New Delhi: Major General Asif Ghafoor, Director-General of the Pakistan army’s Inter Services Public Relations, turned his media briefing of September 4 (essentially devoted to Jammu and Kashmir), into an extraordinarily patronising tutorial. A full auditorium of leading Pakistani media personalities, herded together like not-so-bright school children, heard Ghafoor expound on a nation’s ‘conflict spectrum’ and ‘response spectrum’.
If Ghafoor had confined himself only to theoretical propositions or the steps that Pakistan had taken after August 5 to counter India, New Delhi could have dismissed his attempt at becoming teacher as an exercise in shoring up the confidence of the Pakistani media and, through them, of an upset people. But while concluding his address, Ghafoor went further to deliver what Indian policy makers can only construe as a blatant threat to use force to settle J&K. This can hardly be ignored for it has not been so made in recent memory. Indeed, it merits full consideration and for this purpose an English language translation is quoted in full.
Ghafoor said, “In the end I want to tell you the most important matter. The defence services of any country are the guarantor of its sovereignty and security. If other aspects of national power—which I have shown you—do not succeed in stopping the “zulm aur sitam” in “occupied Kashmir” war fighting becomes an option by compulsion if not by choice. Kashmir is our jugular vein and for it we will undertake all steps and go to any extent irrespective of the cost we will have to pay—the last bullet, the last soldier, the last breadth. Now this is up to India and the rest of the world to make the choice”.
Earlier, Ghafoor had given a diagrammatic presentation of stages of the “spectrum of conflict”. He had spelt out its stages, in ascending order, from ‘peace time competition’ to ‘conventional warlike operations’ to ‘sub-conventional war’ to ‘conventional’ war to ‘nuclear’. Ghafoor said that over the past twenty years, the two countries had engaged in a sub-conventional war within Pakistan and along the Afghan border and Pakistan had done so successfully. It is not surprising that he left out Pakistani terrorism in J&K and the rest of India. He also claimed that the countries had indulged in ‘sub-conventional’ war because there was no space for conventional war as both states possessed nuclear weapons; this reflects the standard Pakistani position on why India should not give a kinetic response to Pakistani terror.
While giving details of ‘response spectrum’ Ghafoor indicated that diplomatic, economic, financial, legal, intelligence and information elements of national power were invoked prior to and along with warfighting. He spelt out the diplomatic steps that Pakistan had undertaken after August 5 and claimed that it had succeeded in bringing the J&K issue to the forefront and the major powers have indicated their disquiet on the J&K situation, though he also called upon them to play their role. He claimed that Pakistan had begun operations utilising the other elements of national power.
Significantly, Ghafoor also stated that India would like to undertake an action that would equate the Kashmir situation with terrorism. He said that Pakistan would fall into this trap but cautioned his own people and groups that any violent act would be traitorous in nature. It is noteworthy, in this context, that the Pakistan army has ensured that none of the jihadi groups has indulged in any terrorist act or made provocative statements.
It is most striking that while making the threat of the use of force Pakistan is going against the basic premise of the Shimla Agreement which ruled out the use of force to settle bilateral issues between the two countries. Prior to that Pakistan had always alluded to adopting the use of force. It certainly did so, both in 1947-1948 and then in 1965 over Kashmir. It had failed in both attempts but still reserved the right to take recourse to it. It ostensibly abandoned it in Shimla, emphasising that it would use force to defend itself. Now it has said that if other means fail to settle J&K, it will be compelled to undertake war fighting. This is going against the Shimla agreement and also the UN Charter which permits the use of force only in defence.
Why has Ghafoor threatened the use of force? It is clearly part of Pakistan’s traditional attempt at drawing international attention, especially of the great powers, so that they mediate on Kashmir. It is persisting in doing so though India has made it clear that it will never accept third-party mediation on Kashmir.
Should India then just dismiss this as silly bombast or suitably bring it to the notice of the international community, as a sign that the Pakistan army is a danger to the region for it is openly and pro-actively and suo motu threatening war against a nuclear neighbour.
This is an opportunity for India to expose the Pakistan army as an irresponsible institution. Indian diplomacy should become energetic on this issue.
(The author is a former Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs and has been India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan. Views expressed in this article are personal.)