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Pakistan army is determined to check how PM Modi is different from his predecessors

Author: G Parthasarathy
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: October 8, 2014
URL: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/comments-analysis/pakistan-army-is-determined-to-check-how-pm-modi-is-different-from-his-predecessors/articleshow/44651328.cms?prtpage=1

Why should Nawaz Sharif, besieged by domestic problems, with his army heavily deployed fighting the Pakistani Taliban along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, suddenly decide to escalate tensions along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir? The answer is that Pakistan's security policies are not decided by the prime minister, but by his namesake, General Raheel Shareef.

 Confronted by a virtual takeover of the capital, Islamabad, by the followers of Imran Khan and Maulana Qadri, the prime minister had to turn to the army to not only protect the capital but also act as mediator in his confrontation with Imran and Qadri. He was earlier forced to abandon a peace initiative with the Pakistan Taliban, when the army, backed by air power, unleashed a military operation against the Pakistan Taliban in North Waziristan.

 The army also appears determined to check out how different Narendra Modi will be from his predecessors.

 The ISI challenged Mr Modi on the day he was sworn in, by getting the Indian Consulate in Herat attacked.

 This was followed by testing India's will, by stepping up infiltration across the LoC. The Indian response was robust. The attention then turned to stirring up trouble within Jammu and Kashmir, so that it remained a focus of world attention as a 'Nuclear Flashpoint'.

 Infiltration of Jihadis across the Line of Control would be meaningless for Pakistan, unless unrest in Jammu and Kashmir would produce the equivalent of a Palestinian Intifada, together with periodic shootouts that would receive international attention. There is disappointment in Rawalpindi that even the normally supportive British Parliamentarians did not oblige them during recent parliamentary discussions on Jammu and Kashmir.

 A major weapon in Pakistan's political arsenal in the Kashmir Valley has been the Hurriyat leadership, which many in India's intelligence establishment have pampered for far too long. Despite constant support from the ISI, the Hurriyat was unable to stir up tensions in the Kashmir valley. Moreover, the ISI's long time stalwart, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, is now aging and unwell. Mirwaiz Umar Farookh is regarded as soft and Hamlet like.

 The floods that tore apart the Kashmir valley have come as a boon for the ISI. A propaganda barrage has been unleashed claiming that the inept Omar Abdullah government and the Indian Army have done nothing to rescue and assist stranded and displaced Kashmiris.

 Two new stalwarts emerged to give a boost to this Pakistani effort to stir up public anger against India in the Kashmir valley. They are Hurriyat leaders Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah. Both these worthies led the charge in defaming the Indian Army and attempting to destroy the credibility and efficacy of the efforts to provide relief by the Army, NDMA and others.

 The major challenge that New Delhi now faces in Jammu and Kashmir is not militancy, but in providing relief and rehabilitation for the population in the Kashmir valley, after the snows commence next month and communications are disrupted.

 After having faced a decisive response from the Indian Army when it last attempted to raise tensions across the Line of Control, the Pakistan army has now resorted to using the paramilitary Rangers for firing across the international border. The effort is geared to sending in as many infiltrators as possible, before the snows commence and the mountain passes close.

 Pakistan knows that India has the capabilities to deal with infiltration, especially as large parts of the LoC are now fenced. The paramilitary forces along the border and LoC like the BSF and Indo-Tibetan Border Police should be equipped with enhanced firepower.

Moreover, while responding robustly, New Delhi should also raise the political and diplomatic costs for Pakistan, if it persists with its present policies.
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