New Delhi: Pakistan’s Foreign Office, last month in Islamabad, briefed the ambassadors of the P5 countries—the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France—on a possible terror incident in Kashmir and its likely fallout, including “a possible surgical strike by India in view of Indian media reports”, said a diplomat in the Ministry of External Affairs, who is well-versed in Pakistan affairs. “Pakistan was building up its case by saying, don’t blame us if anything happens in the region,” he said.
The P-5 ambassadors were shown many Indian news reports and a few media assessments of the election prospects of the Narendra Modi government to try and prove the point that the Indian Prime Minister needed to go to war with Pakistan to win a re-election. Before the budget, staunch critics of Modi in the India media were suggesting that only a populist budget and a “limited war” with Pakistan could ensure that he would regain his “lost ground”. These reports were used by the Pakistan establishment to try and prove its “case”.
Talking about the briefing by Islamabad, former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal said, “The P5 diplomats are not so naive that they will believe in any such pre-emptive diplomatic strikes by Pakistan. Pakistan was pleading for ‘benefit of doubt’, by suggesting that some groups in the region may do something in Kashmir, but they weren’t guided by them or supported by them. No one buys this. P5 ambassadors are cynical enough to understand the Pakistani game plan.”
Srikanth Kondapalli, chairman of East Asian Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University concurs with Sibal, while adding another argument: “China wants the US, Russia and Europe out of the India-Pakistan region. China has completed 26 out of 43 infrastructure related projects in Pakistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project and now wants to be a mediator in the unresolved disputes between India and Pakistan. Any counter-action by India after Pulwama has to take into account this factor, too.”
“In Pulwama, Pakistan has covered its tracks better compared to the Uri and Pathankot attacks. In Pulwama, the suicide bomber is an Indian boy, which changes the track of investigation. This is a model used in Afghanistan and is a surprise for India. Pakistan seems to have studied the fallout of the Pathankot and Uri attacks and has improved upon its tactics,” the diplomat in MEA said. He added, “Knowing Pakistani diplomats well, they are trying to sell to the P5 countries the line that Delhi’s actions are election related, that Modi is trying hard to save his image in his domestic constituency. Pakistan is trying to send the message that if any retaliatory action is taken against Pakistan for what a Kashmir born Indian youth has done, it would respond strongly.”
However, Vivek Katju, former Secretary and Pakistan expert, does not think Pakistan’s briefing to the P5 is of any consequence. He said that neither the US nor China could restrict India’s choices. “India has the capacity to handle any pressure which seeks to limit its options,” he added.