Geopolitics

Islamabad’s Peace Googly
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 08 Feb , 2021

Much has been made of Pakistani army chief General QJ Bajwa stating while addressing a graduation day ceremony at Pakistan’s Air Force Academy in Risalpur on February 2, 2020, “We stand firmly committed to the ideal of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence. It is time to extend a hand of peace in all directions. However, we will not allow anybody or any entity to misinterpret our desire for peace as a sign of weakness.” Bajwa also said that India and Pakistan must resolve the longstanding issue of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) “in a dignified and peaceful manner” and “bring this human tragedy to its logical conclusion”.

Bajwa’s above statement set in motion flights of fancy of utopians in India albeit with the rider that if Bajwa really means what he says then it could be a turning point in the history of the subcontinent. Nothing can be farther from the truth. In fact, if Bajwa is dripping honey, it is merely to cover the devious and sinister design that he has already set in motion. Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan followed up on Bajwa’s statement by offering talks with India but with the stipulation to resolve J&K. This was expected of Imran being a puppet of the army. Imran was recently speaking on the so-called Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5, 2020 – the gist of which was self aggrandizement and self glorification.

The Indian Government’s response to Bajwa’s peace offer was measured with spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stating at the routine press conference on February 4, “India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence.” The synonymy of India-Pakistan and India-China relations is that Pakistan wants terror not connected with India-Pakistan talks and China similarly wants the border issue including its 2020 aggression in Eastern Ladakh kept separate. Nothing can be more absurd. 

Imran’s mumblings are of little consequence being a nonentity but what Bajwa speaks is important since he holds the reins of Pakistan including Pakistan’s foreign and defence policies, as well as the terror industry. Why has Bajwa spoken so is perhaps to signal the Biden administration, the Financial Action Task Force and maybe even Israel of Pakistan’s change of heart (sic). But the bigger reason is perhaps to buttress the next stab in the back of India.   

Terrorist launch pads along the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K continue to remain packed to full capacity. Pakistan had violated the ceasefire in J&K 3,289 times during 2019. However in 2020, the number of ceasefire violations went up to 5,100 times with an average of 14 cases daily, which is the highest in the last 18 years. Since Pakistan’s ceasefire violations are mainly to cover terrorist infiltration, infiltration attempts have correspondingly have correspondingly gone up. These are no more restricted to only J&K. During 2020, Pakistan attempted to infiltrate terrorists through Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab as well. Multiple infiltration tunnels have been discovered on the Indian side, which obviously are not all. The construction of some of these tunnels indicates that the Pakistani army is involved in their digging and fortification.

Pakistan has been specifically targeting civilian villages on the Indian side. Pakistan’s ceasefire violations during 2020 claimed 36 lives and left more than 130 people injured. To protect border residents in the wake of increasing ceasefire violations in J&K, the Indian Government had to sanction Rs 415 crore for constructing over 14,400 underground bunkers along the LoC and the International Border (IB), of which some  7,777 bunkers have already been constructed in Rajouri, Poonch, Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts.

Pakistan’s terror strategy is two pronged, in that; it attacks anti-Pakistan organizations like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) but promotes terrorist organizations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-i-Mohammad (JeM), Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. Export of terrorism also gives Bajwa the opportunity to provide employment to large number of radicalized unemployed youth. This is nothing new and was reiterated by Sartaj Aziz, adviser to Pakistani prime minister on national security and foreign affairs who told BBC in an interview during 2014, “Pakistan should not target militants like the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network who do not threaten Pakistan’s security.” What Aziz would not mention is that it is not just a question of fighting against such terrorists organization but effectively supporting and arming them.

Bajwa has not only permitted the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) to open their office in Karachi much before he hugged India’s Navjot Singh Sidhu at the inauguration of Imran’s government on August 18, 2018 and whispered in his ear the proposal to open the Kartarpur Corridor, but subsequently has aligned the SFJ with Chinese intelligence in deliberate manner to coordinate anti-India activities. All this is supposedly “dignified” manner in Bajwa’s perception who offers an olive branch now. But the timing of Bajwa’s statement is what reveals his actual intentions. The ongoing farmers’ agitation in India has given Pakistan the opportunity to Bajwa for infiltrating Khalistani elements in an otherwise peaceful protest under aegis SFJ and its surrogates and proxies in India. 

The most disturbing part is that infiltration of weapons by Pakistan into Punjab has increased threefold since beginning of the farmer agitation in October 2020. This was revealed by the Chief Minister of Punjab in a meeting with the Union Home Minister, with the former telling the Home Minister that that this quantity of weapons being pumped in is not without purpose. This should be of serious concern to us, which somehow has been downplayed in the media. Ironically, cross-border activities of this nature get downplayed with the Centre and concerned State accusing each other. No doubt Pakistan has cross-border help for smuggling narcotics and weapons, but the forces guarding the international border are directly under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). 

Recently, the media reported a case of cattle smuggling from India into Bangladesh, which otherwise is an ongoing affair but emerged in media perhaps because of the approaching elections in West Bengal. Here again, elements of the state are obviously involved but the forces guarding the India-Bangladesh are directly under the MHA. Terrain astride the IB in Punjab and West Bengal is hardly that difficult as that along the India-Myanmar border but we have not really been able to block such cross-border activities by default or design, more perhaps due to the latter because the booty is shared by multiple agencies with vested interests. Pakistan is meanwhile using drones for the purpose pretty frequently, using new routes so as to not establish a pattern.   

Above exposes the true face of QJ Bajwa, who sitting in Beijing’s lap is as dangerous as Musharraf, if not more. After all, he did mobilize troops in Gilgit-Baltistan along the border with India in conjunction the Chinese aggression in Eastern Ladakh last year. The military ruling Pakistan whether directly or indirectly can only come to its senses with a second balkanization of the country and the country’s sea front lost with liberation of Balochistan and Sindh.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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