A leading Pakistan-based think-tank has acknowledged that Pakistan’s tense relations with India would continue to challenge Islamabad and a limited conflict between India and Pakistan cannot be ruled out.
The report titled, ‘Pakistan Outlook 2020: Politics, Economy & Security’, has reviewed current trends in Pakistan’s external environment, economy, political stability, and security and on the basis of that made short-term projections in these areas.
The foreign policy aspect in the report has been analyzed by the former foreign secretary and ex-High Commissioner to India Salman Bashir, while the military dimension has been dealt with by former defence secretary retired Lt Gen Asif Yasin Malik.
Bashir states that US support for India “was in violation of all norms of civility, international norms and principles”. The biggest challenge in 2020 for Pakistan, he therefore believes, will be to manage the fallout from the US-India nexus.
According to experts talking to EurAsian Times, Indian and Pakistani PM – Narendra Modi and Imran Khan could be tempted to escalate tensions over Kashmir and distract public opinion away from domestic issues.
After tensions between India and Pakistan erupted into a brief war last year, skirmishes between the two sides have only increased. The number of Pakistani violations has reportedly doubled this year while Pakistan says the volume of Indian violations is even higher.
Pakistani PM Imran Khan has aggressively highlighted PM Modi’s Hindutva agenda and lockdown of Kashmiri civilians. Experts argue that it would be naive to expect Pakistan to swallow New Delhi’s policies in Jammu and Kashmir and blatant aggression at the LoC.
No Pakistani government can survive such embarrassment. At some point, its decision-makers, mainly the Pakistan Army, will have to act or at least be seen to act.
Historically, Pakistan’s powerful army has attempted to reassert its hold in such circumstances by launching ill-fated military operations against Indian forces in Kashmir. General Ayub Khan did so in 1965 and General Pervez Musharraf attacked Kargil in 1999, without the knowledge of the then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
Experts argue that rather than learning from Pakistan’s errors, Indian PM seems to be inspired by them. Only diplomatic victory over Pakistan has not satisfied PM Modi. Till date, New Delhi has not presented any convincing evidence of Islamabad’s involvement in the Pulwama attack, but New Delhi went ahead and attacked militant camp in the heart of nuclear-armed Pakistan.
This could have been catastrophic, however, sense prevailed in Pakistan, and they were quick to hand-over captured Indian pilot to New Delhi which diffused tensions and a possible war.
The Indian Army has also not stayed mum. General Bipin Rawat, now the chief of defence staff, has also broken with India’s military tradition of staying out of politics. Later newly appointed Indian Army Chief – General Manoj Mukund Naravane also threatened Pakistan and said that his troops are ready to capture Pakistan-Administered-Kashmir (PaK) if the India government gave such an order.
Recalling that a 1994 resolution of the Indian parliament had stated that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir belonged to India, Gen Naravane said: “There is a parliamentary resolution that entire Jammu and Kashmir is part of India. If parliament wants that area (Pakistan-Administered-Kashmir) should be taken we will definitely do so and appropriate action will be taken accordingly.”
If history and hostility is anything to go by, then both India and Pakistan may be tempted to escalate limited warfare in Kashmir to distract public opinion and steer away from domestic issues.