Partition of India, the communal riots, the unprecedented bloodshed, the ensuing disharmony and hatred between India and Pakistan, paved way for an independent Pakistan to formulate policies and create a national sentiment based on keeping Islam foremost and making it the core of its identity.
What this meant was that Pakistan – often regarded as the ‘nucleus of the Muslim world’ and the ‘protector of Islam’ by its succeeding generation of politicians – enabled Islam to penetrate deep into its military and civil administration, and ingrain in its people an overwhelming emotion of identifying themselves first as Muslims and then as Pakistanis.
The Pakistani military and leadership right from the beginning of the country’s creation adorned an armour of extremism. This went on to become the foundation of its economic policy, military posture and foreign engagements, especially with respect to India.
Pakistan made India its absolute and unwavering focus. The functioning of its entire political and military system can be described in the form of three concentric circles – the outermost one representing India; the middle one focused on anti-Hindu propaganda and fear-mongering that the Indian state is hellbent on capturing Pakistan and making it a Hindu state; and the innermost circle that it gave the greatest importance, Kashmir. Since its inception, Pakistan incited religious fanaticism and employed anti-India tirades to gain quick support of its people.
Kashmir has been Pakistan’s most constant and dominant agenda. And Article 370 was ensured longevity as it was the lifeline not to Pakistan’s intrinsic ideology but to the lavish lifestyle of the higher echelons of its army and political class.
And now, this lifeline has been severed in a swift, perfectly-planned move by India.
Pakistan exposed to its own people
Over many decades, Pakistan has successfully managed to instil in its people a firm belief that its military is superior to India’s and has even won wars. India too has helped in establishing an aura of invincibility around the Pakistani army.
Spoils of war are primarily determined by the enemy land captured. And India has always given back the land it managed to earn through its soldiers’ sacrifice. This meant that the Pakistani army could boast to its people of its ‘invincibility’. That if it were weak and capable of being overwhelmed then wouldn’t India end up with a significant chunk of its land?
As far as the 1971 war and the break-up of Pakistan into two is concerned, the ISI propaganda machinery did well to fool its people into believing that the separation of East Pakistan from its mainland was a blessing as it was already difficult to maintain logistics and administrative relations with a landmass that existed beyond enemy territory.
To add to this, the Punjabi population of Pakistan despised the Bengali Muslims of East Pakistan, and through distorted propaganda turned a shameful military loss into a sort of ethnic victory. It was being spread that Pakistan was finally one geography and largely one ethnicity (with Punjabis being more than 44%).
In all, India was never able to break the blind faith that Pakistanis had in their army. This, in turn, enabled successive Pakistani rulers to blatantly speak on Kashmir, legitimize the use of terror, and focus exclusively on military modernization and nuclear build-up. The common Pakistani was too swept away in awe of its military and a mortal fear of India’s intentions.
However, in the last three years, three instances have occurred that have put the Pakistani political class and its army on the spot. Surgical strikes, airstrikes, abrogation of Article 370.
The ISI media machinery twisted the first two portraying the strikes as blatant lies. It may well have succeeded in fooling its people once again. But the removal of Article 370 leaves absolutely no space for any arm of the Pakistani establishment to propagate lies.
This puts its army and intelligence in a serious spot of bother. Why, if the military is indeed so robust and unassailable, did it allow India to remove 370? What about the decades of Kashmir Banega Pakistan narrative? Was it all an eyewash? And again, if it wasn’t, then why hasn’t the Pakistan army done anything to teach India a ‘lesson’ for the serious transgression that India has committed?
For the first time, neither the Pakistani government nor the army can fool its people. And to top it all, Pakistan has absolutely no options, which we now discuss.
Imran Khan, in a most boisterous manner, cancelled bilateral trade show that he was acting ‘strict’ against India. Obviously, he didn’t give it a moment’s thought (he was too busy fixing the prices of roti and naan).
The total volume of trade between India and Pakistan in 2018-2019 was $2.55 billion; 0.3% of India’s total trade. Pakistan exported $0.49 billion worth of goods. For a decrepit economy like Pakistan, even such a small value of exports is crucial as it gives jobs and income to its people. India exported $2.06 billion of goods. Suspending trade has adversely Pakistan as India exported many basic food items and other common goods such as cotton, plastics, paints and machinery. This led to a substantial rise in inflation in Pakistan – that already stood at nearly 9% in June – which is igniting a deep sense of anger in the common populace against Imran Khan and his vacuous Naya Pakistan slogan.
India doesn’t care a wee bit about the suspension of trade. Pakistan depends on loans and donations, is having to sell buffaloes (a whopping 8 of them!) to fill its treasury, and even the CPEC has turned out to be more of a superficial façade than a gamechanger on the ground. Despite being in such dire straits the delusional Pakistani establishment thinks suspending trade will help its cause.
Pakistan’s GDP growth has been revised to 4% while despite a slowdown India’s is touted to be 6.9%. Pakistan’s foreign reserves stand at $7.76 billion while India’s are touching the $430 billion-mark (55 times). And India’s GDP in nominal terms is 10.6 times that of Pakistan’s and 9.6 times in PPP terms.
In today’s geopolitics where economic warfare is of more impact than sheer military might, Pakistan dumbfoundedly fails to see that its economy cannot sustain any kind of conflict with India.
The military conundrum
In a conventional war, Pakistan doesn’t stand a chance against India. Even Pakistan tacitly acknowledges this.
However, this serious inferiority in military prowess remained negated as India shied away from using force. Pakistan formed an astute plan that could be employed repetitively. Attack India through terrorists; deny the attack; mobilize troops if India retaliates; have the international community pressurize India to back off; end the stand-off in a stalemate; register a win.
Pakistan kept attacking India through its terrorists. This put India in a fix-it couldn’t wage a full-fledged war, and neither did it have options short of it. This changed dramatically post the surgical strikes in 2016. Pakistan for the first time saw that India had options to retaliate and a political will to execute these options. This heat that it felt in 2016 turned into unequivocal fear when the Indian Air Force struck its terror camps in 2019.
Now, Pakistan fears that if a terrorist attack of the magnitude of Pulwama or 26/11 occurs, India wouldn’t care to just eliminate terrorists – it may launch a counter against its military. This is what’s engrossing the Pakistani establishment in a serious conundrum. Want to bleed India through terror, but what if India retaliates conventionally?
Also, the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) which primarily takes to task those nations that are involved in terror funding has a keen eye on Pakistan. Pakistan was placed on its grey list in 2018, and in the next meeting in October 2019, it will decide whether to blacklist Pakistan.
Even being in the grey list is causing losses of about $10 billion per year to Pakistan. Finding foreign investments has become tough. Even the CPEC is approaching a slow death; China made net investments of just $2.48 billion since 2013.
If Pakistan chooses to execute a terror attack then not only does it threaten itself with serious military consequences but it may also end up being blacklisted by the FATF which will send its economy hurtling into a recession. This will cut all investments and international lending will also cease.
Imran Khan and General Bajwa are facing the toughest time of their lives. Terrorism is a very dangerous option. Conventional action on the border is out of the question. With excruciating inflation that is deepening due to the suspension of trade, the common Pakistani is rising against the government. Add to this the intensified protests for freedom in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan and the regularly occurring attacks in Balochistan against the Pakistan army, and all this makes Pakistan’s internal situation threadlike weak. And most crucially, the rants by successive Pakistani governments and dictators that Kashmir is rightfully theirs and that they possess the might to take it leaves them thoroughly exposed in the eyes of the people who placed the military on the highest pedestal.
Prime Minister Modi has in one well-planned and perfectly timed move of truthfulness and national interest left 70 years of Pakistani lies bereft of even an iota of effectiveness.