The Indian leadership has always been hostile to Pakistan; however, historical events suggest that the hardliners in India, in their fanatical hatred for Muslims in general and Pakistan in particular, have unwittingly aided Pakistan’s cause – even in its creation.
Starting from 1857, all segments of the Indian society, regardless of religious or ethnic affiliations, had struggled together to get rid of the British colonial rule. At its formation, prominent Muslims had joined the Indian National Congress; even Muhammad Ali Jinnah became its member in 1906 – seven years before he joined the All India Muslim League. While still a member of both Congress and Muslim League, Jinnah worked as an Ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity, until he gradually realized that the Hindu leaders of the Congress were pushing a political agenda that did not consider equal rights for the Muslims. The uncompromising attitude of Hindu hardliners, in not granting a degree of autonomy to the Muslims, created conditions for their demanding a separate Muslim state. Had these hardliner Hindus not denied rights to the Muslims of India, they might not have sought an independent homeland, but then, they would have been part of the minority that has remained under torment and religious persecution in the ‘shining’ India.
Pakistan never harboured any ambitions for a nuclear weapons programme. It was the creation of Bangladesh with Indian conspiracy and state terrorism, of which Modi has shamefully boasted, and Indian nuclear tests in 1974 that obliged Pakistan to acquire a nuclear capability. Even after successfully developing the nuclear weapons, Pakistan had no inclination to exhibit it. In 1998, the revisionist BJP government by conducting nuclear tests and openly threatening Pakistan compelled it to respond by conducting its own nuclear tests thus becoming an overt nuclear power. Initiation and success of Pakistan’s nuclear programme can, in a way, be attributed to the war-hawk India.
While Pakistan has been suffering the Indian sponsored terrorism and hybrid warfare for decades, India, cleverly manipulating an illusionary soft-image through swirling Bollywood damsels and centuries old craft of yogic mendacity has been able to misguide the international opinion against Pakistan. Relations between Pakistan and Iran were also strained due to Iranian misperception about Pakistan supporting militancy along the Pak-Iran border. Again, it was another hardliner Hindutva proponent, the Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval who deployed his clansman, Commander Kalbhushan Yadev, a serving Indian navy officer, to operate from Iran to foment militancy in Baluchistan. The latter’s capture not only vindicated Pakistan’s claims about Indian sponsored cross-border terrorism inside Pakistan, but also made the international community aware of India’s role in supporting terrorism in the region. Iran understandably felt betrayed for its soil being used for such subversive activities against a neighbour. It is not possible to name a country in the region that has not suffered at the hands of the Indian criminality, and now Afghanistan seems to be in-line.
PAF had shown its professional competence in combat against three leading air forces of the world. However, for the last three decades, PAF had not had an opportunity for an actual combat operation. In February 2019, BJP led government prodded IAF to attempt a not-so-surgical a strike across the LOC by employing IAF’s front line aircraft, sophisticated weapons, and the most experienced aircrew. The failed surgical strike not only exposed IAF’s weaknesses and low standards of professionalism, it also provided PAF the opportunity to exhibit its professional competence by shooting down two IAF aircraft causing chaos in the IAF ranks, which led to IAF’s air defence downing its own helicopter, killing six people on board. Once again, Hindutva hardliners caused shame to the Indian armed forces and provided PAF an opportunity to exhibit its professional competence.
Despite increase in the intensity, the indigenous freedom struggle in Kashmir had almost faded from the focus of the international scene. India had failingly attempted to convince the world of the struggle being an internal problem and resolution of the issue, a bilateral matter between Pakistan and India, in spite of the outstanding UNSC resolutions testifying to it as an unresolved international issue. The seventy-year-old freedom struggle dubbed as Pakistan-sponsored terrorism is factually on account of India’s horrific treatment of Kashmiris and denying them the universally recognized right of self-determination. The abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, unilateral decision on division of IOK into three separate territories and over nine-month long curfew in the state, with the failed surgical strike has once again internationalised the issue and given a new impetus to the struggle. The Hindu hardliners have exposed Indian human rights violations like never before and internationalised the Kashmir dispute with a renewed vigour.
The imposition of the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) by the extremist BJP government has not only exposed the phoney Indian secularism and slogans of tolerance, but also created serious fissures in the Indian polity, especially alienating the minorities, leading to widespread protests all over India. The racist acts and hate did not stop there; during the current Covid-19 pandemic, the hospitals refused to treat Muslim patients, while the hardliners campaigned for boycotting Muslim traders and took to hate mongering on social media. All these acts have laid bare the false claims of secularism in the Indian society and have attracted criticism from the OIC and many Gulf-region countries, leading to many hardliner Hindus losing their jobs for their hate-inciting comments. It has also raised serious concerns at the global level on the violation of human rights and lack of religious freedom in India. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended India to be designated as a country of particular concern. The hardliners in India have been instrumental in exposing the bigoted face of the Indian society.
Of late, the BJP government to cover up its governance failures, divert attention from the human rights violations in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, and abate the fallout from the infamous CAA bill and NRC, is once again deluding the Indian public by stirring up anti-Pakistan sentiments. On this path, it is likely to reach a point of no return and will be forced to initiate some sort of military action. Since the use of IAF, the Indian Army, and Navy have proven to be disastrous in the past, the Indian government may opt for some novel gamesmanship and provide Pakistan an opportunity to test its indigenously developed weapons. Only time will tell, how again the hardliners in India will unwittingly benefit Pakistan, and what is BJP government’s humiliation threshold, if at all there is one.
The author is a retired Air Marshal of the PAF who served as Pakistan’s Air Adviser at New Delhi from 2002 to 2006, presently working as Director at Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies. This article was first published in The Nation newspaper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org