Kashmir is the first line of defence for Pakistan. This was a candid admission by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan last week when he addressed a cabinet meeting over Kashmir. It was held in the backdrop of the Narendra Modi government’s move to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Imran Khan’s remark in the cabinet meeting on August 21 betrays Pakistan’s nervousness as the Modi government aims to achieve “full integration” of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India. This also explains why Pakistan has made fomenting trouble in Kashmir Valley its state policy.
Kashmir has been a buffer zone for Pakistan in its security strategic formulation. It has served Pakistan well in formulating its Kashmir policy. A separate rule of law in Jammu and Kashmir meant that information of Pakistan’s direct and sponsored activities on either side of the Line of Control in the state was problematic and not always smooth.
Pakistan’s deep state has infiltrated various levels of public life in Kashmir Valley and finds it easy to operate from its bases in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. With local government coming under direct control of New Delhi would now mean all information would reach the central government directly.
The change in status of Jammu and Kashmir means that a better-coordinated security force would be on the LoC keeping a tighter vigil on Pakistan’s activities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir including Gilgit-Baltistan.
With local political autonomy gone in the Kashmir Valley, Indian forces theoretically come much closer to the only significant development project – China Pakistan Economic Corridor — in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Pakistan deliberately kept the region, under its control since 1947, undeveloped so that local populace of the region does not have any chance of communicating with the Indian side.
Beyond Kashmir, Pakistan shares a long boundary with India in Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. These states have never enjoyed any special status giving the kind of political autonomy that Jammu and Kashmir has enjoyed. And, except for a brief period in 1980s, Pakistan has never succeeded to sow the seeds of discontent against Indian government in these states.
Its Kashmir experiment since 1989 succeeded in fomenting trouble in the state for about 30 years. Imran Khan fears that if the Indian government succeeds in stonewalling Pakistan’s attempt to export terrorism to the Kashmir Valley, its own position will become vulnerable. Not only will India have better control on the LoC putting Pakistani forces and terror launch pads maintained under protection of Pakistan Army’s ISI, it will lead to a situation where Pakistan-trained terrorists may turn against its own self.
A troubled Kashmir Valley suited Pakistan. Terrorism and separatism were the new normal for Kashmir Valley and Pakistan gained from it. Indian government was always firefighting in Kashmir while this proxy-war game served Pakistan’s agenda in region.
Now, the internal status quo has changed in Kashmir Valley even though the situation remains the same on the LoC in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the Line of Actual Control in Aksai Chin. This is an unfamiliar strategic territory for Pakistan and Imran Khan government.
This is also the first time that an Indian government has made the first move to surprise a Pakistani government in Kashmir. Till now, Indian government had been responding to the moves made by Pakistan.
With only China siding with it and having been snubbed by almost all international groupings, Imran Khan finds himself cornered over Kashmir and hence the nervousness. This is also the reason why Imran Khan is raising the rhetoric of a nuclear war over Kashmir.