Probing the surge of recent Pak-backed terrorist attacks in Jammu & Kashmir

Pilgrim bus stuck in gorge after terrorist attack in Reasi district (Photo: PTI)

In an unprecedented departure from fundamental diplomatic courtesies, both Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and its Foreign Office [FO] failed to convey the customary congratulatory message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the victory of his National Democratic Alliance [NDA] coalition party in the general elections after the poll results were officially announced.

However, three related developments that took place a day prior to, on and a day after Modi’s oath taking ceremony on June 9 unambiguously provide a fair idea about the shape of things to come and what emerges is definitely disconcerting!  

On June 8, while answering a question on whether Islamabad had congratulated Modi, Pakistan’s FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch tried to wriggle out of an embarrassing situation by saying that since the new government in New Delhi hadn’t yet been officially sworn-in, it was “premature” to discuss the issue of congratulating Modi.

However, the FO spokesperson did say that “Pakistan has always desired cooperative relations with all its neighbours including India. We have consistently advocated constructive dialogue and engagement to resolve all outstanding issues, including the core dispute of J&K” and though non-committal, it was nevertheless a positive comment that gave a ray of hope of rapprochement between India and Pakistan..

The next day however, even as Modi’s oath taking ceremony was underway, Pakistan sponsored terrorists carried out a gruesome attack on a bus carrying devotees on a pilgrimage in the Reasi area of J&K, killing nine travellers and injuring 41 others [including ladies and children]. It’s not only the timing but also the targeted killing of people belonging to a specific community that clearly indicates that this brutal act was intended to arouse communal passions and create unrest between two communities!

Curiously, despite claiming to be a victim of terrorism and suffering immensely on this account, Islamabad didn’t even care to condemn this horrific massacre of unarmed civilian pilgrims by terrorists.  The next day however, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif did find the time to felicitate Modi on taking oath as Prime Minister of India through an impersonal post on X.

It’s heartening to note that unlike Pakistani media that kept insisting that the onus of commencing talking with Pakistan squarely falls on India, back home no one attached any importance to Islamabad’s uncouth diplomatic behaviour. This inconsequential occurrence caused no ripples in India would not have been mentioned here as well, had it not been for the message these puerile actions convey.

Through its message of “cooperative relations” and “constructive dialogue and engagement to resolve all outstanding issues, including the core dispute of J&K” on eve of Modi’s oath taking, Islamabad has tried to take high moral ground in an desperate attempt to conceal the proxy war that the Pakistan Army is brazenly waging in J&K.

The FO’s statement could also well be a ‘feeler’ to ascertain New Delhi’s response. With its financial condition worsening by the day, clamour for normalisation of Indo-Pak ties and resumption of trade has been gathering momentum in Pakistan. In February last year, while stressing on the need for Pakistan to reduce its defence expenditure, eminent poli­ti­cal economist Dr Per­vez Tahir had called for revival of trade with India to “decrease people’s woes”.

Readers would also recall that in April, Punjab province assembly Speaker Malik Ahmad Khan ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz [PML-N] said “… both countries need to initiate trade ties. But I want to talk straight that this enmity between Pakistan and India needs to be ended if we have to move forward. We are neighbours… We should promote trade between the two countries.” So, giving Islamabad the benefit of doubt, Islamabad’s June 8 comments could be viewed as the PML-N led Pakistan government’s outreach to mend fences with New Delhi.

Regrettably, while Islamabad had kept a window of opportunity for dialogue to normalise Indo-Pak relations open, the terrorist attack on the pilgrim bus in J&K was Rawalpindi’s characteristic way of effectively sabotaging any scope of this happening, and this assessment is not mere speculation.

The Pakistan Army did the same in 2014 by using its most trusted ally Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] for orchestrating the terrorist attack on the Indian consulate in Herat, Afghanistan. This attack took place just two days before Modi’s oath taking ceremony with the aim of causing casualties to the Indian consulate staff, which would fan anti-Pakistan emotions in India and thereby prevent the then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from attending this event.

The spate of terrorist attacks in areas South of Pir Panjal mountain ranges in J&K give two clear indications- one, that despite Islamabad making peace overtures, Rawalpindi will continue to use its proxies to create further animosity that would not allow Pakistani lawmakers to enter into dialogue with India. As such, it would be prudent to assume that normalisation of Indo-Pak relations in the foreseeable future is unlikely.

Two, with Pakistan sponsored terrorists in Kashmir Valley being put on the back-foot by the Indian security forces with active support of civilians, Pakistan Army’s spy agency Inter Services Intelligence [ISI] has started pushing terrorists into the Jammu region of J&K in a desperate attempt to revive terrorism in J&K. Such unprovoked escalation in violence is fraught with danger of likely Indian retaliation, but Rawalpindi seems to have no choice.

It’s apparent that ‘iron brother’ Beijing, which has been providing financial assistance to Pakistan, is extracting its pound of flesh by directing Rawalpindi to redouble terrorist activities South of Pir Panjal so that the Indian army cannot shift troops from this area to the Line of Actual Control [LAC] that demarcates the unresolved Sino-Indian border and where the Indian army and Peoples’ Liberation Army [PLA] of China are locked in a face-off.

This collusive threat is a serious issue that needs to be carefully monitored.

Lastly, as long as Rawalpindi continues calling the shots, use of terrorism as state policy in Pakistan will continue unabated. A sudden swell in the number of Pakistani nationals amongst terrorists neutralised in the recent past as well as its collusivity with the PLA is a clear indication that Rawalpindi has no intention of ending its proxy war against India.

It’s been proven beyond any doubts that our security forces and intelligence agencies are not professionally competent but also enjoy tremendous public support. Hence they are fully capable of thwarting ISI’s nefarious designs and so, there’s no reason to panic or project a doomsday scenario.The planned creation of additional Central Reserve Police Force [CRPF] battalions specially trained and equipped for conducting operations against terrorists in the mountainous areas of J&K will further enhance the anti-terrorism operational capability of Indian security forces.

However, there’s no room for complacency.

Let’s not forget for a moment that since Pakistan has no credible reasons to stake claim on Kashmir, use of force has been the cornerstone of its Kashmir policy since 1947. And even though it has militarily failed to annex J&K both in 1947 and 1965, Rawalpindi has reconciled and after abandoning its Kashmir ambition, settled down for a proxy war in J&K  to bleed India ‘through a thousand cuts’.

That’s why optimists in India who still believe in the ‘aman ki asha’ [hope for peace] dream need to wake up and smell the coffee-because in Pakistan, while Islamabad proposes, it’s ultimately Rawalpindi that disposes!

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