Srinagar: Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, addressing an Indian Army unit’s reunion on 27 October, threatened “Our resolve will get completed only when India will get the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, including Gilgit-Baltistan back”.
Whereas AJK is a thin mountain barrier- a sliver of territory, that separates the Kashmir Valley from the plains of West Punjab, GB is a giant plug that prevents India from expanding westward, into Afghanistan, and thence into the Central Asian Republics. While keeping in view Pakistan’s grievances, one should not be oblivious to India’s frustrations. In the 21st Century, huge iron, copper, and natural gas deposits have been discovered in Afghanistan, not to mention the enormous gas reserves in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. India can have access to these natural deposits, but this giant plug is controlled by Pakistan.
Presently, both India and Pakistan lack the conventional punch to wrest the portions of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir they had captured during the First Kashmir War (October 1947 –April 1949). So, Rajnath’s statement is just bluster. However, like East Pakistan, India is active in destabilizing AJK and GB through a non-kinetic war.
A webinar, attended by Indian General Ata Husnain (retired) and some academicians, was held on May 29, 2020, to ponder upon non-military strategic methods to occupy AJK and GB. There was nothing new in it as far as India’s strategy of employing Trojan horses to achieve its military objectives is concerned.
Addressing the webinar, General Hasnain stressed:
“The reason behind India’s moves over GB to date has been the lack of strategic culture among Indians. Arguing about the need of developing a long-term strategy amid geopolitical developments taking place in the Covid era, he said, “Nothing works overnight. GB is not something that is like to be taken as a low-lying issue, rather it is a challenge! A lot of things are changing and panning out during the pandemic and Ladakh is currently going through a rapid development phase. The action of the Chinese is to send us and the world a message. It also reflects the fact that actually, Pakistan is too worried.”
The reality is somewhat different. Indian leaders had always nurtured grand ambitions. In the twilight years of the British Raj, there was a Congress-led government in the restive Muslim- majority Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), contiguous to Jammu & Kashmir. And the Congress had laid claims to the province. It had planned to manipulate the accession of the NWFP with India through its ally Ghaffar Khan and, with India in possession of Jammu & Kashmir through the Radcliffe Award; the road would be open for the Indian dominance of Afghanistan and ingress into Central Asia. That was not to be. Despite its machinations, the Congress party failed to hack off NWFP from Pakistan.
The hybrid war, General Husnain explained, “is defined by resorting to deniability, yet using sponsorship, grey war is a method in which one finds political and psychological domain dominant. India has started to engage in such warfare very recently – just a few months back”, claims Hasnain. Hybrid war, he further explained, “is a combination of military, economic, cyber, information warfare, and so on, which Pakistan has resorted to for more than three decades”.
We all know that for the last decade or so the Indian Army is busy raising a mountain strike corps to “liberate” Aksai Chin from China and AJK and GB from Pakistan. While discussing the finer aspects of the difference between hybrid war and grey war, though, Hasnain tacitly admits that unable to fight a kinetic war against Pakistan and China, India will henceforth seek resolution of its territorial disputes mainly through political and psychological maneuvering – the grey war.
Hasnain further said:
“The generational integration is going to take place in GB and India must ensure that GB should not integrate into Pakistani society. “We also must explore the Shia connection. We have a Shia connection with Turtuk, Kargil, and 25 million Shias across India. We need to integrate the Shia identity from Lucknow to Kargil. Social media shall indeed be a part of it. Looking at the diaspora, they have a huge GB, Mirpuri, and PoK diaspora. We must look for exclusive meetings with those diasporas whenever our leaders visit foreign countries.”
India playing the Shia card is nothing new. They have been doing this for a long time. The population on both sides of Kargil Heights is predominantly Shia. India is encouraging Iran to play a silent role in controlling the social and religious life of Shias living in Gilgit – Baltistan, and Kargil.
The Shia lunar calendar for Gilgit-Baltistan is determined by the Imam of the Friday mosque at Kargil. And the Imam of the Kargil mosque receives his instructions from Iran. This is not something symbolic. It implies that the Shias living across the line of control now have a single authority that regulates their secular as well as religious life.
In recent years, Ladakh Hill Council, backed by India, has floated the idea of Greater Ladakh incorporating Ladakh, Gilgit, and Baltistan. Given the evolution of the Indo-Iran strategic partnership during the last three decades, one can safely assume that Greater Ladakh will be a palatable proposition for both India and Iran.
Read more: The Wobbling Nuclear Power in Pakistan
Dr. Manish, another participant in the webinar, echoed the views and stated that India lacks strategic culture. He further said:
“Two main things that are important in our scenario Firstly, India should invent most of the cyber tech power and energize and enlarge this domain. The content should be news, ideas, debate, social networking, entertainment, etc. Secondly, it should lend support to adversaries. We can do so by providing non-military and military aid to them. Pro-democracy opposition movements are suddenly increasing which are too intense. Most of the literature and research in the past century show that there have been well-laid, planned, and massive efforts to raise pro-democracy movements. Such efforts tend to change the economy for a prolonged period. We should resort to such movements.”
India is already destabilizing the region through a set of underhand policies. A few examples: We discuss the linkages between the Indian film industry and Mumbai’s underworld and their involvement in terrorist operations in the region. It is an open secret that RAW coordinates the underworld’s financing of Bollywood movies and exploits the film industry to launder black money for India’s terrorist operations in South Asia.
Through various channels, including the use of sea launches and human transporters trailing along the desert and mountain routes, this laundered money finds its way to Dubai, Chah Bahar, Zahedan, Qandahar, and many other cities and towns dotting Pakistan- Iran, and Pakistan – Afghan border areas. From there the money is issued to various Indian-sponsored terrorist outfits which operate in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Indian consulates in Iran and Afghanistan serve as conduits for this terror financing.
To have a glimpse of these linkages, let us see how organizations like the Indian International Film Academy (IIFA) are exploited by India’s Ministry of External Affairs and RAW to facilitate and promote Indian covert objectives. We all know how India abetted the Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka, and the havoc it wreaked on this island nation. After about three decades of intense fighting, the Indians realized it was a futile war and decided to call it quits.
The webinar concluded by arguing that the primary focus of India in non-military ways should be to work on winning information warfare. What is new in it? Is it the first time when the Indians will be employing an indirect approach to destabilize Pakistan? We have known through experience how cautious and risk-averse Indian civil and military leadership is when it comes to settling scores on the battlefield.
India attacked and absorbed small states like Hyderabad, Junagarh, Goa, Sikkim, etc., because, militarily, they were no match for India. In 1962, Nehru tried to test the waters by provoking China through his forward policy. After India’s defeat, China declared a unilateral and well-thought-out ceasefire, restricting India from ever approaching within twenty kilometers of the Line of Actual Control, and, to this day, India obliges China.
In 1971, India attacked East Pakistan only when it was sure of its victory, but the Indian Army stopped in its tracks in the western theatre because of the human and material risks involved. In the future, India will resort to armed intervention in Pakistan only when it is sure that its offensive will be a walkover. Covert Indian intervention in Pakistan should be viewed in this context. Present-day Pakistan is ripe for such an Indian adventure.
Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.