Sensing that the alienation of the common people in Kashmir from the government has increased after the killing of the terrorist, Burhan Wani, New Delhi has changed its policy towards Pakistan quite dramatically lest the latter should become more proactive in the region by taking advantage of India’s discomfiture.
Signs of such an intention could be seen in the provocative decision of the Pakistani high commissioner in Delhi to dedicate his country’s Independence Day to Kashmir’s “azadi” and in the Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed’s call for sending the Pakistan army into Kashmir.
As the relations between the two countries hit the lowest point in recent years despite Islamabad’s rather strange initiative in favour resuming the talks, India’s attitude towards its neighbour is currently far more belligerent than ever before in peace time.
But that is not the only change in New Delhi’s outlook. More important is its abandonment of the longstanding policy of respecting Pakistan’s territorial integrity, which was iterated by Atal Behari Vajpayee during his visit to Lahore in 1999.
Now, for the first time, India has let it be known that it no longer regards Pakistan as a single entity but as a country comprising several “disputed” regions, to use a word favoured by the Chinese when referring to Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh.
These regions are Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which India now holds to be on a par with the valley, Ladakh and Jammu to constitute the fourth part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. PoK’s “assimilation” into India has become a goal, therefore, for New Delhi to pursue, at least in theory.
Although this aspect of India’s policy can be seen for the moment more as rhetoric than the assertion of a genuine possibility, far more problematic as well as provocative is New Delhi’s new stance on Balochistan.
Up until now, Islamabad’s grouse was that the Indian intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), was secretly aiding the separatists in the Pakistani state, an allegation which was either ignored or denied by New Delhi. Now, India has come out in the open with its support for the anti-Pakistan Baloch rebels.
Opinion is divided in India on this sudden turn in India’s foreign policy. While some say that instigating rebellion in Balochistan will be regarded by the outside world as an intervention in Pakistan’s internal affairs, others welcome the tit-for-tat approach.
If Pakistan can push the army-trained jehadis into Kashmir, there is no reason why India cannot raise the question of human rights abuses in Balochistan in international forums and offer moral support to the secessionists, who have a credible cause.
As British journalist Anatol Lieven writes in his book, Pakistan: A Hard Country, the act of bringing Kalat (now Balochistan) under British suzerainty in 1876 made it a princely state in Islamabad’s eyes, which the latter could annex as India and Pakistan did in the case of other such states.
But, according to Lieven, “there seems a good deal of truth” in the claim of the Baloch nationalists that Kalat’s relationship with the British “was closer to that of the British protectorate of Nepal, which after 1947 became an independent state”.
Whatever the interpretation, it is clear that issues such as these carry the possibility of queering the pitch in India-Pakistan relations so badly that a normal relationship does not seem feasible in the near future.
All of Narendra Modi’s efforts, therefore, of improving ties with Pakistan by inviting Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony in 2014 and make an impromptu, flying visit to Lahore in 2015 have gone for a toss.
Even if parallels are drawn between India’s intervention in Balochistan and Pakistan’s in Kashmir, New Delhi is on a better footing because it is neither seen as a sponsor of terrorism like Pakistan nor as a country where the army virtually rules the roost.
It is undeniable that Pakistan has botched its own case by harbouring terrorists with the purpose of using them against India without realizing that “snakes in your backyard won’t bite only neighbours”, as Hillary Clinton said.
Besides, the army overpowering presence has made Pakistan’s democracy meaningless. It cannot use this “card” as effectively as India can in Kashmir and before the world.
Like China’s takeover of Tibet, Pakistan’s annexation of Kalat was achieved with the “threat of punitive military action”, as Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal says in her book, The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics.
As India leans on the side of the Baloch and PoK rebels, Pakistanis cannot but recall the role which India played in East Pakistan’s secession from West Pakistan in 1971-72, leading to the creation of a new country, Bangladesh.
That achivement was India’s most successful diplomatic and military triumph and, till now, the only one. It will be futile to speculate whether the Balochistan and PoK will follow in East Pakistan’s footsteps. But India’s “meddling” will undoubtedly put Pakistan on the back foot since its hand are not clean where the Balochis are concerned.