Pakistan’s peripatetic Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was in Saudi Arabia yesterday, reportedly trying to sell the line that Muslims in Kashmir are in danger. He addressed a special meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Jeddah, urging them to take a strong line on the Indian action in Kashmir. He even tried to meet the top Saudi leadership.
In Islamabad, the pressure for action against India appears to be building up. Diplomatic ties have been downgraded, bilateral trade suspended and the Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria asked to leave. For India, these actions may amount to no more than small changes, given that relations are cold and trade volumes low.
More interesting is what SNI has learnt in the course of the day. The top brass of the Pakistani Army was meeting the top terrorist leadership in General Headquarters, Rawalpindi. Their mission: to chalk out the way forward on Kashmir.
SNI learns that the heads of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and some other tanzims were urging the army brass to “do something” and not let India walk away with its fait accompli on Kashmir. The army apparently told them that its hands were tied given the commitments made to the Americans on curbing terrorism. It was crucial to be seen to be standing by those commitments at least until October when the Financial Action Task Force would make its recommendations on Pakistan’s fulfilment (or otherwise) of its obligations on curbing terrorism. A clean chit from there would help the government stave off bankruptcy.
So the army is urging its Jihadi proxies to “do something”. The aim is carry out an attack, maybe something on the lines of the Mumbai attacks of November 2008, when Ajmal Kasab and his men killed more than 150 people. In fact, there are reports that Jaish terrorists may be focusing on Mumbai or even Delhi.
It matters little to the Pakistani military establishment if the attack fails. The idea (or the hope) is that India will militarily retaliate and Pakistan could then appeal to the U.S. to intervene and force India to walk back on Kashmir. SNI learns that Pakistan has already conveyed to the U.S. it cannot expect cooperation on Afghanistan if it is not prepared to help Islamabad on Kashmir. Media reports have already referred to Islamabad’s plans to approach the United Nations.
The drums of war are not yet beating in Pakistan but India’s move to up the stakes on Kashmir has put the politicians and the military in Pakistan on the back foot. After having sold the Kashmir lemon for so many decades to its people, and profited handsomely, the political class and their khaki-clad backers now have to redo their sums to ensure the lemons continue to be sold.