By Jai Kumar Verma. On 11 January 2020 General Manoj Mukund Naravane, 28th Chief of Army Staff, stated that if government orders Indian army will take requisite steps to wrest Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). General Naravane took over from General Bipin Rawat on 31 December 2019. The army chief made this comment while addressing the customary press conference before the Army Day which falls on 15 January 2020. He also warned that Pakistan and China, which claim to be “all weather friends” may conspire against India.
In fact, General Naravane was referring parliamentary resolution of 1994 which clearly mentions that whole Jammu & Kashmir is integral part of India. In the press conference he also welcomed the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and of Department of Military Affairs.
The army chief was not the first person to mention about taking over of POK. The Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while addressing a large gathering in Haryana in August 2019, stated that India will start negotiations with Pakistan only when it stops abetting diverse terrorist outfits which are carrying out terrorist activities in India. He also made it clear that negotiations will only be on POK. The Defence Minister also reminded the statement given by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan that India is planning a bigger action than Indian air force action at Balakot.
On 26 December 2019 while addressing a rally at Jhelum, Imran Khan mentioned that the “fascist, racist” government of India “might do a false flag operation” to distract the public attention from Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens. These acts are not only anti-Muslim but there are huge protests against these acts.
Pakistani Prime Minister while speaking in National Assembly on 14 August also mentioned that according to intelligence reports India is planning a much bigger action in POK compared to Indian action in Balakot, where Indian fighter planes bombarded terrorist camps in Balakot on 26th February 2019. Although so far Pakistan government claimed that there was neither any casualty nor any damage to the buildings by the bombings of Indian air force planes.
However, Pakistan authorities cordoned the entire area and not allowed the media persons to visit Balakot for long time. Jaish-e-Mohammed was running a terrorist training camp at Balakot and Indian planes killed about 300 terrorists in the surgical strike. The surgical strike occurred after Pakistani trained terrorist carried out a bomb blast at Pulwama in which about 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were martyred.
Surgical strike in Balakot was significant as Indian Air Force planes bombarded terrorist camp in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which is a province of Pakistan. India gave a bold message that if Pakistan continues with terrorist activities, India will attack and destroy terrorist camps in any part of the country.
In September 2016 Indian forces conducted a surgical strike in POK under which valiant Indian soldiers attacked seven launch pads in POK and slayed more than 40 Pakistanis. The killed Pakistanis included terrorists, their trainers and guides. The attack was so unexpected that Pakistanis could not react and all Indian army personnel after destroying the launch pads and killing Pakistanis returned back safely. Pakistan army took the stand that Indian army has not crossed the border, but the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif called it as “naked aggression”. Indian army also gave proofs of it surgical strike. Indian army conducted the surgical strike as Pakistan trained terrorists attacked Indian army camp at Uri on 18 September 2016 in which 19 soldiers were martyred.
Rajya Sabha member Subramanian Swamy stated in August 2019 that after defanging of article 370, government should make efforts to get back POK. He also mentioned that after diluting of article 370 there is nothing to arbitrate in Kashmir and President Trump should tell Imran Khan that Pakistan should return POK to India. He also mentioned that the Parliament has already passed a resolution, when Narasimha Rao was prime minister, that India should take back POK.
Pakistan has waged a low intensity war against India, and it is running several terrorist training camps in the country. According to intelligence reports only in POK there are about 55 training camps. Few camps are run directly by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) while several camps are managed by ISI sponsored terrorist outfits mainly Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. In these camps terrorists are imparted training in handling of small arms, jungle warfare manufacture and use of improvised explosive devices. The training is given by Pakistan army personnel both serving and retired. Once the training is complete the trained terrorists are pushed in Kashmir to carry out terrorist activities. The intelligence sources claim that in 2019, ISI established 20 new training camps hence the number increased to 55 camps.
Pakistan is passing through a difficult phase as the economy of the country is shattered. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) gave Pakistan only four months to adhere the conditions of FATF otherwise the country would be downgraded to ‘Blacklist’. The four months given by FATF would end in February 2020. The FATF members were very unhappy as Pakistan complied only five out of 27 points given by the global watch dog. If Pakistan is downgraded to ‘blacklist’ there will be immediate economic sanction, borrowing will become difficult and the aid package sanctioned by International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be difficult to access.
Pakistan army which is the most powerful institution in the country is also suffering from dissension. Lieutenant General Sarfaraz Sattar, second most-senior General after General Qamar Javed Bajwa was kept in house arrest as he criticised giving of three years extension to Pakistan army chief General Bajwa. Besides Lieutenant General Sarfaraz, there are six more senior army officers who showed their resentment on the extension of General Bajwa.
When India defanged article 370 in Kashmir, Imran Khan criticised India and wanted to take the issue in international forums. However, Pakistan got very little success in internationalising Kashmir issue. Pakistani public also considered it as the failure of the government. The terrorism in Kashmir is considerably reduced and the Indian security forces have successfully exterminated large number of terrorists. But Islamabad will neither demolish the training camps nor will stop infiltrating terrorists in India. These terrorist training camps function in temporary makeshift structures and even these camps are destroyed it is easy to reconstruct them or shift it to other places.
As ISI which is part of Pakistan Army is involved in training of the terrorists, if some terrorists die or infiltrated other terrorists join the camps. Same way if arms and ammunition are required they are replenished by the army. Hence India should make more surgical strikes to deter the terrorists, but ultimately Indian security forces have to safeguard the borders and exterminate the terrorists.
India must keep pressure on Pakistan in international field and should remain prepared for surgical strikes and in case Pakistan sponsored terrorists carry out some major terrorist activity Indian security forces must retaliate.
In fact, whole of Kashmir is an integral part of India and besides POK it also includes Gilgit, Baltistan and the portion of Kashmir given to China. India should wait for an opportune moment which may come soon as the economy of Pakistan is ruined, and religious extremism has increased so much that Sunnis are killing Shias and very soon different factions of Sunnis will fight among themselves. So the day does not seem far when India will fight successfully for its rightful claim to POK.
(Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst and a retired senior intelligence officer. He is also member of United Services Institute of India and Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. The views in the article are solely the author’s. He can be contacted at [email protected])