The 'Balance of Fear'
In Pakistan Occupied Kashmir
India's official claim is to the entire region of the pre-Independence "Princely State of Kashmir & Jammu" – namely, Jammu-Kashmir-Ladakh, as an integral part of India. This includes Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK).
Pakistan entered into a boundary Agreement with China in March 1963 to settle its border differences, and ceded the Shaksgam Valley of the Hunza region of POK to China.
Article 6 of the Agreement states: "... the two Parties have agreed that after the settlement of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India, the sovereign authority concerned will reopen negotiations with the Government of the People's Republic of China, on the boundary as described in Article Two of the present Agreement, so as to sign a formal Boundary Treaty to replace the present agreement".
The agreement placed China on record as maintaining that Kashmir did not belong to India. China's position remains unchanged, even while it continues to occupy large portions of Aksai Chin, the eastern part of India's Ladakh region, and has also established its political and military presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of POK.
The 1994 Parliament Resolution on Jammu and Kashmir reads: "Following increasing terrorist violence and Pakistan's attempts to highlight the Kashmir dispute, both houses of the Indian Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution on February 22, 1994, emphasising that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India, and that Pakistan must vacate parts of the State under its occupation ... This House ... on behalf of the People of India, firmly declares that ... 'The State of Jammu & Kashmir has been, is and shall be an integral part of India and any attempts to separate it from the rest of the country will be resisted by all necessary means'".
Notably, the 1994 Parliament Resolution begins with India's concerns about "increasing terrorist violence and Pakistan's attempts to highlight the Kashmir dispute". This originates from Pakistan's commitment to its "bleeding India through a thousand cuts" 1978 strategic "revenge" doctrine of using covert and low-intensity warfare with militancy and infiltration.
This strategic doctrine followed the Bangladesh Liberation War in East Pakistan, which ended in 1971 with the Indian Armed Forces comprehensively defeating the Pakistani Armed Forces, which surrendered over 94,000 Pakistani troops. Pakistan continues with this strategic doctrine, notwithstanding India's continuing official demands for Pakistan to peacefully vacate POK.
The matter of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) came to public attention on 21 March 2018, when Rajya Sabha MP Javed Ali Khan, asked: "Will the Minister of Home Affairs be pleased to state: (a) whether Government is still committed to the resolution on Jammu and Kashmir passed by the Parliament on 22nd February, 1994; and (b) if so, the measures taken to liberate Pakistan Occupied Kashmir from Pakistan."
In reply, MHA Minister of State H. G. Ahir stated: "The Government of India's principled and consistent position on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir [includes that] India is committed under the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration, to resolve all issues with Pakistan peacefully through bilateral discussions".
On December 12 2018, Lok Sabha MP Dr. Kirit Somaiya, asked: (a) whether the Government has asked Pakistan at diplomatic level to vacate all illegally occupied areas of Kashmir; (b) if so, the details thereof; (c) the details of the areas in Kashmir under illegal occupation of Pakistan till date; (d) whether Pakistan has reverted and taken initiative to vacate the illegally occupied areas of Kashmir; and (e) if so, the details thereof?
In reply, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, stated: "India's consistent and principled position, as also enunciated in the 1994 Parliament Resolution adopted unanimously, is that the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir has been, is, and shall be an integral part of India. We have repeatedly and consistently called upon Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation, most recently on 30 November 2018."
On March 11 2020, Lok Sabha MP Mala Roy, asked: (a) whether the Government is aware of a Parliament resolution on PoK; (b) if so, the details thereof and the steps being taken to realise the resolution; and (c) the details of steps taken till date on PoK?
MEA Minister of State V .Muraleedharan, replied: "The Government's consistent and principled position, as also enunciated in the Parliament resolution adopted unanimously by both Houses on 22 February 1994, is that the entire Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh have been, are and shall be an integral part of India. Government monitors all developments taking place in the territories of India including in territories that are under illegal and forcible occupation of Pakistan.
"We have consistently called upon Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal and forcible occupation, and to put an end to the human rights violations and desist from continued attempts to bring material change in these territories."
Thus, while India's concerns of 1994 remain, Government's statements of 2018 and 2020 in Parliament, unambiguously indicate India's continuing public commitment to the 1994 Parliament Resolution, namely:
The State of Jammu & Kashmir has been, is and shall be an integral part of India.
Pakistan must vacate parts of the State under its occupation.
India's principled and consistent position on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, is to resolve all issues with Pakistan peacefully through bilateral discussions.
India joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2017, along with Pakistan. Both Indian PM Modi and Pakistan PM Sharif participated in the 15-16 September 2022 meeting of the Council of Heads of State of SCO at Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Among other outcomes of the 2022 Summit, was a signed declaration advocating "commitment to peaceful settlement of differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation". Incidentally, India is to take over the rotational Presidency of SCO for 2023.
India has objected to China over the $60-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) being laid through POK, because it violates India's sovereignty. India's consistent political position explicitly stated at the Samarkand SCO Summit Declaration is that boundary issues with Pakistan will be resolved peacefully through bilateral discussions.
In spite of India's statements in Parliament and at the SCO summit, some politicians of the ruling party, including some holding responsible positions of public office, have been making statements in the public domain about taking back PoK. They have also spoken of "Akhand Bharat", to restore the past glory of a Hindu empire as a single entity.
Akhand Bharat reportedly encompasses the territories of present-day Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bharat (India), Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In April 2022, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat claimed that the idea of 'Akhand Bharat' could be a reality in the next 10-15 years.
Clearly, regaining or reclaiming POK or Akhand Bharat would involve the use of military force by India, which goes against India's stated official policy.
Whether or not these stated intentions concerning POK and Akhand Bharat are realistic or militarily feasible as viewed from geo-political strategy, Pakistan interprets them as expressions of India's intention to attack Pakistan. The Pakistani establishment takes full advantage of threats expressed by any Indian agency or entity, to strengthen its hold on its internal constituencies.
Pakistan also capitalises on it to bolster its arguments against India in international fora,"to highlight the Kashmir dispute" (the phrase in the 1994 Resolution) and expand the Kashmir issue beyond the bilateral status, which India insists upon.
The Government of India has not denied, leave alone censured, the militaristic statements concerning Pakistan, made by its members, which work to India's diplomatic disadvantage, even while India seeks a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
The militaristic statements appear to be made in order to reinforce the muscular image of the ruling party for domestic political-electoral benefit, even while formally displaying geo-political maturity in the international arena. Unsurprisingly, the dichotomous situation is not widely seen because of a compliant media.
The Pakistan military – which has directly or indirectly ruled over Pakistan since 1947 – continues to propagate the fear within Pakistan that India will attack and take over not merely POK, but Pakistan itself. Thus, it is the "Hindu military" of "Hindu India", which is the enemy.
Pakistan continues with hosting and launching anti-India terrorism from bases in POK. The Pakistani public is kept ignorant that India is a secular nation, and non-Hindus have been President and held top positions in the Indian military.
Pakistan's manufactured fears of India, are motivated by the Pakistan military needing to retain its institutional political-economic power, for Pakistan's military officers to retain the movable and immovable properties acquired during their service, and strengthen their institutional grip on national security policies, and provide oxygen for their power base in national politics. It also serves to hold the internal constituency in thrall.
The Pakistani establishment along with the clergy and clergy-backed vigilantes, also generates fear among its people, by taking arbitrary action (especially accusations of blasphemy) against its Hindus, Christian, and even Muslim minorities which do not follow the Sunni faith. In sum, the State of Pakistan benefits from generating fear. Militaristic threats from India help Pakistan, which continues hosting anti-India terrorism.
On the Indian side also, there is fear-based politics. Rightwing social media activists propagate the idea that the majority Hindu community is threatened by a supposedly burgeoning Muslim population, which will out-number Hindus and take political and cultural control of India.
There is also an upward trend of rightwing verbal, social and physical violence against minorities in the public domain, although officially this is consistently and strongly denied. This generates a fear of violence among Muslims, and dislike, distrust, hate and fear of Muslims among the majority Hindu community.
However, rightwing activists deny the existence of fear among any community in India, and troll or attack those who mention an "atmosphere of fear", and tell them to "go to Pakistan". Also, right-wingers have filed FIRs against persons who are deemed to have caused insult to, or denigrated a Hindu deity, the Hindu community, or India, or some historic or contemporary personality.
The punishment-by-process due to the slow criminal justice system following a FIR, accentuates fear.
Thus, military-controlled Pakistan manufactures and propagates fear of India among its public. On the other hand, India – with its apolitical and subservient, yet dedicated and efficient military – officially reiterates its continuing commitment to peaceful settlement of border disputes with Pakistan. But right wing war-mongers and fear-mongers, not restrained by the Government or the ruling party, maintain fear of Muslims and of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists.
This balance-of-fear situation is strongly negative for India, because it serves to:
Perpetuate the international community viewing India and Pakistan in the same frame.
Retain a Pakistan-focus within India, and consider China as a separate threat.
Lose focus on the greater strategic threat of the China-Pakistan combination.
The Way Forward
Progress and development in any society cannot happen without peace and tranquility within that society, and "the mind is without fear". Further, a society can effectively confront external threats only when it is internally united.
Whatever downward socio-economic-political path Pakistan may take, the primary task of India's leaders is to effectively counter internal divisiveness and encourage unity and integration. This can only be done when the political power structure abides with the spirit of the Constitution, and particularly promotes Fraternity in society.
Indeed, NAPM, a non-electoral alliance, follows its slogan "Nafrat Chhodo, Samvidhan Bachao, Bharat Jodo". This is the way forward for India.
Major General S. G. Vombatkere (Retd) is former Additional DG Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ AG's Branch. Views expressed are the writer's own.