Thursday, February 28, 2019
If Masood Azhar drinks, he’s breaking out his best bubbly now I’m guessing Masood Azhar is currently a very happy bunny. At the moment the man is probably feeling like someone who has won three jackpots at the same time. If Azhar had written down a wishlist of things he wanted out of the Pulwama attack, his tick marks have gone far below and beyond his list and he has summoned a slave for a new ball-point pen, because this operation is a gift that will clearly keep giving. I suspect Azhar doesn’t drink, but if he did, he’d be breaking out his best bubbly to go with the three kinds of biryani his favourite wife has just made.
There is an old and basic axiom that applies to both sport and war and it is this: don’t play the game your opponent wants you to play, or, don’t let your enemy dictate how you fight the battle; force the other side to play your game, fight the enemy in such a way that he doesn’t enjoy the battle. In the wake of the Pulwama attack, all sorts of people across India seem to have forgotten this simple principle.
What did Azhar want when planning this operation? He wanted to create anger and outrage of the kind where ordinary Kashmiris would be attacked by their fellow Indians. Check. Accomplished on a big scale. He wanted to give a fillip to all the brainless warmongers in India and Pakistan in order to increase tensions and raise the chances of a conflagration between the two countries. Check. Azhar knows the worst outcome for people like him would be pincering by two sensible governments in Delhi and Islamabad working together; conversely, the best result would be to have two cynical leaders using jingoism and war-braying for their own ends; well, he’s neutralised the compromised Imran Khan and just provided extra fuel to the faltering engines of Narendra Modi’s agenda just as elections approach, so wahaan bhi mithai baanto, hand out sweets for that too. If Modi and Amit Shah now manage to snaffle the elections, the mithai distribution in Bhawalpur, where Azhar has his headquarters, will double — business will be good for the next however many years.
Gets the jackpot
On top of all this basic bonanza, Azhar has won extra jackpots as well. We now have Sourav Ganguly and Harbhajan Singh, not among the brightest cricketers who’ve worn the India cap, loudly proclaiming that India should not only boycott playing Pakistan in the forthcoming World Cup but cut off sporting ties altogether. The one theory Bhajji and the Prince of Bengal have put out is that in the forthcoming World Cup, India can afford to give Pakistan a walk-over in the group games and still get to the knockout stage. Nice. What neither has laid out is what happens if pesky Pakistan also gets into the knockouts and meets India in the semi-finals or finals. Do we play them? Or does Virat Kohli show them rude gestures and give them another walk-over? Is Prime Minister Imran ‘Imm the Dim’ Khan going to burst into tears as he lifts Pakistan’s second World Cup because those nasty, nasty Indians didn’t play their matches? Or is he going to have to take tranquilisers to stop chortling madly?
Part of the huge soft power we have is that Pakistanis can see that our cricket grows from strength to strength while they can’t even play international matches at home. Not playing them on the world stage would make us look silly and churlish. Our soft power punches big and deep every time a Bollywood film is a hit in Pakistan. Shut these things down and we become more like them, closer to being a sad, depressed, ingrown toenail of a failed state. Therefore, let’s remember: every time some clown TV anchor in military fatigues calls for a war that he will not fight, every time some Facebook stormtrooper demands spectacular retribution, every time some crazy parivarted academic calls for the executions of the people from the minority community, Azhar feels like he has middled the ball and hit a sixer.
Of course, we need to respond to Pulwama but we need to do what the terrorists don’t want. So, every time the people who rule us keep quiet about attacks on innocent Kashmiris while counting their projected votes, imagine Azhar. Imagine Azhar with his salwars hiked up, hand splayed on lower stomach region, rocking to the beat of the ‘Jingostan’ track from Gully Boy, not dancing because the song is critical of jingoism, but dancing to the fact that we, in India, are following his plan and becoming more and more like Pakistan.
Vijaita SinghHas specific details of JeM’s complicity in Pulwama attack and its continued recruitment drives A dossier handed over by India to Pakistan mentions nine specific instances, in the past two years, when Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM) was conducting rallies and religious congregations to recruit men to the terror outfit.
India said these activities were conducted “right under the nose of the Pakistani establishment,” even though it was banned by the Pakistani authorities in 2002.
On Islamabad’s list
The outfit still features at serial number 3 in the list of 67 terror organisations proscribed by Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior published on the website of National Counter Terrorism Authority.
The Ministry of External Affairs said on Wednesday that a dossier was handed over to Pakistan with “specific details of JeM complicity in Pulwama terror attack and the presence of JeM terror camps and its leadership in Pakistan.”“The information about these activities of JeM are available in open source platforms like blogs, websites, Facebook and Twitter. Many of the posts openly declare association of JeM with terror attacks in India,” said a senior government official.The dossier said on February 20, 2018, JeM concluded a six-day congregation in Lahore when its “Shoba-e-Taaruf” (Department of Introduction) delegation held 13 interactive sessions in which 700 people, including 65 ‘Ulemas’ (Religious Scholars), participated.“During these interactions, around 30 people expressed their desire to take part in JeM training course — Daura-e-Tarbia. The participants showered praise on organizational activities of JeM and the role played by its chief Masood Azhar,” it said.
JeM’s propaganda blog Al Qalam claimed that its ‘Mujahideen’ carried out a “suicide attack” on February 10, 2018 at the Army’s Sunjuwan camp in Jammu where five Army officers were killed.
The blog claimed that the attack was a gift for “Modi government” on the occasion of the death anniversary of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and also for keeping its chief Masood Azhar in captivity when he was arrested in Kashmir in 1994. He was exchanged for release of hijacked passengers of Indian Airlines IC 814 in 1999. Afzal Guru was hanged on February 9, 2013. The dossier said the JeM claimed on its website that “revenge’ operations launched by the Afzal Guru Shaheed Squad continue in Kashmir.”
The dossier said that on March 27, 2018, a four-day congregation was organized by JeM in Sialkot district spanning over 17 sessions in which 1500 people, including 50 Ulemas (Religious Scholars), participated. “They (participants) appreciated the religious services rendered by Masood Azhar and prayed for JeM’s ‘Mujahideen’. The delegation held five separate sessions with JeM activists, which were attended by 28 Ulemas and activists,” it said.
Apart from this, posters and banners of training courses offered by JeM regularly appeared from February 3, 2018 to March 30, 2018 at Markaz Sharif, Bahawalpur, Jama Masjid Rashidiya in Karachi and Madrasa Sanan bin Salma in Peshawar. Bahawalpur is the headquarters of JeM.
On November 27, 2017, JeM organized a conference - Ghazwa-e-Hind (Holy War Against India) in district Okara that was attended by over 2,000 people, the dossier said. It was addressed by Abdul Rauf Asghar, the brother of Masood Azhar. One of the participants Qari Naveed Masood Hashmi wrote on Al Qalam that the “courage of Masood Azhar had inspired the continuation of jihad against Indian Army in Kashmir in accordance with the guidance of Prophet Muhammad.”
India and Pakistan are currently embroiled in their most serious crisis in several decades. While a nuclear exchange between the two sides is highly unlikely, the possibility nevertheless remains, says Michael Kugelman.
For years, it's been a bedrock principle of international security: Possessing nuclear weapons deters nations from using them in warfare. Indeed, since 1945, no country has used one. However, there's an important caveat to this: Nuclear weapons may forestall nuclear exchanges, but they don't deter nuclear states from using military force against each other.
This means that the potential for escalation to nuclear conflict, while remote, is still quite real. There's no better illustration of this than the India-Pakistan relationship, which is currently embroiled in its most serious crisis in several decades. India and Pakistan fought three major wars before they became nuclear weapons states. But since they achieved formal nuclear status in 1999, they have continued to use limited military force.
Audacious use of force
And then came India's move earlier this week. After a Pakistan-based terror group with deep links to the country's security establishment carried out an attack in India-administered Kashmir that killed more than 40 Indian security personnel, New Delhi retaliated with arguably its most audacious use of force in Pakistan since a brutal war back in 1971.
Indian aircraft, according to New Delhi's official statements, flew over the airspace of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, crossed into the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and carried out air strikes on Pakistani terrorist targets. Not since the US raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound — admittedly, a much more sophisticated and riskier operation than the one staged by India this week — has such a dramatic military incursion been made on to Pakistani soil.
New Delhi described this operation not as defensive, but as preemptive — an effort to disrupt fresh plans for terrorist attacks on India. The implication is that India has declared its willingness to use force in Pakistan — and well into Pakistan, not just along the border — to eliminate imminent terrorist threats. This suggests the potential for more military force in the future.
It's also a reflection of India's "Cold Start" doctrine, which essentially institutionalizes the strategy of using limited military force, all below the nuclear threshold, against Pakistan. Islamabad, undeterred, carried out its own retaliatory strike after India's. It hit Indian military targets in India-administered Kashmir. Clearly, when it comes to India and Pakistan, there is plenty of space to operate under the nuclear umbrella. But that space is not unlimited.
A sobering lesson
It's not just all these escalations below the nuclear threshold that put India and Pakistan at risk of a possible nuclear exchange. Consider that Pakistan is producing tactical nuclear weapons at one of the highest rates in the world, and that Islamabad has never declared a no-first-use policy — which means, hypothetically, that any conventional use of force by India could be met with a Pakistani nuclear response.
The intention here is not to make alarmist predictions. A nuclear exchange remains highly unlikely. In the current crisis, escalation would need to go up quite a few more rungs. And at any rate, if tensions really spiral out of control, the international community — led by Washington, but also by institutions like the United Nations — would intervene to defuse tensions. Still, the possibility remains. And recent history offers a sobering lesson.
Back in 1999, around the time India and Pakistan formally became nuclear states, Pakistan-backed forces crossed into India-administered Kashmir. India attempted to repel them with airstrikes. The conflict, which began in May, stretched into July. Early that month, according to a disclosure made in 2015 by Bruce Reidel, a former US intelligence analyst, the CIA concluded that Pakistan was planning to deploy — and possibly use — nuclear weapons. "The intelligence," according to Reidel, "was very compelling." Soon thereafter, the Bill Clinton administration helped defuse the conflict, known as the Kargil crisis.
If Reidel's account is accurate, then the Kargil crisis may have marked the closest the world has come to nuclear war since the end of World War II.
Unfortunately, one can't rule out another Kargil-like moment for India and Pakistan sometime down the road.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a phone call that he hopes for a quick settlement of a crisis between India and Pakistan, the Kremlin said in a statement.Both leaders also expressed their interests in further strengthening of military-technical ties, the Kremlin added.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has already offered to facilitate talks between the two sides.