April 2006 News

Pakistan unlikely to back new Kashmir insurgency: study

12 April 2006
The Daily Times
Khalid Hasan

Washington DC: If the political process between India and Pakistan now underway fails, the revival of the Pakistan-supported armed insurgency in Kashmir is not an option that President General Pervez Musharraf would favour, according to a new study. This is one of the conclusions offered by Peter R Lavoy of the Centre for Contemporary Conflict at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California in his Kashmir-related study. He believes that although there are advocates within senior Pakistan Army ranks for a return to the military strategy of the 1990s, Gen Musharraf would almost certainly oppose such an approach because it would complicate his efforts to revive the country’s economy, empower the jihadi groups that threaten Pakistan’s internal security and enable India, with possible US help, to mount “ferocious military pressure” on Islamabad. Given the current tensions between the Afghan and Pakistani governments, Islamabad is looking for ways to alleviate foreign pressures, not to aggravate them. Islamabad’s probable response to a breakdown of the Indo-Pak political process is not likely to be a significant revival of violence in Kashmir. Nor will it be a concession. The most likely outcome will be a return to the wait-and-see policy of the 1980s. During this period, Islamabad maintained its contacts with militant groups, but discouraged violence and instead pursued a largely moral and diplomatic strategy towards the Kashmir dispute. Such an approach, if it occurred again, would not be an end in and of itself, but rather a strategy to gain breathing space and buy time for Islamabad to shore up its economic, political, and military might in order to fight for Kashmir on another day. According to Lavoy, accepting the territorial division of Kashmir is not a realistic option for President Musharraf. Politically such a concession would be “suicidal”. There is also an economic security consideration since Pakistanis fear that India’s control in Kashmir gives it the ability to cut off or divert vital water sources. The Pakistan Army believes that unrest in Kashmir ties down 400,000 to 500,000 Indian soldiers, which could otherwise be positioned on the border against Pakistan. Another consideration is that in the event of a future conventional war between India and Pakistan, Kashmiri militants could be expected to rise against India from its rear positions, thus complicating India’s military strategy and negating, at least temporarily, India’s otherwise superior firepower and manpower. Lavoy writes, “Most importantly, if Islamabad abandons the Kashmir card, the leadership’s concern is that Pakistan would be defenceless to prevent India from asserting its growing military, economic, and political advantages in a concerted coercive campaign to turn Pakistan into a ‘West Bangladesh,’ a weak country that must meekly comply with India’s will.”

 

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