Despite being the immediate neighbour, India has chosen to follow a no-reaction policy towards the ongoing turmoil in Pakistan
Since the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s “special status” in August 2019, India has shown a greater degree of indifference towards Pakistan and is now broadly interested in maintaining limited contact with Islamabad.It is worth noting that while India typically avoids commenting on Pakistan’s internal political affairs, unless provoked, Pakistani leaders and the Army are consistent in propagating anti-India sentiments and commenting on India’s domestic issues. For instance, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, made extremely “uncivilised” remarks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi by calling him the “butcher of Gujarat” at the United Nations Security Council meeting in December last year and tried to fan religious tensions in India. Similarly, Imran Khan, his ministers and advisors regularly targeted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Modi, and tried to rile up communal sentiments in India, especially after the5 August decision on Kashmir. Throughout Pakistan’s history, elected leaders in Islamabad have been ineffective in improving relations between India and Pakistan. Matters pertaining to foreign and security policies in Pakistan are predominantly handled by the powerful military establishment. The civilian leadership in Pakistan cannot unilaterally take a decision on India. Following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “surprise” visit to Pakistan in December 2015, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif faced immense pressure from the “powerful” quarters in the country. Within a week of Modi’s visit, Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorists attacked the Pathankot air force base on 2 January 2016, jeopardising efforts for a thaw in the bilateral relationship. It was reportedly the Army’s signalling to Sharif to toe the line on India. Consequently, there seems to be a consensus in New Delhi that it is largely inconsequential which political party or alliance is in power in Islamabad. Ultimately, the Army takes the final call on India. For example, former Army Chief of Pakistan, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, reportedly played the central role in the (re)implementation of the 2003 ceasefire understandings along the Line of Control (LoC) and all other sectors after engaging in backchannel talks with India. Notably, both countries have largely adhered to the ceasefire since February 2021, with a few isolated incidents.
The Pakistan Army is simply flexing its muscles to systematically dismantle the ‘Imran Khan project,’ which they created some years back and is now working on arranging a new political alternative for the next general elections.In the initial six months of his tenure as Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Syed Asim Munir has taken a hardline stance on India. According to India’s former High Commissioner to Pakistan, Ambassador Satinder Lambah, “History shows that Pakistan army chiefs think of improving relations with India only after stabilizing themselves.” After dismantling Imran Khan’s party and punishing reported dissenters within the Army, Munir will likely become more powerful and stable in his job. This could have possible bearings on Pakistan’s policy on India.
The Pakistani military is heavily engaged in counterterrorism operations on its western borders with Afghanistan against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other terror outfits.Prior to suspending trade with India following New Delhi’s decision to revoke J&K’s special status, India had reportedly exported goods worth US$ 52 million (approximately INR 370 crore) to Pakistan in August 2019. In contrast, Pakistan’s monthly exports to India amounted to a little over US$ 2.5 million (around INR 18 crore). Allowing cross-border trade would have been more useful to Pakistan, especially considering the dire economic conditions and acute food shortages it currently faces. Furthermore, the Pakistani military is heavily engaged in counterterrorism operations on its western borders with Afghanistan against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other terror outfits. In the month of May, the TTP claimed responsibility for 76 attacks, the majority of which took place in the tribal agencies of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and targeted the security forces of Pakistan. Moreover, border security forces from Pakistan and Afghanistan, governed by the Taliban, have indulged in several violent skirmishes since August 2021, exacerbating tensions between the two neighbours. Given these circumstances, the Pakistani military may refrain from stirring up tensions on the eastern front with India, for which it would not even receive support from the international community.
Lieutenant General (retired) Khalid Kidwai, advisor to Pakistan’s National Command Authority, recently hinted that Pakistan is developing weapons capabilities ranging from 0 m to 2,750 kms, raising doubts regarding the intent of the country’s nuclear programme.India should carefully assess the implications for the region as a fallout of the ongoing political crisis in Pakistan. The economic, political, and security instability is rising significantly in India’s immediate neighbourhood. Moreover, alleged PTI-led attacks on critical military installations, including the GHQ, and reports of internal dissents with the military establishment may question the safety and security of the nuclear assets in Pakistan. Moreover, Lieutenant General (retired) Khalid Kidwai, advisor to Pakistan’s National Command Authority, recently hinted that Pakistan is developing weapons capabilities ranging from 0 m to 2,750 kms, raising doubts regarding the intent of the country’s nuclear programme. Lastly, to further strengthen its control within the country, the Pakistan Army could drag India into its internal crisis to establish an “external” angle. Recent statements from Pakistani government officials and military leaders suggest that Islamabad may continue to harbour hostility towards India. While the Indian government’s silence on the crisis in Pakistan is both expected and logical, the above concerns should be expressed in a discreet yet vocal manner.
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Sarral Sharma is a Doctoral Candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi. He has previously served in the National Security Council Secretariat. He was a ...Read More +