Checkmate, Pakistan: How India has successfully changed the strategic dynamics over Kashmir

The year 2019 has been one marked by significant strategic successes for India, countering the persistent pernicious behavior of Pakistan — and fundamentally shifting the geopolitical dynamics on the subcontinent.

On February 26, 2019, the Indian Air Force (IAF) conducted a successful deep penetration raid on a training camp of the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) near the town of Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.

The air strike was in retaliation for a terrorist attack in the Pulwama district, Jammu and Kashmir, India, that resulted in the deaths of over 40 Indian Central Reserve Police Force personnel, for which Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility. One could debate the tactical effectiveness of the Balakot raid — but the strategic impact was unmistakable.

Up until then, Pakistan’s 4th generation warfare strategy against India combined the use of terrorists — which offers plausible deniability — with the inherent existential threat provided by its nuclear arsenal to immunise those terrorist operations. India’s response to the terrorist attack in Pulwama strategically decoupled Pakistan’s volatile linkage of terrorism and the potential use of nuclear weapons.

One basis for Pakistan’s continuous terrorist attacks against India has been Islamabad’s claim that Kashmir is “disputed” territory — which has resulted in two wars between India and Pakistan, the Kargil conflict of 1999 and many other armed clashes.

In an attempt to disrupt that cycle of violence, the Indian government amended Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution, which had given special status to Jammu and Kashmir — a change viewed by the vast majority of the international community as an internal matter.

Pakistan has long sought to “internationalise” what is, in essence, a bilateral disagreement over territorial sovereignty.

For weeks after India’s action, Pakistan has called for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to discuss Jammu and Kashmir.

Thanks to the support of its “all weather ally” China, Pakistan did get a closed-door Security Council debate, the outcome of which was a diplomatic “nothing burger.” According to one United Nations diplomat, members failed to even come up with a statement to the press — the lowest level of Security Council action.

It is indeed ironic that Pakistan’s insistence on international intervention in Jammu and Kashmir led to an overwhelming Indian diplomatic victory and an acquiescence, if not a de facto endorsement, of India’s change in Articles 370 and 35A — significantly diminishing Pakistan’s claim that Jammu and Kashmir is disputed territory.

With nowhere to go diplomatically, Pakistan is stoking terrorism and “using terminology of jihad against and promoting violence in India”, said Syed Akbaruddin, India’s ambassador at the United Nations.

Pakistan’s heated rhetoric was evident in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Independence Day speech to the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir Assembly, describing India’s action on Article 35A and Article 370 as “inspired by the ideology of Hitler’s Nazi Party” and, in a clear reference to the Holocaust, a “Nazi-like final solution for Kashmiris.”

The Nazi analogies, along with Imran Khan’s false assertions of an imminent Indian attack on Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, are meant to instigate violence and provide justification for future attacks on India by Pakistan-based terrorists.

Like its failed diplomatic initiatives, Pakistan has few military or paramilitary options — most of which will backfire.

There are numerous reports of Pakistani terrorists massing along the Line of Control (LoC) and concomittant infiltration attempts, with Pakistani troops providing support and covering fire.

Again, ironically, Pakistan’s recent attempts to focus international attention on Kashmir will have the whole world watching if there are any terrorist attacks on India — including observation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which will decide on Pakistan’s blacklisting in October.

It appears that India has strategically checkmated Pakistan.

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