India resets Kashmir strategy with louder claim over PoK

Published : Sep 21, 2019 11:21 am | By: M D Sridharan

India resets Kashmir strategy with louder claim over PoK


External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s statement that India will have “physical jurisdiction” over PoK “one day” reflects Modi government’s resolve over the issue.

The growing chorus in Delhi's power circles about expanding India's Kashmir ambitions beyond LoC and exercising physical jurisdiction over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) reflects a serious reset in the Narendra Modi government's diplomatic manoeuvres in its neighbourhood.

Pakistani PM Imran Khan has even gone to the extent of hinting at a possibility of a nuclear war over New Delhi's decision to remove Article 370 in Kashmir but the Indian government has resolutely stuck to its stand and maintained that henceforth talks with Pakistan would be only about PoK and not on Kashmir. Pakistan  called the latest shift in India's stand on PoK 'jingoistic rhetoric' and vented its anger by denying permission for use of airspace  to PM Modi's flight to the US, a retaliatory step taken by Islamabad for the second time in two weeks.

On the one hand, the Modi government is relentlessly mounting pressure on Islamabad over its support to terror groups and use of terrorism as a tool of diplomacy, on the other, New Delhi is planning to expose Pakistan's failure to follow a UN resolution that mandates that Pakistani military forces should leave Kashmir.

Like in the case of Balakot air strike, the tough talk by India on PoK reflects the hardline approach of New India which has made it clear that it is not going to brook attempts by cross-border or cross-LoC forces to disturb its peace. These are also indications of the Modi government's growing confidence in dealing with troublesome neighbours like Pakistan which has resorted to fight a proxy war by pitting terrorists against Indian armed forces.

Another glimpse of India's bolder diplomacy and global vision is expected to be reflected in Prime Minister Modi's address at the annual high-level UN General Assembly session on September 27 that will mark the end of his week-long packed agenda of bilateral and multilateral engagements in the US.

His address to world leaders at the UN will be his first after winning a second term in Lok Sabha elections in May. He had given his maiden address to world leaders at the UN General Assembly in 2014.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to address the UNGA session shortly after Modi’s address on September 27 and there are few observers who do not expect him to use the K-word in his address.

While all eyes will be on Modi, there already is a heated debate in Indian diplomatic circles on whether the Prime Minister should at all refer to Pakistan or India's decision to remove Article 370 in Kashmir during his UN address.

There are strong signs that Pakistan's barbs on Kashmir and attempts to raise issues of alleged rights violations in the Valley are going to be vocally countered by India in most global forums but to supplement these moves there is also going to be a concerted effort to raise the issue of Pakistan illegally occupying parts of Kashmir on the other side of the LoC. The twin strategy of hitting Pakistan on the issue of support for terror and its illegal occupation of PoK is aimed at isolating it in the international forums.

Foreign Minister S Jaishankar was blunt about what India wants in PoK. “The PoK belongs to India and we expect to have physical jurisdiction over it one day," he said, strengthening the growing belief of millions of Indians in Modi's capability to go deeper into PoK to clobber Pakistan and gradually reclaim the territory which has been illegally occupied and administered by Islamabad for over six decades.

"PoK is part of India and we expect one day that we will have the jurisdiction, physical jurisdiction over it," Jaishankar said just days before Modi's departure to the US.

If Modi's decision to remove Article 370 was a “correction” of a blunder committed by the Indian government in the past, then staking a legitimate claim over PoK and eventually getting control over it will just be a natural extension of the landmark constitutional move by the BJP government in Kashmir. Together the two agendas can help BJP achieve its “Mission Kashmir”.

Even if India does not succeed in reclaiming PoK in the near future, the Indian propaganda would ensure that Pakistan is pushed on the back foot in its attempt to internationalise the Kashmir issue. New Delhi tasted some success on this front when British MP Bob Blackman lent weight to Indian's legitimate PoK aspirations by slamming Pakistan over its decision to move the United Nations on the Kashmir issue and said that the country should vacate PoK first.

"The entirety of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is part of sovereign India, and people that ask for UN resolution to be implemented ignore the first resolution, which is that Pakistani military forces should leave Kashmir to reunite the state," Blackman said at "Balidan Divas" or Day of Sacrifice event organised in London by the Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society and All India Kashmiri Samaj (AIKS),

Jaishankar said there is no need for Indians to "worry" beyond a point about what people would say on Jammu and Kashmir and that India's position on its internal issues has and would prevail.

“India's position is clear since 1972. On my issue, my position will prevail. I've spent a lot of my working life dealing with the US Congress. They say a lot of things because people go to individual members, and say 'you need to say this'," said Jaishankar, addressing concerns among Indians over a hint of support generated for Pakistan among some US Congressmen over the Kashmir issue and the subsequent clamp down by the Centre.

Jaishankar said Pakistan would remain a "unique challenge” till it addresses cross-border terrorism. "Show me anywhere else in the world where a country conducts terrorism against its neighbour as part of its foreign policy," Jaishankar said.

The Foreign Minister's remark on Indian aspiration to get jurisdictional control over PoK has come close to Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh making similar statements in recent weeks.

Ahead of the UNGA meeting, India has upped the PoK rhetoric. The timing is perfect as it coincides with India's counter offensive against Islamabad's Kashmir agenda. While ruling out meetings between PM Modi and Imran in New York, Jaishankar pointed to Pakistani PM's recent remark that there was no point talking with India. He said, “Pakistan has only been doing talking. It has not been doing anything on terrorism. They think nice words are an answer to the real problem which is the dismantlement of this industry that they have created.”

There has been an increase in tension between India and Pakistan after New Delhi ended Jammu and Kashmir's special status on August 5 and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.

Now, the Modi government has reset its Kashmir policy by mounting pressure on Pakistan for its support to terrorists whom it pushes across the LoC. For every move of Islamabad to internationalise the Kashmir issue, New Delhi is ready with a plan to raise the issue of reclaiming control over PoK. This muscular approach against the trouble-creating neighbour has even caught Pakistan by surprise.

The new Indian approach has sparked flames of trouble in Pakistan with Imran's rival and Opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari attacking Imran ny saying that under the current regime, it has become difficult for Pakistan to save even PoK's Muzaffarabad city, forget getting Srinagar from India.

This is an encouraging sign for India which has managed to convince the world, to a great extent, that its Article 370 move was an internal matter and the situation in Valley has remained under control with not a single bullet being fired since August 5 – the day Modi and his Home Minister Amit Shah announced the historic constitutional move of removing Article 370 in Kashmir.


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