ISPR PRESSURE IMPACT ON INDIA-PAKISTAN RELATIONS
The Pakistan Army’s greatest source of power is its popularity, which it has continued to cultivate through a number of means. The first has been avoiding public clashes with institutions that have popular support such as the judiciary or, for that matter, some extremist groups. The other has come from boosting its image and attacking that of its rivals with the help of an increasingly powerful Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
Once the Pakistani military had made its opposition apparent and escalated violence on and across the border with India, the proposed meeting between the two National Security Advisers was doomed. The assumption that the civilian, democratically elected government in Islamabad, is in favor of better relations with India is only partially true. It is a complex but interpenetrated political, bureaucratic, and military elite that rules Pakistan. There may be nuanced differences among its constituents, but they share a deeply adversarial perception of India.
India-Pakistan relations are, by their very nature, adversarial. This is rooted in widely divergent but deeply entrenched historical and national narratives. Is it not strange that Pakistan’s fragility is advertised as a mitigating circumstance even while its resilience and survivability are lauded by one analyst after another? Pakistan is often said to be suicidal but it has always shown a remarkable willingness to cut deals that ensure its survival and maintain the privileges of its self-entitled elite. We should be clear that we are dealing with a state that is coldly calculating in the pursuit of its declared interests. Also, India has no effective levers to influence behavior on the other side. In the past few years, our response pattern has convinced Pakistan that after every crisis it is India that feels compelled to return to the table without a Pakistani quid pro quo. Therefore, any notion that holding back on dialogue is a pressure point on Pakistan, is no longer valid.
Lately, India has faced embarrassment on several fronts. The situation along the LOC between India and China. They are facing embarrassment over there and want to downplay it. On the India-Nepal border, they have faced embarrassment. Then, internally there have been many issues with their Covid-19 management; the migration of laborers. The whole world has seen how it was managed, the virus is spreading and the economy is in the doldrums. Further, all the steps taken by India in occupied Kashmir since August 5 have backfired. This can be related to the citizenship act introduced by India, which gave birth to a wave of Islamophobia that was felt by the whole world.
They are facing massive embarrassment and failure at every level. The Indian military leadership planning a false flag operation or misadventure at LoC to downplay this embarrassment which they have faced at their border with China and Nepal.
We have other several pressure points too which we have been loath to use despite there being no corresponding Pakistani restraint. We have a formal claim on Gilgit Baltistan but since the Shimla Agreement, we have rarely articulated it, let alone pressed it determinedly. We have been reluctant to receive people from Gilgit Baltistan or raise our voice when their rights are violated. Our silence on the horrific human rights violations in Baluchistan is misplaced. Thanks to its harboring of Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar, Pakistan has earned its reputation of being an “epicenter of terror”. We could be much more active internationally to exploit that negative image. This should go hand in hand with the strengthening of our own security capabilities in preventing cross-border terrorism and retaliating against military provocations.