In 1925 an Indian doctor named K. B. Hedgewar formed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to promote a more centralized and assertive interpretation of Hinduism. Hedgewar envisioned India as a distinctly Hindu nation in which the populace was united around a common and defensible interpretation of Hinduism or Hindutva. As an ideology Hindutva is based on the principle of establishing the hegemony of Hindus and the Hindu way of life in the subcontinent.1 One thread of this ideology is to restore the division of Indian subcontinent by making it one entity. RSS believes that the 1947 partition of India and creation of Pakistan and later Bangladesh are in fact a sacrifice of holy land of Akhand Bharat and this historic mistake needs to be corrected. One RSS member, Nathuram Godse, was so incensed by Gandhi agreeing to the partition of India and his thoughts of a religiously tolerant society that he assassinated Gandhi on January 30, 1948.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) origins lie in the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, popularly known as the Jana Sangh, founded by Syama Prasad Mukherjee in 1951 in response to the politics of the dominant secular Indian Congress Party. It was founded in collaboration with the Hindu nationalist organization RSS, and is in fact the organization’s political arm. Presently RSS is part of the Sangh Parivar, a conglomerate of Hindu nationalist organizations spanning religion, politics and defense of the faith. RSS firmly believes that India is a native Hindu state that has been invaded and contaminated by foreign religions. According to their views, Muslims which constitute 14.2 percent of the population, cannot be accepted as Indians. RSS now also publically demands that Hinduism should supplant secularism as the guiding principle of Indian society.2 The ultimate aim of this philosophy is political and cultural subjugation of the country's Sikh, Christian and Muslim populations.
Prime Minister Modi embodies the past, present and future of the Hindu nationalist movement. Modi joined the RSS’ youth wing when he was only 8 years old, and became a full-time volunteer at the age of 17. Later in 1985, he joined the organization’s political wing i.e., the BJP. In 2002 he became the Chief Minister of Gujarat and subsequently in 2014 became the Prime Minister of India. Modi’s exponential rise to power is based on strong anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistani ideology. To attract majority Hindu vote he has openly professed demolition of Babri Mosque, ban on cow slaughter, revoked the special status of Indian-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K) and teaching a lesson to Pakistan militarily and even attempts at fragmenting it, on numerous occasions.
BJP, as an extreme right Hindu party, has always whipped anti-Muslim sentiments to increase its vote bank among Hindus. For example, in 1992 it organized a Hindu mob to demolish 16th century Babri Mosque. The contention was that the mosque was built upon the birth place of the Hindu God Rama. Ensuing Hindu-Muslim communal riots spread to cities like Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Delhi, Bhopal and several others, eventually resulting in over 2000 deaths, mainly Muslim.3
Shortly after India’s defeat in the war with China in 1962, the Indian government embarked on a nuclear mission, conducting its first test in 1974. Given its genuine security concerns after the 1971 War with India which resulted in the secession of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Pakistan launched its own nuclear program. Riding on nationalist sentiments with an ambition to become a superpower of the world, BJP-led government in India conducted overt atomic tests in 1998. To restore strategic balance and amid threatening and insulting rhetoric by BJP leadership, Pakistan also conducted six nuclear tests in May 1998. It is widely believed by majority of strategists that BJP’s miscalculation of conducting overt nuclear tests provided a window of opportunity to Pakistan to go nuclear without facing international wrath being a Muslim state.
In 2002 another communal riot broke out in Gujarat when about 58 Hindu pilgrims died in a burning train near the Godhra railway station in the Indian state of Gujarat. In one of the bloodiest massacres in the history of modern India, mobs armed with addresses of businesses and residences owned by Gujarat’s Muslim minority systematically eliminated Muslims. Human Rights Watch reported that nearly 2,000 Muslims were massacred by Hindu mobs and over 150,000 displaced.4 Modi ordered the state’s police not to halt the bloodshed or aid the victims. The worst-affected area was Ahmedabad, the state’s largest city. Violence continued unabated for three days from February 27 to March 1, and more sporadically throughout Gujarat for months. The U.S. State Department later concluded that Modi was complicit in the riots, that he ordered Gujarat’s police not to stop the violence or aid the victims, and that his police forces were directly involved in the bloodshed.5 Modi was never charged, however, but was instead re-elected to a third term with a landslide vote. His use of state terrorism to inspire his core voting bloc continues unabated till date. On May 17, 2004 Lalu Prasad Yadav was appointed Railway Minister. In September 2004, two and half years after the train burning, Yadav appointed former Supreme Court Justice Umesh Chandra Banerjee to investigate the incident. In January 2005 Banerjee presented his interim report, which tentatively ascribed the fire as an "accidental fire," after ruling out other theories. He cited a forensic report stating that the injuries to the victims were only compatible with an "internal fire." This report ignored Modi’s role in abetting the genocide of Muslims in Gujarat and ignored U.S.’ decision to deny a visa to him for sponsoring and abetting state sponsored terrorism as Chief Minister. Modi became hero of the Indian extreme right and has been re-elected as Prime Minister of India in 2019 for the second time.
Prime Minister Modi’s decision of revoking the special status of Kashmir is totally in line with RSS’ ideology of creating homogenous Hindu nation. It sends a message to all the minorities in India that they have no choice but to become Hindus and join the mainstream otherwise they will be eliminated by force and their freedom, property and even the right to breathe and live would be taken away from them. This re-election is also a strong message to other regions vying for more autonomy or freedom from Indian Union i.e., BJP-led government would crush any idea or ambitions for more liberty with an iron fist.
The most problematic region between India and Pakistan is Kashmir, a region located high in the Himalayas. At the time of Independence, Jammu and Kashmir, comprising 80 percent Muslim majority, still had not chosen whether to join India or Pakistan.6 As per the principle of partition, being the Muslim majority area the state of Kashmir should have formed part of Pakistan. At the time of Independence, Hari Singh was the ruler of Kashmir. When he delayed the announcement of accession of Kashmir to Pakistan, his Muslim subjects rebelled against him. In Jammu, Kashmiri Muslims were killed by Sikhs and Hindus who were in majority there. The Editor of The Statesman, Ian Stephens, claimed that 500,000 Muslims i.e., "the entire Muslim element of the population" was eliminated and 200,000 "just disappeared".7 It means that at least 200,000 were killed and the rest fled to West Pakistan. In these circumstances Pathan tribesmen from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan waged jihad to save their Muslim brethren and entered the state on October 22, 1947. Seeing the freedom fighters Hari Singh panicked and requested India for help. Indian Prime Minister Nehru sent in 100,000 troops to crush what he claimed was an invasion of Indian territory. The Indian troops, which were air lifted in the early hours of October 27, secured the Srinagar airport. India and Pakistan went to war. A UN commission called for the withdrawal of both countries' troops in August 1948. The UN brokered a ceasefire in 1949, and a five-member commission made up of Argentina, Belgium, Columbia, Czechoslovakia and the U.S. drew up a resolution calling for a referendum to decide Kashmir's future through plebiscite.8 The UN also determined a Line of Control (LOC), by which Azad Kashmir came under Pakistan’s control. Pakistan and the territories of Baltistan and Ladakh stood divided.
Indian Efforts to Absorb Indian Occupied Kashmir into Indian Union
In 1950s, India accelerated the process of integrating Kashmir into its political system in an effort to make it impractical and politically unrealistic to hold a plebiscite. Pakistan began to see China a potential ally against India after the Tibet uprising and entered into negotiations with China for border agreement in 1961, finally signing it in 1963. Meanwhile, India was provided with unprecedented military hardware and training support by the U.S. and UK on the pretext of containing Chinese threat after its humiliating defeat in 1962 conflict with China.
Despite being the front line state against the spread of communism in the region, Pakistan was betrayed by the U.S. and British leadership in 1962. President Kennedy and then British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan specifically asked Pakistan not to undertake any military action against IOJ&K during Sino-India War of October 1962.9 Both the leaders led Islamabad to believe that they would use their clout to resolve Kashmir issue once the Sino-India conflict was over. Despite Pakistan’s compliance not only was the Kashmir issue put on the back burner once the crisis was over but India started to receive more importance and all types of aid from the West.
Six rounds of talks were held between Indian Foreign Minister Sardar Swaran Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Zulifqar Ali Bhutto from December 1962 to 1963 for the resolution of Kashmir issue,10 but nothing came out of it. Mr. Bhutto even proposed the internationalization of the Valley as an interim arrangement for six months and then the Kashmiris should be given the chance to decide their future. But this was rejected by India. President Ayub also adopted “a very flexible attitude and stressed that he was prepared to consider a solution other than plebiscite”.
In December 1963, a strand of hair from the beard of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), the most sacred Muslim relic in Kashmir, was stolen from the mosque at Hazratbal. The Kashmir Valley went into a brief chaotic spell which included riots and protests. The relic was quickly discovered by the Indian Intelligence Bureau and returned. The issue was defused almost completely in February 1964 when a panel of holy men confirmed the authenticity of the restored relic. In November 1964, Articles 356 and 357 of the Indian Constitution were extended to the State of Jammu & Kashmir, by virtue of which the Central Government can assume the government of the State and exercise its legislative powers. The State Assembly then amended the State Constitution, changing the posts of Sadr-i-Riyasat and Prime Minister to Governor and Chief Minister, consistent with the Indian constitution.11 This meant somewhat dilution of Article 370 of Indian Constitution which guaranteed complete constitutional autonomy to IOJ&K. In 1972 after the war, Pakistan and India signed Simla Agreement in 1972. According the agreement both countries will "settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations". India has many a times maintained that Kashmir dispute is a bilateral issue and must be settled through bilateral negotiations as per Simla Agreement of 1972 and thus, had denied any third party intervention, even that of the UN.12 Before proceeding further let us analyze why India has always wanted Kashmir to be an integral part of the Indian Union.
Strategic Importance of Kashmir for Indian Union
From the Indian point of view, the borderland between Pakistan and China i.e., Kashmir, strategically speaking, is of fundamental national interest for multiple reasons, most important of which is: Occupation of Kashmir is rooted in national strategy of the Indian Union. According to Indian thinking the agreement for the partition of the subcontinent was an unfortunate departure from this ideal, and to allow further secession from the union on the basis of religion, specially Islam, would imperil the national integrity.13 Secondly, the more of Kashmir that India held, the less viable was the Sino-Pakistani relationship. Indian control of major part of the region gave it control over the axis of a possible Pakistani threat and placed limits on Chinese assistance. Thirdly, India needs Jammu-Srinagar-Leh road, running through the heart of the vale of Kashmir, for supply of troops standing guard in the Ladakh area of Kashmir, an important area for India’s defense against China in Tibet and Xinjiang regions. Moreover, the headwaters of many of the rivers vital to Pakistan’s agriculture are in Kashmir. Lastly, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) once completed would decrease China’s reliance on the vulnerable Strait of Malacca by creating an overland trade route connecting the Arabian Sea to western China's Xinjiang province for trade and energy. This would not only connect energy rich Central Asia and Gulf region with China/South Asia but ultimately it would also mark Pakistan’s pivot to Asia. One of the terminus ports of CPEC, that is Pakistani port of Gwadar, is located near the mouth of Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway from where 40 percent of world’s oil flows. At present the U.S. Navy dominates all the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) of the world. The U.S. as well as India consider it a potentially grave threat to their free access to energy resources of Gulf, if China is given naval base at Gwadar. More importantly, one of CPEC highways crosses through Gilgit-Baltistan, a Pakistani territory that India claims as part of Kashmir. So China’s backing for CPEC is viewed as tantamount to a recognition of Pakistani sovereignty over Gilgit-Baltistan. From the above discussions, it is evident that IOK is a disputed area. Due to a number of strategic dictates, India not only wants to retain the occupied area of Kashmir but also harbors designs for further expansion into Pakistani and Chinese territories.
Clash of Civilizations
Being one of the world’s ancient civilizations with the second most populated country of the world, India under Modi is aspiring to become superpower of the world and policeman of the region. Indian policymakers consider Pakistan to be the major roadblock in these efforts. Meanwhile, with the demise of Soviet Union, the common perception among the Christian Zionists living in the West, Jew Zionists in Israel and Hindu Zionists in India is that political Islam as an ideology is the gravest threat to the new world order. To mitigate this threat, the relations between Narendra Modi-led nationalist government in India and Benjamin Netanyahu-led Zionist regime in Israel have grown rapidly in recent years. Apart from exponential rise in trade and defense relations, right-wing Zionism under Netanyahu and right-wing nationalism (Hindu Zionism) under Modi with a common hatred for Muslims have become the foundation stone of the ideological relationship between the two states. After this strong bonding, Modi using the template of its Zionist ally has embarked upon the mission of genocide, changing demography of areas and occupying Muslim lands by force. On August 5, 2019 Modi government revoked Article 370 of Indian constitution which granted special autonomous status to the occupied territory of Jammu and Kashmir. BJP government also retracted Article 35A, which restricted non-Kashmiris from buying land in the state, potentially opening the way for non-Kashmiris and Hindus to migrate to the state and alter its Muslim-majority demographic.
There are currently more than 900,000 Indian soldiers in IOJ&K and the very fact that they exercise expanded legal authority under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1990 is a cause of great human rights concern. Pumping more troops and clamping indefinite curfew in IOJ&K has further aggravated human rights abuses. This tyranny and oppression of Modi’s fascist regime has denuded the actual face of its government. This illegal act has, however, alienated all the Kashmiris of IOJ&K across the board to the point of no return.
The political strategy of Modi government at present is to encourage Hindu migration to the region en masse by buying Kashmiri lands and marrying ‘white-skinned’ Kashmiri girls. By doing so India wants to reduce the Muslim majority into minority as Israel has done in the case of Palestine and New Delhi has done in Nicobar and Andaman Islands. As far as India’s military strategy is concerned, New Delhi wants to keep IOJ&K under siege by heavy military presence till the will of Kashmiri people to resist illegal occupation is fragmented. As far as Pakistan is concerned, India is likely to keep the LOC active by targeting civil population and Pakistani military posts by artillery and other means. If things are still not manageable India would resort to surgical/air strikes in Azad Kashmir to heighten the costs for Islamabad with the aim of deterring future cross-border attacks. If these measures are still unable to control indigenous freedom struggle, New Delhi could resort to creating a casus belli similar to false flag operations like the Pulwama attack. That would naturally bring the subcontinent's nuclear-armed neighbors closer to the edge of a conflict that would reverberate far beyond disputed Kashmir and even lead to a much bigger catastrophe.
As far as the U.S. is concerned, it wants to get out of Afghanistan, and needs Pakistan to convince Taliban to get on board with a peace deal which could provide face-saving and an honorable exit to Washington. Therefore, the present thaw in the U.S. and Pakistan relations is tactical in nature and short-term. Due to myriad of reasons the U.S. has established strategic alliance with India in all fields. Thus nuclear armed Pakistan which is also the most important partner of China’s Belt and Road Initiative is viewed with skepticism by the U.S., India and Israel. With strategic aims of depriving Pakistan of its nuclear arms and rolling back of CPEC project since 2001, these countries, sometimes in concert and at times individually, have tried to destabilize Pakistan. It is no coincidence that Pakistan is in the eye of storm since 2001. Invasion of Afghanistan and installation of Northern Alliance dominated government there, attack on Indian Parliament, inciting terrorism in Balochistan/FATA, creation of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Samjhauta Express, Mumbai, Pathankot, Uri, Pulwama, GHQ Rawalpindi, PNS Mehran Karachi attacks all had almost identical strategic aims. It is to create two-front dilemma for Pakistan Armed Forces, create internal fissures, cause economic meltdown, and demoralize the people to the extent that there is complete paralysis and chaos in Pakistan. Against all odds Pakistan has emerged as a more resilient country despite the huge human and economic losses; the sacrifice of around 100,000 persons and a loss of USD 120 billion over the years. The timing of revocation of Article 370 by India at a time when Afghanistan is closer to becoming stable is another attempt to embroil Pakistan in one more protracted conflict. New Delhi believes that by doing so it could squeeze Islamabad politically, diplomatically, economically and militarily. However, like always, amid Indian aggression Pakistani nation and armed forces are galvanized and ready to meet all the emerging challenges. It is believed that Indian miscalculation this time will result in the freedom of IOJ&K.
The writer is a retired Vice Admiral of Pakistan Navy. He is currently serving as Ambassador of Pakistan to Maldives.
E-mail: [email protected]
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