by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 6, Shawwal, 1436)
The heat wave sweeping the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent has led to soaring temperatures in more areas than one. It has killed a lot of people because of lack of water causing heat stroke. Thousands have died in both countries, all of them extremely poor people. Now parts of Pakistan are inundated with floods that have now become routine in that part of the world.
Successive governments in Pakistan have offered lame excuses for their inability to do much about floods. Perish the thought if they would ever admit to failure or lack of preparedness to confront such disasters in order to ameliorate the suffering of ordinary people. Their knee-jerk reaction is to issue palliative statements and appeal to overseas Pakistanis to help their brethren in need. In Pakistan, the plunder of state resources continues by the parasites that call themselves the political class.
Temperatures, however, have been rising on another front that affect the interests of the elite directly: between India and Pakistan. Accusations and counter-accusations have flown thick and fast, accompanied by threats, at least from the Indian side. There has also been exchange of gunfire at the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir as well as along the international boundary near Sialkot in Punjab province.
Rising tensions have caused Pakistani Rangers at the border to reject the customary exchange of greetings and sweets with Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) on the occasion of ‘Eid al-Fitr. Both Pakistani and Indian media confirmed the cold shoulder treatment. Exchange of sweets may be a small matter but it has great symbolic significance. It makes little sense to be exchanging pleasantries and sweets with Pakistani soldiers while India is killing Pakistani civilians. As a consequence, relations have nosedived and are not likely to improve unless there is change in policy, especially from the Indian side.
With the election of Narendra Modi, a hardcore Hindu fundamentalist, as prime minister of India, it was anticipated that relations between the two traditional rivals would deteriorate. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that Modi leads has a long history of animosity toward Pakistan. It must be stated for the record that the Congress Party has been no less hostile but the BJP is belligerent to the level of being obnoxious. And it has proved as much during its brief tenure in power.
Here is a sample. On July 20, Lieutenant General K.H. Singh of the Indian army warned “certain elements in Pakistan” of “unexpected damages” in the wake of repeated exchanges of fire between Indian and Pakistani border forces along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary over the previous week. This was reported by the Indian news website, the NDTV.
Singh is commander of the Nagrota-based Headquarters 16 Corps that is based outside Indian-occupied Jammu. The Indian general said, “There are certain elements across the border who want to create trouble on the Line of Control… we have to give them certain unexpected damage so that they don’t repeat it in future.” Quite aside from the tortuous English that is the hallmark of most politicians and generals in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent — and here both stand equally accused — the Indian general’s threats cannot be taken lightly, especially in view of the frequent exchange of gunfire between forces of the two countries.
Singh alleged that Pakistani troops had shelled villages in the Poonch sector in Indian-occupied Jammu region on ‘Eid al-Fitr (celebrated in Pakistan on Saturday July 18). He speculated that Pakistani troops resorted to shelling because the Indian Army had “stopped terrorists [referring to Kashmiri mujahidin struggling for their independence from Indian occupation] from crossing the border” a few days earlier. The Indian general was forced to admit that Indian shelling had killed a Pakistani girl. “One girl was killed on the Pakistan side — we regret the incident.” Some regret, some remorse. Singh also added, perhaps as an afterthought because his statement would have exposed Indian belligerence and aggression against civilians, “The Pakistani army also suffered major damages,” without elaborating.
The previous week, at least four Pakistanis were killed in three separate incidents of cross-border firing by the Indian army. Further, Pakistani troops also shot down an Indian spy drone along the Line of Control. Such attacks and spy drones are contrary to the ceasefire agreement that both countries have agreed to. There is a United Nations Military Observers group for India and Pakistan that goes by the tortuous acronym UNMOGIP, whose task is to monitor ceasefire violations. The Pakistan army duly notified the UN observer group about Indian ceasefire violations not because it expected any meaningful action but to put these violations on record. India is notorious for making scandalous allegations against Pakistan that are amplified by the Indian-doting Western media as well.
India’s vile propaganda campaign has received additional boost from its close alliance with the illegitimate Zionist regime in Occupied Palestine. Delhi has also used the economic opportunities it is willing to offer Western multinationals to make money. Western regimes that will renege on their alleged concern for human rights violation with the drop of a penny (or rupee) are scrambling to India for business deals. Whether they will get anything from the wily Hindu bania is a different matter but it helps India’s cause.
Modi, who was banned from visiting the US because of his involvement in the anti-Muslim pogrom of February 2002 when he was Gujarat chief minister, was given a red carpet reception in the White House last September. In April 2015, Canada also laid out the red carpet for the Hindu fascist. Canada’s rightwing Prime Minister Stephen Harper found in Modi a soul mate: both thrive on creating divisions and hate against minorities, in this case Muslims residing in their respective countries. Both in the US and in Canada, there were large spirited protests against Modi’s visit exposing his numerous crimes. Unfortunately, most corporate media outlets preferred to look the other way although the alternate media did not.
Given Modi’s well-documented anti-Muslim animus and his strong aversion to Pakistan, the rise in tension along the LoC in Kashmir as well as the international boundary was expected. After the Pakistan Army’s complaint to the UNMOGIP, a fact-finding team visited Saleh Pur, Chaprar, and Malane in Chaprar Sector near the working boundary in Sialkot. The UN team met civilians and noted their complaints, including the killing of civilians. Whether anything will come of such visits is a moot point but the issue has at least been put on record. The Pakistan Foreign Office also lodged a strong protest with India over such offensive posturing.
At the political level, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met his Indian counterpart Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) last month in Ufa, Russia. Both countries, who have observer status at the SCO, hope to join as full members. The two premiers held an hour-long meeting and vowed to reduce tensions. Even so, India deliberately escalated tensions along the LoC as well as the working boundary. What is the meaning of this especially in view of Nawaz Sharif extending an invitation to Modi to visit Pakistan that the latter accepted? Further, Sharif tried to sweeten relations by sending Pakistan’s choicest mangoes to the Hindu warmonger hoping perhaps to persuade him to desist from further belligerence. The message was: suck mangoes, not trade bullets!
Will it work? Given Modi’s mindset and Hindu jingoism, it would be unrealistic to repose much faith in his conduct. Peace talks between the two neighbors have remained suspended since January 2013, long before Modi or Sharif came to power but Modi has done little to reduce tensions despite pledging with his Pakistani counterpart during the SCO summit that both India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development.
In May 2015, Pakistan took two unusual steps that point toward the rapidly deteriorating situation. At the beginning of the month, at the Corps Commanders meeting at the General Headquarters, the generals “took serious note of RAW’s (Indian intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing) involvement in whipping up terrorism in Pakistan.” It was unusual for the Corps Commanders’ conference to name RAW in such a manner. But perhaps, the situation was so serious that the generals were left with little choice to send a strong signal to India. It is no secret that India has been backing terrorists in Balochistan as well as other terrorist outfits in the rest of Pakistan.
This was followed a week later by the Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry accusing RAW of involvement in various terrorist activities across Pakistan. He said that the matter had been taken up “a number of times” at the highest level with India through diplomatic channels.
Clearly it has been a hot summer in the subcontinent; the temperature has just gone up a few degrees and is not likely to come down unless India learns to conduct itself in a civilized manner.