By Lt Gen P R Shankar (Retd)
A lot of water has flown through Indus since the abrogation of Article 370. The shape of things to come from Pakistan is clearer. Superficially there is a lot of hype spearheaded by their paceman PM. Spectre of nuclear holocaust, comparison with fascism, Nazi ideology, test firing nuclear capable missiles, extension of the tenure of COAS, we will stand by Kashmiris till the last breath, “Kashmir Hour” et al. One can dismiss it as “HYPE of despair” at not being able to do anything significant in the current circumstances. If we ignore it as tripe, we will be horribly wrong. Under this cloak of hopelessness, a plan is evolving. Their intelligentsia and thinkers are generating options to deal with India. India needs to discern how Pakistan is going to operationalize the plan. We also need to uproot the poison sapling before it becomes a tree. Let us see the options which the Pakistanis are contemplating.
Pakistan on One Page
“One can pick holes in the handling of internal affairs by Prime Minister Imran Khan, but in handling the world, whether it be to solve country’s economic crisis or project the Kashmir crisis, he has made us proud.”
“Is Pakistan more important or Kashmir? Let’s just focus on ourselves and let Kashmiris handle their own fate.” Oh really…
Historically, nothing unifies Pakistan better than anti-India sentiment. For a Pakistani, Kashmir is not important. Pakistan itself is not important. Being anti Indian is the most important aspect of his existence. That sentiment has bubbled up now. Hence, we should be prepared for a whole of the nation approach from Pakistan to take revenge. It will be as irrational as Bhutto’s remark in UN of eating grass for a hundred years. In the same context every Pakistani worth his salt or not is generating options to deal with India and reverse the situation. It is a national obsession now. Pakistan is a cornered cat with out an exit route. It will be irrationally dangerous.
“After seven decades…many of our talking points have become clichés… need to be replaced with a fresh story … India’s transformation into a brute majoritarian, intolerant and fascist country… Modi’s mainstreaming of bigotry…India’s lurch towards political authoritarianism…trashing treaties to restructure the Indian polity in Hindutva colors…. India’s threat to regional peace…hegemonic actions against Pakistan.”
At face value this new narrative sounds hackneyed. However, the new narrative which is being conceptualized is a subversive theme which exploits the cracks of democracy if allowed to develop. The terms “majoritarian”, “intolerant”, “fascist”, “bigotry”, “political authoritarianism”, “Hindutva” are all heady baits for the famed and disaffected Indians who have started venting their intellectualism in the international media. This theme and its Indian takers will do more for polarizing our country than otherwise. It needs to be dealt with a credible counter narrative.
“A “Strategic Communications” body needs to be set up (chaired by the Prime Minister himself) that should include key communication officials of the State and experts from the private sector who have a grip on what type of narratives find traction in the current global landscape. Media and communications are a science and it cannot be left in the hands of those who have not trained and specialized in their field.”
This line of action is a capital idea for us. India has neglected this very important tool of state strategy. Pakistan already has a well-oiled base in the DGISPR. They are expert at stealing the narrative like Musharraf did in Agra. The Chinese are better at it as seen in the Doklam crisis. We are way below par. We need a broad-based set up, catering for MHA, MEA and MOD issues. Our focus must be wider since our interests are diverse. All in all, professionally manned ‘Strategic Communications’ are mandatory in our context.
Build Kashmiri Capacity to Resist India- The New Intifada
“Engage with Kashmiris…build their capacity to resist India’s illegal re-annexation of their land… does not mean arming them… enabling them to launch well-organised, deliberately-peaceful and impactful resistance to Indian colonization…re-organise their leadership…inducting people who represent the new generation…who have now belatedly felt the weight of India’s betrayal…Organise the swelling cadres of resistance….modes of peaceful resistance, means of communication, options for civil disobedience, writing and compilation of new literature of resistance, amplifying of resistance voices across India and the world, engagement with Kashmiri diaspora”
This is the flesh and blood of the new Intifada – Pakistani aided, abetted and funded – externally masterminded and internally organized. The external umbilical from Pakistan will exploit the power of modern media. Our challenge lies in how to disrupt this approach. It will involve monitoring and selectively blocking channels of funding, communication and leadership. Overground organizations and fronts need to be dealt with. Erstwhile politicians in the mainstream will be targeted to switch loyalties. This should be prevented.
Non-State Actors to Continue
“important to disseminate details of the horrific human rights abuses by India in IHK and generally against its minorities through social media. All state and non-state organisations in Pakistan should be given this task.”
While there will be propaganda about human rights abuses, atrocities and denial of minority rights, Pakistanis will never give up on “Non-State” actors. We must expect all Non-State actors sponsored by Pakistan to change their name, role and status. For some time, they will lie low but will continue to be a major weapon in Pakistan’s armory. Neutralizing Non-State actors will be a multi dimensional task.
Leverage of Facilitating US- Taliban Negotiations
“secure US acquiescence for Kashmir objectives…Islamabad can use the leverage provided by its facilitation of the US-Taliban negotiations.” 
“the Afghan peace process… provides Pakistan with a strong bargaining position against America and other powers…. what Pakistan can do is to condition its support for the whole process with the role of the international community in terms of Kashmir Conflict”
Pakistan needs USA backing to get a foothold into Kashmir. It will use as much leverage it can gain from being a facilitator in the US – Taliban talks to get this foothold. It will also prey on US fears that unless India is reined in it will not be able to guarantee Taliban from going rogue once again and posing a threat to USA. This is to be expected since the US- Taliban talks have given Pakistan a new lease of life as being a strategically located frontline state.
Approaching International Court of Justice (ICJ)
“Pakistan can also consider the option of taking India into the ICJ”
“Pakistan may not be able to invoke the ICJ’s jurisdiction in the Kashmir dispute in view of the conditions imposed by India as enabled by Article 36(3) of the ICJ Statute. An imperfect world. An imperfect international legal system”
Many in the Pakistani intellectual circles want to approach the ICJ. Will it become a thorn in our flesh? However, a Supreme Court advocate of Pakistan has punctured this idea on technical grounds. This does not mean that Pakistan will keep quiet. There will be full scale attempts to approach other legal forums to highlight and sensationalize the issue. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations will be exploited.
Nuclear Catastrophe Hype
“Internet videos (to be managed) can effectively convey how a nuclear war in the subcontinent will have worldwide repercussions.’
Expect the nuclear card to be played to the hilt. Pakistan will not miss an opportunity of highlighting to the world that ‘Indian Nukes are unsafe in the hands of Modi government’. How a nuclear war can break out in this region. How India is irresponsible by being ambiguous in its No First Use policy. What Pakistan will not state it its ‘declared first use’ policy and that the nukes are in danger of being taken over by radicals. Our tack hereafter should be to denuclearize Pakistan.
Distancing from Future Terror Strikes
“ as a preemptive measure, the government should also continue to warn of a false flag operation by India through a Pulwama type incident, alongside taking high-profile steps internally against jihadist elements. The fact that any internal incident in India cannot be of help to Pakistan in the current situation, given IHK’s home-grown independence movement and the Indian government’s own provocative steps, needs to be emphasized”
Everyone in Pakistan is going to great lengths to distance themselves from future terror strikes. Lot of talk of how such strikes will be detrimental to the Kashmiri cause is being aired. The entire media and intelligentsia are building up a smokescreen and total deniability on the next incident which seems inevitable. The official apparatus of the Pakistani state is mum on this. It will be too much to expect that radical and rogue elements can be quietened down. Further Pakistan Army will not dismantle its strategic assets which it has painstakingly built over years. We must expect an incident and we should be prepared for a response suitably. Pakistan has enough targets where mirror incidents of doubled dimension can take place. Going to war will be the worst option.
Sino Pak Collusivity
Recently the Vice Chief of PLA and Pak COAS had a discussion in Pakistan. They were not discussing the weather! In depth discussion would have taken place regarding a collusive approach to tackle India. I would not be surprised if the discussion was about China creating a border incident and diverting Indian attention which would give Pakistan the time, space and opportunity to carry out a strike either in Kashmir or outside it. Inside Kashmir it could be orchestrated as a violent expression of a homegrown struggle. Outside Kashmir, any incident could be colored as a violent reaction of minority oppression. One must keep ears to the ground to preempt the situation and not get caught on the wrong foot.
“Modi regime will very soon, make religion an eligibility criterion for Indian citizenship which by default will marginalise Muslims. What has happened in Assam and what might follow in the rest of India, leaves members of the minority community one legislation away from being deprived of their citizenship and other basic rights”
Pakistan will try every trick to seek revenge. Some have been outlined here. More will evolve. For a large section of Pakistanis this seems to be the Indo Pak war they have lost without fighting. They will not rest till they get some sense of revenge for abrogation of Article 370. Pakistan is also trying to champion the cause of Muslims in India to create divisions in the country. It is portraying our government as fascist; trying to make India a Hindu nation where Muslims have no place. In this effort it conveniently forgets and keeps mum about the Muslims of Xinjang who are being re-educated in detention centers by its all-weather friend China or its own track record of genocide.
Abrogation of Article 370 is irreversible. The entire country, irrespective of which side of the political divide we stand on, must ensure that this step is a success and that Kashmiris of all hues are fully integrated into India. We have no choice. Even the Kashmiris have no choice. The faster they reconcile the better. We have democratic choice to criticize the Government on its methods and in execution of the deed. That’s it. If we ever roll back this step, then the very concept of India will be challenged. That is unthinkable. My piece of advice to all thinkers who are not with the Government. One is welcome to air dissenting views and debates in our country. Not in Washington Post, BBC, NYT or any other foreign media platform which has its countries interests above ours. One should not become poster boys/girls of Pakistani media.