Put the region on another roller coaster of confrontation
Modi’s futile effort of trying the diplomatic arena first was always going to fail. The reason is simple: by the time Modi reached Lahore to appease Sharif, all essence of a civilian control over Pakistan’s foreign policy had already been taken away by the military
The deepening tensions between India and Pakistan are likely to breakout at wider diplomatic fronts with both countries stepping out of their traditional status quopositions as far as their bilateral conflicts are concerned.
After the death of Burhan Wani, Pakistan on its part has attempted to aggravate the crisis in Kashmir by increasing the diplomatic pressure on India in order to attract a maximum of international attention.
In this regard, the break in Indian policy has come with Narendra Singh Modi’s unconcealed approval of Baluchistan’s separatist struggle: “From the ramparts of the Red Fort, I want to express my gratitude to some people — the people of Balochistan, Gilgit, and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir — for the way they wholeheartedly thanked me,” remarked Modi during his Independence Day address recently. This is the first time an Indian prime minister has openly talked about supporting Baluchistan’s separatist movement.
Clearly, Modi has had enough of Pakistan’s blatant intervention in Kashmir. With Pakistan, Modi has tried both extremes: to everyone’s surprise, Modi’s Lahore visit was meant at courting the Sharif’s government that a rapprochement beyond some strategic issues was probable. However, the failure of Modi’s rapprochementeffort towards Pakistan has forced the former into the other extreme: Modi’s newly adopted policy of toying with Pakistan’s internal trouble-prone areas in order to ward off pressure on Kashmir and other internal issues is as problematicas New Dehli’s policy of engaging with the civilian government sitting in Islamabad earlier.
Modi’s futile effort of trying the diplomatic arena first was always going to fail. The reason is simple: by the time Modi reached Lahore to appease Sharif, all essence of a civilian control over Pakistan’s foreign policy had already been taken away by the military. Moreover, the military in Pakistan didn’t approve or appreciate the spotlight – some might call it blink of hope – which both leaders were able to generate. Hence, any major or small possibilities for any strategic breakthrough in bilateral relations were locked out from the corridors of what might have been possible: enhanced bilateral economic collaboration and diffusion of prevailing distrust that will naturally result in increased regional cooperation.
It’s unlikely that beyond rhetoric, Modi will consider giving any military support to separatists in the province, for it may lead to a serious military crisis between Pakistan and India. In fact, in the long run, another surprise may emerge: Modi may backtrack on his Baluchistan position
The post Wani saga, however, came as a breaking point for New Dehli and the long shelved policy of “tit for tat” with Pakistan was put into practice. While the policy is not likely to bring much of leverage for India, New Dehli has not much to lose either by attempting to internationalise Baluchistan. Modi’s policy of open talk about Baluchistan was meant to turn the pressure back on Pakistan. Beyond that, it’s inconceivable how the government in New Dehli can support the separatist movement.
Besides Baluchistan, Modi has gone full throttle where Pakistan may feel more hurt: a growing closeness with Afghanistan. Pakistan’s uneasiness about India’s closeness with Afghanistan is expected to increase with the former’s recent pledge of $1 billion aid package for the latter. Moreover, what may also hurt Pakistan is that Kabul and New Dehli’s mounting economic and diplomatic intimacy is not one sided: Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president’s increased belligerent posturing towards Pakistan in an indicator that Pakistan’s recent marketing of its changed policy of not making any distinctions between “bad” and “good” militants has been seen through as a lie. President Ghani during his recent visit to India said that Pakistan’s approach of making distinctions between different terrorist groups is a reflection of a “short sighted” approach where a state is behaving like a maligned non state actor.
In the next couple of weeks, Pakistan’s expectation of garnering some support at the United Nations (UN) regarding New Dehli’s heavy handed approach in Kashmir is not likely to find any ears. While the UN human right chief’s recent statement that a probe into the recent atrocities in Kashmir was imminent is encouraging, it’s unlikely that any major power will back any UN’s action against India in this regard. Pakistan is unlikely to successfully influence the United States (US) on changing its policy towards Kashmir, for the US cannot afford to anger a strategic ally – India – with whom it has far more interests and stakes than Pakistan. Besides, Pakistan’s support for militants in Kashmir has only helped India in justifying its atrocities as a reaction to Islamabad’s support for terrorism and militancy in the valley.
To begin with, the US does not even endorse Pakistan’s policy of highlighting the unrest in Kashmir as an “international problem”; rather the White House has always endorsed India’s policy of considering the issues a “bilateral problem.” On September, 16, the State Department spokesperson, Elizabeth Trudeau, while reinforcing the long held policy, said that “Our position on Kashmir has not changed. The pace, the scope, the character of any discussions in Kashmir is for the two sides to determine. We support any and all positive steps that India and Pakistan can take to forge closer relations.”
Another reason behind Modi’s new policy is an attempt at giving credence to the Pakistani military’s much reported killings and atrocities in the province as Pakistan has with India in the Kashmir dispute. While with Baluchistan, the US will not support India’s position, what it is likely to do is to put Pakistan under radar for its continued policy of using militants as foreign policy means and endorsing and supporting New Dehli’s growing economic engagement with Kabul as it has done recently.
It’s unlikely that beyond rhetoric, Modi will consider giving any military support to separatists in the province, for it may lead to a serious military crisis between Pakistan and India. In fact, in the long run, another surprise may emerge: Modi may backtrack on his Baluchistan position, putting pressure on Pakistan to shun is support for militants as well.
Above all, after Modi’s Baluchistan comment, it’s unlikely that Pakistan will give up on its policy of supporting non state actors. However, it will not, in any way, help Islamabad in its quest to break its growing regional isolation. Rest assured we are in for another long haul of regional confrontation.