Rawalpindi’s Kashmir rhetoric is only to redeem its image

General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Pakistan Army.
General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Pakistan Army.

Whenever senior Hurriyat leader SAS Geelani expresses gratitude to Islamabad for anything concerning Kashmir, he also makes it a point to specifically thank Pakistan Army as well, and why not? After all, it’s thanks to the mayhem orchestrated by Pakistan Army in Kashmir and generous funding provided by its spy agency ISI that has enabled this former Jamaat-e-Islami member and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat party founder to attain both name and fame as the father-figure of the secessionist movement in Kashmir.

In return, Rawalpindi too has been openly speaking out in favour of the separatists and present Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is not only particularly vocal but extremely blunt about it too. The army of which other democratic nation in the world goes around expressing solidarity with a secessionist movement in another country?

But Pakistan is a unique democracy and the world has tacitly accepted the reality that in Pakistan, it’s Rawalpindi and not Islamabad that calls the shots. No wonder while its Prime Minister was given a lukewarm reception by Washington, the army chief accompanying him was not only presented with a guard of honour but also accorded a regal 21-gun salute by Pentagon! Anyway, let’s not digress because if such lopsided protocol is acceptable to the people of Pakistan, then who are we to object or express reservations? Returning to the Pak army chief’s utterances on Kashmir, Gen Bajwa has not only announced that “Pakistan Army firmly stands by the Kashmiris in their just struggle to the very end,” but also amplified that ‘standing by Kashmiris’ means that “We are prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfill our obligations in this regard.”

When the government of Pakistan has already declared that Islamabad will continue to provide political, moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris in their struggle for self-determination, is he not speaking on behalf of the entire nation, including the Pakistan Army? So where is the need for Gen Bajwa to go about expressing Pakistan Army’s solidarity with what Islamabad claims is only a political movement? Since the ISI is already organising and funding the proxy war in Kashmir, what other ‘obligation’ does the Pakistan Army have as far as Kashmir is concerned? The rib-tickling part is that though the army chief has been very bold and vocal in making such a menacing declarations, time and again, he somehow seems to chicken out when it comes to clarifying what exactly are the “obligations” for which his army is prepared to go to “any extent”?

So, Gen Bajwa who said that Pakistan Army was prepared to go to ‘any extent’ for the sake of Kashmiris is presently content with his army “observing Eid solemnly in solidarity with Kashmiris under Indian occupation particularly since Aug 5, 2019 illegal, inhuman lockdown & ensuing atrocities.” However, it appears that in order to overcome this humiliating climb down, the ‘fire-breathing’ army chief, has once again roared with his latest threat, which is full of sound and fury- he has been quoted by DG-ISPR as saying that “Kashmir is a disputed territory and any attempt to challenge (its) disputed status including any political-cum-military thought related to aggression will be responded with full national resolve and military might.” But since Generals are warriors and not diplomats, many of them are unwittingly putting their feet in their mouths and Gen Bajwa is no exception!

He talks about Kashmir being “disputed territory” and has threatened to use his “military might” against any attempt to “challenge (its) disputed status.” But from Islamabad’s point of view, hasn’t New Delhi already changed the ‘status’ of Kashmir by revoking Articles 370 and 35A of its constitution? Hasn’t this move sent out a clear signal to the world that J&K is an integral part of India? Didn’t Pakistan go to UNSC to challenge this move but got snubbed and didn’t its efforts to garner international support in an attempt to compel New Delhi to maintain status quo ante fail miserably. So, now that even the UNSC has not contested the fate of J&K being an integral part of India, one is tempted to ask Gen Bajwa as to what more can India possibly do to “challenge” what Pakistan unilaterally (and wrongly) considers as the “disputed status” of Kashmir?

Gen Bajwa’s angst probably due to the realisation that by revoking Article 370, the government of India has pulled the blanket of pseudo-legitimacy that this clause afforded to Pakistan’s baseless claim that Kashmir is “disputed territory,” and this makes him the first army chief in three decades who would have nothing to talk about in terms of his ‘achievements’ in Kashmir. Moreover, as Gen Bajwa has seen for himself how his predecessor Gen Raheel Sharif who had acquired a near demigod like stature went into oblivion after the 2016 surgical strikes, he is uneasy carrying the baggage of Balakot, the massive hammering that Pakistan Army is getting– both on LoC and depth areas, as well as the high number of body bags arriving from Balochistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Gen Bajwa knows that all these negative developments will one day make people question the wisdom of granting him a controversial three-year extension. He is also aware that in the prevailing scenario, his apparent desire to be remembered as Pakistan’s greatest army chief will remain unfulfilled. The international community, which is closely monitoring both the political situation in New Delhi and Islamabad as well as the military situation along the Indo-Pak borders has determined that even though the situation is tense, the likelihood of war breaking out are remote. But Gen Bajwa doesn’t think so as he by commenting on India’s internal political matters and threatening government of India, certainly exceeded his brief as an army chief.

But as mentioned earlier, since Rawalpindi calls the shots in Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan doesn’t seem to be in a position to either take independent decisions or exercise any control over the army, Gen Bajwa’s frustration could well precipitate into a dangerous situation in the form of some military misadventure. Perhaps Gen Bajwa’s provocative announcements of Pakistan Army being ready to go to “any extent” in Kashmir and Khan’s repetitive ‘false flag’ operation prognosis may actually be preparing ground for some face saving like the Pathankot, Uri and Pulwama type of attack or even a ‘shallow intrusion’ across the LoC, of a magnitude that redeems his professional image but doesn’t escalate into an all-out war.

So, while all the sound and fury emanating from Rawalpindi may currently signify nothing, India can’t afford to be complacent– especially when Pakistan has a glory seeking army chief seems to be itching to go to “any extent” in Kashmir!

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