ensure deniability. The steady build-up of JeM must have been taken note of by the intelligence agencies, which were also kept busy handling strains in the BJP-PDP alliance. While much has been made of the cooperation by the UAE and Saudi Arabia in assisting India do battle with terror networks, the reality is that so far, only a few small operators have been deported back to India, rather than the masterminds within the GCC who are behind networks operating in different parts of the country. Of course, in newspaper headlines, every such catch is billed as a major breakthrough.
As predicted by those outside the security circles who were not backers of the Vajpayee Formula, the BJP-PDP government was a disaster for the country, and the situation in J&K is worse now than it has been since the Kandahar release by India of global terrorists that was a fatal mistake in the war on terror. While Prime Minister Modi has spent considerable effort bringing the attention of the rulers of the GCC to terror networks flourishing through funds from within that group, because of the continuing presence of Wahhabi elements within the governments of Saudi Arabia and other states, as yet cooperation has not reached the levels needed to halt terror funding in India. However, with both the UAE as well as the Saudi royals, Prime Minister Modi has been persuasive in drawing their attention to the risks inherent in looking away from GCC based facilitators of ISI-ISIS terror networks.
The Wahhabi International has long made the separation of Kashmir from the rest of India a priority, and together with GHQ Rawalpindi, has worked to try and ensure that conditions in large parts of J&K resemble those found in Afghanistan since the Taliban took over power in the 1990s. Fortunately, the Kashmiri people are overall still not in the thrall of Wahhabism, although the fringe that is, has grown as a consequence not merely of backing from the Pakistan army but the indulgence of several Prime Ministers in India. While the US can be a force multiplier, as yet India has not entered into an alliance structure with that country, nor joined President Donald J. Trump in his war on ISIS (or indeed, simultaneously joined hands with Russia and Iran, two other countries that have done immense damage to ISIS bases). Hence, as yet, India has very little to offer to the US in our effort at enlisting greater support against GHQ Rawalpindi.
However, Prime Minister Modi has now moved away from past security paradigms. If the Pakistan economy weakens, so will the Pakistan army. It is not enough to levy 200% duty on goods directly coming from Pakistan. Rules of Origin need to be enforced on ports such as Dubai so that the same duty gets charged on items from Pakistan coming to India from such locations. Within the IMF, India must insist on conditionalities relating to the end of terror funding before any tranche gets disbursed to Islamabad. An international campaign of support for the people of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa needs to be launched. To take an example, the Pakistan army has seen to it that royalty for the oil and gas flowing from Baloch territory is much less than a fair value. Much of that money goes to non-Baloch interests that control the local economy, especially across the CPEC. Demands should be made to ensure a fair price to local people for Baloch resources. Private players in Thailand and in other locations producing high quality counterfeit Pakistani currency on an industrial basis and sending the same across the border, the way GHQ Rawalpindi does with India, would damage the military-supporting economy. Throughout Pakistan, support should be given to ethnic and other groups suffering discrimination at the hands of the Wahhabi Pakistan army that ensures the dominance of Wahhabi Punjabis across the country. Were computer hackers to enter Pakistan’s banking networks and take away reserves (as took place in Bangladesh), that should not be an object of concern to Indian security services. GHQ has declared undeclared war and so—silently—should the Union of India on GHQ. The economic and other conditions in Pakistan need to be brought to the attention of lending agencies so that the currency further crashes. States in India should fully cooperate in ensuring that river waters avoid wastage of the precious liquid to Pakistan as has been happening for several decades. Nitin Gadkati has done well in announcing that such is the intention of the Modi government. Now comes the difficult task of translating rhetoric into reality. The good news for Prime Minister Modi is that the Congress Party under Rahul Gandhi has given complete support to decisive action against Pakistan, and hence there is broad unanimity across the political spectrum that the time for conciliatory policies has passed (as indeed they have for decades) and the time for strong punitive action is overdue.
Experiments with the policy prescriptions of the past do not seem to have worked in Kashmir. After the Pulwama massacre, actions of the Central government indicate that Prime Minister Modi has reached the conclusion that as long as GHQ Rawalpindi controls Pakistan, there is no hope for peace until that institution be administered an unbearable cost. Measures for doing so are plentiful and need to be used in a manner that has not been seen before. Similar measures need to be taken against any other country that assists GHQ Rawalpindi in its terror operations against India. Sensitive equipment coming from any country that supports groups such as the JeM in international fora pose a security risk and need to be stopped. More than breaking a jawbone that can get mended, what is needed is to silently and steadily choke to ineffectuality the ISIS-ISI terror monster headquartered within Pakistan that seeks to convert Kashmir and its vibrant people into a second Afghanistan.