In what came as a surprise to as many in Pakistan and across the border, the dossier released by Pakistan on 13 November alleging India’s involvement in sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan is emblematic of Pakistan’s new ‘resolve and intent’ that it will not hesitate to counter India outside the conventional battlefield. The details of the dossier was made public in a joint press conference attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and DG ISPR General Iftikhar Babar. The dossier, which is titled “Indian Efforts to Destabilize Pakistan”, will be shared with the UN as well as with the P-5 members i.e. US, UK, China, Russia and France.
The dossier, and the accompanying press conference, are a damning bundle of evidence against India. The dossier directly implicates India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in running a covert cell against CPEC projects in Pakistan and claims that recent attacks on various facilities in Pakistan were directly managed from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office. During the press conference, audio tapes of recorded and intercepted conversations between terror outfits and Indian Intelligence Agencies were played. Also shared in the press conference were names and codes of Indian officials as well as the historic involvement of India in sponsoring Pakistan through proxies.
So, what makes the dossier unusual? After all, this isn’t the first time that Pakistan has claimed India’s “Hybrid War” against Pakistan. Could we be witnessing a new normal i.e. Pakistan counterattacking India instead of always being on the defensive? More importantly, what is the ‘end game’ envisaged by Pakistan and the chances this lawfare will make the world see both India and Pakistan through a new lens?
The timing of the press conference and the dossier
Perhaps the timing of the move is as important as the move itself. There has been a change of guard in the US with President-elect Joe Biden all set to assume office of the 46th President of the US. This is Pakistan messaging the US that it cannot do its bidding in Afghanistan and be the guarantor of peace in the region while India continues to destabilize it through terrorism.
The world must be told in clear terms that the time has come for it to support Pakistan’s exit from the FATF gray list and to give due credit to Pakistan its efforts in the Afghan peace process
There is also a domestic angle to this. Historically, civilian and military leadership of Pakistan have made strange bedfellows. This changed with the PTI government coming into power in 2018. PM Imran Khan enjoys unparalleled support of the military leadership. In this backdrop, the joint press conference by FM Qureshi and the DG ISPR sends out a clear message to the political class of Pakistan that the civilian and military leadership are on the same page when it comes to defending Pakistan’s vital national interests. It is a known fact that the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif never uttered the name “Kulbhushan Jadhav” when he was in power and never supported Pakistan’s efforts to showcase India’s sinister designs towards Pakistan. The PML(N)’s reaction to the dossier has so far been that such sensitive information should not have been shared in a public presser. Not surprisingly, PML(N) continues to downplay the significance of the dossier despite that the dossier is a first in Pakistan’s history.
Pakistan’s new “war”
This brings me to what Pakistan might be seeking to achieve through the dossier. One would imagine that the decision calculus of Pakistan’s policy circles includes both short-term and long-term goals that have a domestic as well as international focus. As stated, above, Pakistan is looking to take the ‘war’ to India’s backyard. Primarily because of India’s unrelenting propaganda against Pakistan and partly due to its own mistakes, Pakistan landed in the FATF gray list in June 2018 where it has remained since then. After having met 21 of the 27 FATF conditions in October this year, Pakistan will exit the gray list either in the next FATF plenary (February 2021) or in the ensuing months. What is important is that Pakistan won’t get blacklisted. This gives Pakistan new strategic maneuvering space where India is concerned. With Pakistan getting closer to the finishing line, it appears to have upped the ante by packing a powerful punch.
Pakistan’s carefully crafted new lawfare
It seems that the state of Pakistan had been carefully building a case against India with evidence to be released at an opportune time when it would hurt India the most. The moment of reckoning may very well have arrived. As argued by Andrew Korykbo in these pages, the dossier’s release is to be seen in the backdrop of the India and China clashes along the Line of Actual Control where India suffered humiliation at China’s hands. With the India and China dispute not likely to be resolved any time soon and China’s heft making it virtually impossible for India to target it, India’s best bet was to turn up the heat on China’s key ally, Pakistan. But apparently this move seems to have backfired with Pakistan offering threadbare evidence of India’s direct involvement.
The next logical step in Pakistan’s lawfare should be to create further awareness in global capitals through its embassies and chosen diplomats
Korykbo also argues that the dossier might have been intended to “preemptively thwart” India’s terrorist designs. While this may be true to some extent, the move is but one in a series of recent lawfare moves by Pakistan that are designed for both the short term and the long term. An analysis of Pakistan’s lawfare is incomplete without examining its constituent sub-sets.
First is Pakistan’s new political map issued in August this year which coincided with the anniversary of India’s illegal annexation of Kashmir last year. The political map refers to occupied Jammu and Kashmir as “Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir” whose final status is to be “determined in line with relevant UNSC Resolutions”. The political map is a seminal articulation of Pakistan’s legal position over Kashmir which takes as a point of departure Pakistan’s claims in respect of the entire territory of Jammu & Kashmir. However, its ideological basis is not impacted adversely by an any illegal act e.g. annexing AJK or Gilgit Baltistan in the same vein as India did through the act of 5 August 2019.
Second, conferring ‘provisional’ provincial status on Gilgit Baltistan shows Pakistan’s resolve to play by the international playbook while at the same time doing all that it takes to preserve its vital national interests. The net effect of the political map and the granting of the ‘provisional’ status to Gilgit Baltistan is that Pakistan has decoupled its de facto control over AJK and Gilgit Baltistan from its de jure claim over the entire territory Jammu and Kashmir, something that ultimately depends on compliance with UNSC resolutions by India. This is meaningful; further entrenching ‘de facto’ control over Gilgit-Baltistan as a ‘preventive’ strategy to safeguard vital national interests such as the CPEC but stopping short of undertaking any illegal act that can potentially dilute Pakistan’s legal claim. In this backdrop, the dossier fits perfectly well in Pakistan’s lawfare strategy. Having upped the ante in August through the political map, the next logical step for Pakistan was to share India’s designs towards Pakistan with the world.
‘Lawfare with a future’ or ‘future with a lawfare?’
I see Pakistan embracing both. The rules of the game have changed as far as Pakistan is concerned. With all the global opprobrium it is carrying on its shoulders from decades of Indian propaganda labelling it as the ‘bad boy’, Pakistan has taken a leap of faith to rewrite the narrative and take the battle to the enemy. In all honesty, Pakistan has been helped by India’s own religious bigotry and belligerence towards neighbors under Modi. But can Pakistan succeed in this rather ambitious project?
The dossier would most certainly have shaken up India, which would now be forced to do some own due diligence to identity slips that led Pakistan to acquire these evidences
This is where Pakistan faces unprecedented challenges. How to sell political maps, pressers and dossiers in a world corroded by real politik and commercial imperatives. After all, India is a huge market of 1.3 billion people which prompts the world to support India’s narrative or look the other way despite obvious transgressions. Although this much holds true, the fact remains that the world – specially India’s support base i.e. Western powers – are increasingly wary of India’s future trajectory under Modi. While weapons sales to India will continue due to the sheer volume of money it brings, one can expect that broader strategic engagement with India will require some second thoughts and thinking through. Pakistan’s job, incredibly hard no less, will be to both convince the world to start seeing India as an aberration in world affairs and to view Pakistan as a state that is slaying demons of the past and taking steps to bring its own house in order.
The next logical step in Pakistan’s lawfare should be to create further awareness in global capitals through its embassies and chosen diplomats. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister and national security officials should pen op-eds in leading Western newspapers, engage with media houses such as CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera with pin-point evidence on Indian actions in Pakistan. The end goal of this should not only be to change global perceptions about India but to also make the world realize how far Pakistan has come to bring its own house in order. The world must be told in clear terms that the time has come for it to support Pakistan’s exit from the FATF gray list and to give due credit to Pakistan its efforts in the Afghan peace process.
Unsurprisingly, on 15 November, Indian Ministry of External Affairs called Pakistan’s dossier “figments of imagination”. This was expected. The dossier would most certainly have shaken up India, which would now be forced to do some own due diligence to identity slips that led Pakistan to acquire these evidences. One can expect India to recalibrate its hybrid war against Pakistan and come back with renewed vengeance. Before India is able to do so, Pakistan must take up the dossier forcefully at the international level to showcase that India is not only hell bent on destabilizing Pakistan but above all that under Modi, India is now a grave threat to international peace and security.
The author is a practicing lawyer based in the Middle East who completed his Master of Laws (LL.M.) from Harvard Law School U.S.A. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.