From Proxy War to Drone War : No Small Step

New Delhi, July 14 IANS: Undeniably, the June 24 drone attack on the Indian Air Force (IAF) station in Jammu which is not far away from Indias border with Pakistan has had an element of surprise. It signalled a new dimension of the low-cost war Pakistan has been waging right from the day it was carved out of British India in 1947 as the lasting legacy of colonial policy of divide and rule the land of Hindus and Muslims.

From the Middle East to Central Asia drones have been in use for a while to spread aerial terror. And the state and non-state actors in Pakistan have been taking recourse to drones to dump drugs in Indian Punjab to deepen the addiction amongst the sturdy youth of the border state.

Be as that may, the June 24 episode coincided with the dialogue New Delhi had with the leaders of the mainstream political parties in Srinagar. Islamabad did not take kindly to breaking of Kashmir political ice just when Prime Minister Imran Khan was asking his Indian counterpart to roll back his Aug 2019 plan that had ended the special status Indian Constitution had given to Jammu and Kashmir as a temporary measure.

“India must roll back its August to have talks on Kashmir”, he and his garrulous foreign minister Qureshi have been saying in interview after interview with the American media, which, following the footsteps of the State Department and the White House has begun to see Pakistan as the solution to peace in Afghanistan.

Surprisingly, Pakistani leaders have not explained as to why India should roll back some thing it had done on its territory under the provisions of its own statute. Their American media interlocutors also did not pose this very question. It is in synch with the known American habit of not looking beyond the nose.

Otherwise, the high priests of Media capitalism would have asked Imran Khan to write in his exclusive Opinion pieces (for them) as to why the duly elected Prime Minister of his own Kashmir (Azad Jammu and Kashmir, AJK, as the Kashmir belt Pakistan had occupied in its very first war with Indian in 1948 is known) is against American arbitration on Kashmir.

Raja Farooq Haider Khan, the AJK Prime Minister, has gone public terming Imran Khan’s call to the US to mediate on Kashmir as a foolish act.

“It would be foolish for Pakistan to ask the US to arbitrate on the Kashmir issue with India”, he told a news conference he had held under Imran Khan’s nose in the Pakistani capital on Wednesday, June 30.

Raja Haider belongs to the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), which is bitterly opposed to Imran’s Pakistan Tehreek—e-Insaf (PTI). Both parties are locked in a near straight fight in the battle of the ballot unfolding in AJK.

In a manner of speaking Prime Minister Imran Khan’s appeal to the US to mediate on Kashmir is not a new Pakistan demand. Successive Prime Ministers of the land of the pure, as he likes to describe his country, had made the same demand but were rebuffed since India is against outside interference in its bilateral matters.

These cross currents must have made Imran Khan and his military Shura at the GHQ headquarters in Rawalpindi to turn to the Drone Drama.

For three objectives.

One, to divert domestic attention from the gas, power, cotton, wheat shortages at a time the IMF decreed tax hikes are creating a political backlash.

Two, to raise the political temperature on Kashmir with an eye on the AJK elections.

Three, to de-rail Delhi’s outreach to Srinagar ‘to reduce the distance between the hearts and to bridge the distance between the two places as Prime Minister Modi told the leaders from Srinagar who had come to meet him at his invitation at his residence.

The all-powerful men in Khaki, who actually rule in Pakistan, have a natural vested interest in keeping the India-Pakistan relations on the boil. Also, as a ‘pay-back’ for the humiliation India had inflicted in the 1971 war that ended with their Eastern wing becoming independent home land, Bangladesh, for the Bengali speaking Pakistanis.

Historically speaking, the so-called peace dialogues and talks with India are to hoodwink the international community about Pakistan’s commitment to ‘peace’.

The mask has become a necessity these days more than in the past since the Paris based global watch dog on terror funding and money laundering is not satisfied with Pakistan’s tryst with ‘soft image’.

And the drone war may mark a small new step but it marks a giant leap (to rephrase Neil Armstrong’s famous words on landing on Moon surface) in the proxy war with state nurtured non-state actors.

The big plus with drone strikes is easy deniability. These low-flying aerial platforms are difficult to detect; their station of origin is also difficult to identify.

Had that not been so, India government would have quickly gone to the town pointing fingers at Pakistan after the June 24 drone attack just as it did in the past with every terrorist strike on its soil.

It was left to the Indian media to name the villain by putting together the handiwork of Pakistan and its agents, who had apparently felt the need to make their presence felt after the Modi government reminded its visitors from Srinagar that August 5 marked the red-letter day in curbing proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir. Every government assertion about peace was met with a blast in the past. That is beside the point.

What is not beside the point is the craving of Prime Minister Imran Khan for ‘India-US’ like relationship between Pakistan and the United States.

It is neither envy nor jealousy but pure, simple and unadulterated real politics that has driven Pakistan Army’s Mukhota (mask) to tell Washington through the New York Times columns that Islamabad was willing to revisit its terror business.

Essentially, this plea is Afghan theatre centric; it may extend to other theatres – Kashmir including, over time because both the US and the America dominated UN watch dog on terrorism money are not mincing their words on Pakistan’s duplicitous ways.

Imran Khan is hurt undoubtedly. Not by the absence of ‘civilised ties’ alone! By the ‘no call’ from the White House!

President Biden spoke to his bete noire Narendra Modi. He not only talked on phone but even hosted Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan President, whom the Pak-backed Taliban has been hounding.

This is no more than a public snub to Imran, which, the Drone Bravado should have undone but did not. The public beseeching appears as a natural corollary therefore. But the question is: Will President Biden heed his call with no tradeoffs?