Pakistan Playing with Fire in Joust with India

Pakistan's winking at jihadist incursions into India, as a means of forwarding its claim on the disputed Kashmir territory, has sparked a dangerous escalation between two nuclear-armed powers. Pakistan has asked Donald Trump to step in and mediate, potentially the president-elect's first foreign policy challenge.

BY CounterJihad · @CounterjihadUS | November 11, 2016

The dispute over Kashmir has sparked numerous conflicts between India and Pakistan.  Three full-scale wars have been fought over the issue, the last in 1999 after Pakistan had shown itself to be a nuclear power.  The so-called Kargil war is one of the few occasions of an open and direct military conflict between two nuclear powers.  Since then, the conflict has simmered, with Pakistan using jihadist groups as deniable assets to carry out its campaign in India.  Kashmir reportedly also has a genuinely indigenous insurgent movement, one that is not a puppet of Pakistan.

Recently the region has come close to full scale war again.  As usual with long-running conflicts, both sides blame the other for the current flare-up of violence.  Pakistan’s claim is that the issue is India’s killing of a militant leader, which sparked a popular uprising that India has put down ruthlessly.  India does not see things that way at all.  They believe that the real occasion for this spate of violence was September’s invasion of India by militants, whom even Pakistan’s allies admit were jihadis likely from Pakistan.

On 18 September, a small group of jihadi fighters, widely believed to have come from Pakistan, staged a commando raid on an Indian army camp near the northern Kashmir town of Uri, killing 19 Indian soldiers – the deadliest attack on Indian security forces in Kashmir in two decades. Indian politicians quickly blamed Pakistan, which the country’s home minister described as a “terrorist state”, while Pakistani leaders made the implausible claim that India had staged the attack itself to distract from the protests in Kashmir.

India staged its response with some care, allowing a number of Pakistani attacks on its territory to go apparently unanswered at first.  Then, in one night, India destroyed 14 Pakistan military outposts with what is reported to have been a time-on-target barrage of artillery fire.  Time-on-target is a kind of artillery fire in which numerous guns are fired in such a way that the artillery rounds all arrive and explode at the same time.  Since there is no forewarning, unlike in an ongoing artillery barrage, no one has taken cover and damage is maximized.

This has turned into an artillery duel, mostly killing civilians, between the two nuclear powers.  A diplomatic effort to resolve the immediate conflict is made difficult because both India and Pakistan have expelled each other’s diplomats.

However, Pakistan has hit upon a novel idea for re-opening negotiations.  It has taken up American President-elect Donald Trump’s offer to mediate the conflict.  In a way, this is a surprising thing for Pakistan to have done.  Trump made himself famous in part based on his hostility to immigration from the Islamic world, especially from jihadist-producing states like Pakistan itself.  Furthermore, Trump has claimed that he is going to “be best friends” with India.  One might reasonably expect that Pakistan would think him a less-than-ideal choice as a moderator of this particular dispute.

Nevertheless, Pakistan’s foreign office openly embraced the idea.  “The US president-elect had offered mediation between Pakistan and India on Kashmir dispute during his campaign and we had welcomed that offer,” said foreign office spokesman Nafees Zakaria in Islamabad.

It is unclear at this time if Trump will indeed attempt to resolve the conflict during his transition period, of if so on what terms.  He had stated that he was prepared to “mediate or arbitrate” the dispute, and those are two very different modes of conflict resolution.  It is also unclear if Pakistan is accepting him only as a mediator — the spokesman used the word “mediation” — or if they would be open to an arbitrated decision on the conflict.  India has yet to respond to the offer.

Still, the potential is for Donald Trump to get his first serious taste of international affairs.  Until now, he has approached the issue as a candidate speaking chiefly to the American electorate.  At this time, he is approaching these issues as a soon-to-be President who will have to produce real solutions.  This could be a significant opportunity for him to practice before formally taking the reins in January.  It would also be an occasion for him to develop personal ties with high-level Indian and/or Pakistani figures.  The situation is explosive, and worth watching.




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