As India Steps Up Diplomatic Offensive Against Pak, Real Battle Lies Within

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In the aftermath of the Uri attack on an Indian Army base which left 18 soldiers dead, Delhi has launched a diplomatic offensive to isolate Islamabad and show to the world its true terror sponsoring colors.

Indian efforts globally may be succeeding but the situation within the Valley is showing no signs of improvement and we will discuss a couple of really thought-provoking and eye opening pieces by senior Indian journalists and writers in this column later.

But first hard news.

Pakistan is not making much headway in its efforts to get the international community to focus on Kashmir and the alleged human rights violations there. Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, met the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, Tuesday in the US, but as Hindustan Times has reported the effort did not yield much for Pakistan. None of the two countries mentioned the meeting in their read outs and though a US state department spokesperson mentioned violence in Kashmir, the emphasis was more the attack on Indian Army Base.

Both countries also advised Sharif to ensure that Pakistani soil is not used for terror activities. The UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon also did not refer to Kashmir in his opening address to the UN General assembly and this too is being seen as a moral victory for Delhi and a setback for Islamabad.

Making things more difficult for Islamabad are two US congressmen–one of them Ted Poe, chairman of Home Committee on Terrorism–who have moved a bill asking Pakistan to be declared a terrorist state. It’s a symbolic move and not much is likely to come out of this bill with the Congress nearing its end of tenure, but it does embarrass Pakistan to a great degree and is a good indicator of the mood vis-a-vis Islamabad in the US .

Nearer home also efforts are afoot to isolate Pakistan.

The Afghanistan President, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi earlier this week and NDTV has reported about the possibility of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India opting out of the SAARC summit meeting scheduled to be held in Islamabad later this year in November. Efforts are underway to convince more SAARC countries to boycott the Summit Meeting.

On Indo-Pak face off post Uri and the ground situation in Kashmir Edit Platter has selected half a dozen opinion and reportage pieces for you to read this morning. Let me take you through them one by one.

Picking a line from KBC for its title “Phone a Friend”, Jyoti Malhotra writes in Indian Express that Delhi needs to view and engage separately with the political and army leadership of Pakistan. Now have we not heard that before please? And what have we gained from it really. In any case when it comes to Pakistan’s India and Kashmir policy, Pakistan’s political leadership is all but irrelevant and just the Mukhota with Pak Army and ISI calling the shots. Jyoti herself goes ahead and quotes Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Asma Nawaz Sharif and PPP leader Sherry Rehman to indicate even they are not particularly sympathetic to Delhi’s concerns at this point of time. Nice piece but frankly no surprises there. A liberal viewpoint reiterated.

Hindustan Times has a good write up by David Devdas “Prepare for the worst: Indian state is on retreat in Kashmir“. David draws parallels between the situation now in the valley and in the neighborhood with the situation in the early years of 1960’s , starting with 1962 Chinese incursions to Pakistan’s Operation Gibralter in 1965. He is also critical of the Indian establishment which he writes was viewing, till recently, the unrest in the valley as a repeat of 2008 and 2010 and hoping that the movement will die down on its own. Its a piece which makes one worry.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta in Indian Express is his usual learned, erudite self but not really saying anything starkly different from what has already been written by analysts in the past couple of days.  But one has to agree with his big picture advice: India needs to reduce its vulnerability, make sure effective deterrents are in place and resist adventurism. The trademark Mehta gems are there like the line where he writes that ‘Restraint is also a Strategy’ and should not be seen as a measure of defeatism.

Ajay Sahni, security and strategic affairs analyst known for his hawkish views, also writes against any military option but goes on to exhort the Indian establishment to think long term and develop covert strike capabilities to weaken Pakistan.

But my two top picks for the day are from Pakistan’s Express Tribune and NDTV.com.

First from across the border. Well known columnist Imtiaz Gul has questioned India’s right to launch surgical strikes inside Pak territory in his piece for Express Tribune. What makes the write up really interesting is when he alludes to two instances when, in the aftermath of 26/11, there was pressure from US on Islamabad to “allow” India a couple of not-too-significant airstrikes inside Pak territory to bring passions down in India and avert the danger of a bigger India-Pak conflict. The proposals were shot down by Pak Army.

A limited conflict, air strikes and fireworks show in South Asia; produced and directed by the US. Wow!

It’s Sudhi Ranjan Sen’s piece in NDTV.com which in my opinion is the day’s most worrying story. A chilling account of how his team was stopped by a group of 12-15 year old boys in Kashmir as they were returning from Uri after reporting on the recent attack on the Indian Army Camp. The journalists could escape with their lives only after the 50 year plus Kashmiri driver of the vehicle fell on the feet of the 12 year boy asking forgiveness for violating the separatist shut down orders. And when NDTV cameraman –himself a Kashmiri and a Muslim–jumped out to intervene he was asked to expalin the un Islamic band he was weaning on his wrist.

It’s frightening to note how these young kids are not just in the front line of separatist onslaught and strategy, but how radical Islam is also forcing its way in the young, impressionable Kashmiri mind. This is a battle –the war within of ideas, thoughts and philosophy–which we need to focus on as losing out on this front is simply not an option.

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Source - Sanjeev Srivastava/Edit Platter

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18 April 2017