Pulwama incident & Indian elections
S M Hali
Four weeks after the Pulwama incident, India’s failed surgical strike at Balakot and its losing two fighter aircraft to the Pakistan Air Force, there appears to be no letup in Indian rhetoric.
The cat is now out of the bag as India has announced its 17th Lok Sabha elections in April and May 2019. The ruling dispensation BJP, which has little to show for its last five years of rule, believes anti-Pakistan rhetoric would help in wooing more voters.
Besides getting hardliner Hindutva operatives on one platform to garner votes at the polls, the current government led by Narendra Modi believes that raising anti-Pakistan fustian helps the BJP government to divert the attention of masses from the mega Rafale fighter jet scandal.
Simultaneously, the lava that had been simmering in the Kashmir cauldron has erupted since July 2016, when popular youth Kashmiri leader Burhan Wani was brutally murdered. Protesting masses taking to the streets have been incessantly fired upon with pellet guns, which have taken a toll of over 350 lives but also permanently blinded 3600 children. It is an accepted fact that the freedom movement in Kashmir is purely indigenous and over the past 70 years, India has miserably failed to win the hearts and minds of Kashmiri people.
Post Pulwama jingoism and anti-Pakistan rhetoric also helps India to divert the attention of the international community from its atrocities in Indian occupied Kashmir. Such a desperate move was precipitated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights report of gross human rights violations on June 14, 2018. Earlier, Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission had also released a report in October 2017 detailing brutal Indian tactics to break the will of Kashmiri people, particularly the youth. More recently, UK’s Parliament All Party Parliamentary Kashmir Group also released a report in October 2018 whereas in a latest such instance European Parliament held a public hearing on February 19, 2019 on situation in Kashmir and called upon India to immediately halt human rights abuses in Kashmir. Thus, the Pulwama incident gives India a chance to shift the entire blame on Pakistan and portray the indigenous movement of Kashmir as terrorism to justify its atrocities.
Post Pulwama jingoism and anti-Pakistan rhetoric also helps India to divert the attention of the international community from its atrocities in Indian occupied Kashmir
While the immediate gains for India appear to be elections-centric, there are numerous other agendas, which Narendra Modi’s government hopes to fulfil. The case of self-confessed Indian terrorist and senior RAW operative, Commander Kulbhoshan Jadhav, who has been awarded the death sentence by a military court in Pakistan was being heard in the International Court of Justice at The Hague. India wanted to influence the judgment of the trial.
Equally significantly, India also wished that Pakistan be blacklisted in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting following the Pulwama incident. Currently Pakistan has been placed in the Grey List of FATF and should it be relegated to the Black List, Pakistan will be doomed economically as no international credit agency will deal with Pakistan, while the country will sink in the morass of debt and squalor.
Following the Pulwama incident, Indian rhetoric reached a crescendo condemning Pakistan. The February 27 retaliation by PAF fighter aircraft, subdued Indian media for a while but renewed efforts were visible to tar and brandish Pakistan. It was claimed that Indian Air Force in it strike at Balakot on February 26 not only destroyed an alleged Jaish-e-Muhammad terror training camp, killing 350 “terrorists” but also four personnel from Pakistan Army. As evidence, the infamous Indian TV Channel India Today presented telephonic conversation with a make-believe Imam of a local mosque, who surreptitiously confirms the martyrdom of Pakistani soldiers.
To add fuel to the fire of FATF investigations, other fake calls were made to alleged Jaish-e-Muhammad operatives requesting their bank account numbers so that India Today reporters posing as donors could deposit funds to the Jaish. Certainly, these crude machinations are aimed at gathering evidence against Pakistan for the FATF.
To soften the blow of its losses in the combat with PAF fighter aircraft, India is claiming to have shot down a PAF F-16. The claim has two purposes. For the domestic audiences, it is meant to boost their waning morale that the F-16 has been vanquished. The ire of the US is being attempted to be rekindled against Pakistan that the F-16 it was provided to combat terror is being used in operations against India. To support its sordid claim of downing an F-16, another fake call was made by India Today sleuths posing as a Captain Haneef from GHQ, directing a Police official at Bhimber to guard the wreckage of the F-16.
The Pulwama incident and its aftermath has once again brought to fore the fragile nature of peace in South Asia. Narendra Modi is willing to take the region to the brink of a nuclear holocaust only to win elections.