By Dr. Huma Baqai

(Published in Pakistan Observer)

POST the latest break-down in India-Pakistan relations even normalization seen distinct where soldiers on both sides are targeted and killed and the hostilities are now not just confined to the LoC. Pakistan-India relations are much more than a bilateral conflict which blows hot and cold over Kashmir. South Asian peace is hostage to the Kashmir issue and what has perhaps further complicated the conflict matrix is the war in Afghanistan. Many observers of South Asian conflict are of the view that the theatre of war between India and Pakistan has shifted to the Western border, the escalation of the violence on the LOC in the last few months where the 2003 accords was violated thousands of time is not shifting but extension of war theatre to the Western border. Pakistan now has to defend itself against India on three physical fronts.

The LoC which was never been this problematic where sporadic exchange of fire is now turning into something far more dangerous and resulting in both civilian deaths and military martyrdoms. Moreover, the Indian intrusions include marine and airspace violations. The second front is the misuse of strategic space by India in Afghanistan resulting in strategic vulnerability for Pakistan where India uses its clout and influence in the country to promote anti-Pakistan propaganda and brew trouble for Pakistan through its Western border. The last front is the now irrefutable evidence of RAW’s involvement in destabilizing major cities of Pakistan, cultivating and facilitating anti-state elements both religious and political and attempts to sabotage CPEC.

Soon after the launching of CPEC a special cell was established in RAW, with an allocation of approx. $ 300 million to scuttle the mega projects. RAW also works in collaboration with Afghan intelligence agency (NDS) for subversive activities in Pakistan. Pakistan is determined to move away from myopic attitude of discerning the world in binaries. It is looking for economic collaboration and strategic relations with all its neighbors including India and beyond. The rising Indian aggression not just on physical fronts but also on diplomatic front is a huge impediment. There is a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy. It is now focused towards its energy and economic needs. Thus the thrust towards internal security and stability to achieve the same. It is also working towards better regional dynamics. Pakistan is making a very conscious efforts to improve relations within the region and also with Russia and Iran. It is now determined to move beyond conflict.

Pakistan has actually experienced two lost decades where it had been embroiled in conflict, it has had to deal with both its operational dimensions and its aftermath. According to the South Asian Terrorist Portal, Pakistan endured one of the heaviest tolls in the World with over 21158 civilian fatalities between 2003 and 2016. Pakistani forces have conducted twelve operation in various parts of the country since 2001. The year 2016 was termed as the year of inhalation of terrorist by General Raheel Sharif. The issue of Pakistan India confrontation and the situation in Kashmir under Modi’s government have worsened. The atrocities committed in Kashmir by the Indian state have seen new heights, where the Indian civil society itself is speaking against it. The Modi government has also vastly contributed to the escalation of conflict between India and Pakistan.

The issue should also be receiving greater attention by the international community. Pakistan is a front line state in the war against terror. The deteriorating situation on Pak-India border is both a diversion and distraction. Peace in Afghanistan is also linked intrinsically to better relations between the two protagonists of the region. The power dynamics of the region are changing at an unprecedented pace. The two most obvious being the emerging assertiveness of China and convergence of interest amongst Pakistan, China and Russia. A Westward looking India instigating trouble for Pakistan through Afghanistan is a recipe for Cold-war like confrontations in South Asia with power triangles pitched against each other.

Bruce Riedel in his article written in 2010 emphasizes on the role of Pakistan in determining the outcome of the Afghan war. The reluctance shown by Pakistan in spite of a very successful Zarb-e-Azb operation, to go head on against certain militant factions is largely an issue of capacity and the ability to handle more fronts. They are, however, very closely watched and they stand contained. Pakistan is a country fighting on three fronts, it has two hostile borders and an internal war to tackle. The mindset of the 1990s has ceased to exist. The so-called strategic assets of the past are now viewed as a liability and a hindrance to achieving larger economic growth and connectivity. The doctrine of strategic depth in Afghanistan lies buried forever. However, Pakistan for good reason is still very sensitive to strategic vulnerability ensuing out of Afghanistan because of rising Indian influence used negatively against Pakistan. Pakistan-China’s joint vision of economic connectivity is hinged upon good relations with all its neighbours and beyond.

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