By Imran Malik
The emergency session held by the UNSC on 16 August 2019 on the Kashmir issue(s) between India and Pakistan and India and China (Ladakh) was significant for many reasons, most importantly because it involved three of the world's nine known nuclear powers! Two, it resurrected the Kashmir issue at the world's most premium forum, the UNSC. Three, it internationalized the Kashmir issue highlighting the vicious and ruthless violations of Human Rights and all types of personal freedoms by the 900,000 strong Indian Occupation Forces there. Four, it reiterated Kashmir's position as the unfinished agenda of the subcontinent's partition as well as the UNSC's Resolutions on it. Five, it warned the world of the possible nuclear Armageddon and the subsequent nuclear winter to follow were the Kashmir issue to linger on unattended, unresolved. Six, Ladakh's annexation by India has clearly attracted Chinese opprobrium and inevitably drawn them into to the conundrum as well.
However, the grave challenge posed by PM Modi's strategic faux pas in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) needs to be turned into a real opportunity by the UN/UNSC/P5 to pre-empt a potential (nuclear) war and create peace in the region by resolving the Kashmir imbroglio expeditiously.
The strategic environment in IHK and the overall Indo-Pak subcontinent is fraught with extreme dangers of political strife, unrest, rebellion, genocide, cross-LOC skirmishes degenerating into war and its possible escalation into the nuclear dimension.
Within IHK there is a merciless clampdown on all practically incarcerated Kashmiris; worse is expected. PM Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujerat, notoriously oversaw the genocidal murders of more than 2000 Muslims during his rule. Kashmiris fear a similar genocidal fate. The BJP government intends to create settlements (aping PM Netanyahu's Israeli settlements on the West Bank in Palestine) for Hindus, Hindu Pandits and retired armed forces personnel from other parts of India. The abrogation of the Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution facilitates that end superbly. This will gradually upend the existing demographic balance in IHK bringing the Hindus at par or even surpassing the Muslims. (Forestalling a future plebiscite?) Aping the Israelis in Palestine again, the Indians are likely to carryout similar "sweeping operations" in Kashmir, forcing the Muslims first into refugee camps along the LOC and then across it into Azad Jammu & Kashmir; handing them and Pakistan a fait accompli! This will ostensibly give permanence to the engineered demographic changes in IHK. Any resistance by the Kashmiris will be promptly termed as "cross-LOC terrorism by Pakistan" unleashing ruthless repression in IHK and the customary propagandist mis/disinformation campaigns!
At the bilateral level, Pakistan expects India to heighten tensions through cross-LOC ceasefire violations and perhaps their "imaginary surgical strikes"! It is desperate to draw attention away from the reign of pitiless terror it is visiting upon the Kashmiris. Pakistan expects it to carry out yet another false flag operation like the one it enacted at Pulwama. (PM Modi still has the blood of 40 Indian soldiers on his hands!). Claiming Pakistan's culpability in a cross-LOC "terrorist attack" the Indians may like to carry out another one of their well-known "surgical strikes" or attempt another Balakot! Regardless, Pakistan has guaranteed a swift and a more than matching response, to all manners of LOC/Working Boundary/international border violations, as always. This sort of an evolving strategic environment is likely to get out of hand as both sides continue climbing up the escalation ladder, rung by rung, until they get to the top and all-out war breaks out; wherefrom the next step would then be in the nuclear domain!
In the subcontinent there exists a tenuous nuclear balance of terror. Both nuclear powers have multidimensional means of delivering nukes, claim second strike capabilities and have next to nothing in reaction times once the nuclear balloon goes up. At the conventional level the Indians have a clear advantage in numbers and technology. However, the Pakistanis term their nukes as "equaliser's" as they nullify the conventional differential between the two belligerents. Pakistan's responses will be defined by its strategic compulsion; "the larger the differential in the conventional forces of the two belligerents, the more will be its reliance on its strategic assets and correspondingly the lower will its nuclear thresholds be". Period. The fragile strategic/nuclear environment has been further vitiated by the (un)timely statement of Mr Rajnath Singh, the Indian Defence Minister who annulled India's earlier "commitment" to a No First Use (NFU) regime. Mr Singh is being rather disingenuous. The NFU policy was never meant to be. Pakistani strategists, like all good ones, mount their defensive and/or offensive strategies based on the real, potential and perceived "capabilities" of the enemy and never on its policies, statements, threats, pious homilies or proclaimed "intents". Regardless of India's nuclear strategy and proclaimed intent (meant largely for international consumption) Pakistan was, is and will always be well prepared for all possible contingencies in the conventional-nuclear domains including pre-emptive ones!
Pakistan must ask the UN/UNSC to fulfil its raison d'eter; follow its mandate to prevent, manage and eventually resolve the Kashmir conflict. It must go through the entire gamut of peace building/making, peace keeping and if need be peace enforcement to eventually "create lasting peace" between India and Pakistan. The UN/UNSC/P5 must appoint a UNSG's Special Representative on Kashmir who must keep lowering the temperatures in the region, keep engaging with India, Pakistan and China and pre-empting breaches of peace. Pakistan must seek to further strengthen and operationalize the UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP). The UNMOGIP is obstructed by the Indian military in the performance of its designated tasks in IHK. If required, a UN Peace Keeping Force in Kashmir may also be considered.
However, no one can make, keep or enforce peace between India and Pakistan without their unequivocal consent. They must both agree to mediation by the UN/UNSC/P5. It therefore becomes incumbent upon the UN/UNSC/P5 to show unwavering commitment and urgently undertake proactive measures to create the required strategic environment and the necessary conditions for creating lasting peace between India and Pakistan!
Else, Armageddon, will be inevitable; all encompassing, merciless and unsparing!
Imran Malik is a retired Brigadier from the Pakistan Army.