Nawaz Sharif's Covert Plan To Hit The Kashmir-button Again

Nawaz Sharif's Covert Plan To Hit The Kashmir-button Again

27 July 2013
India Today
Saurabh Shukla

New Delhi: An anticipated New York meeting between prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September has raised hopes on both sides of the border. South Block remains circumspect, however, having received inputs about a renewed and reconfigured Pakistan effort to put the Kashmir issue back on the boil. South Block has concluded Indian policy makers must factor in Sharif's secret 'K plan' before resuming talks with Islamabad. Mail Today has accessed a series of internal notes sent to top officials of the security establishment in South Block that speak of Sharif clearing a new Kashmir strategy. Sharif, who has espoused the Kashmir cause in earlier stints as prime minister, wants the nerve centre of this strategy to be a new Kashmir Cell in his office. This cell will monitor Pakistan's fresh push on Kashmir, in contrast to the previous Pakistan Peoples Party government that put Kashmir on the backburner. Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League has been perceived as soft on terror groups that found safe haven in Punjab, the party's traditional stronghold. There has been an upswing in violence in the Valley since Sharif took over as prime minister. Double-faced Pak According to the notes, Sharif has told his key advisors that Kashmir has to be given priority but he and the members of his Cabinet should not be seen as raising it too much. Anti-India rhetoric should not be associated with key functionaries of the government, the Sharif plan says. Analysts believe this part of the Sharif strategy is driven by the motive of keeping the Pakistan-India relationship on an even keel in the run up to the New York meeting, for Islamabad wants to be seen as a moderate nation. The flip side of this soft projection is that the Kashmir cell will direct propaganda activities, receiving directions from Sharif to ensure that the issue stays on the boil. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been told to tell militants to limit their activities, keeping any links with state functionaries invisible. This would mean a reorganisation of terror camps, and a slowdown in infiltration. 'It is to ensure that Kashmir is back on the international radar with complete deniability for the Pakistan government,' a south Block source said. Part II of the Sharif strategy will be to ensure high voltage international propaganda. The ISI has been told to activate its propaganda cells on Kashmir in Brussels, London, Washington, New York and Toronto. These will not be run by the Pakistani diplomatic missions but by NGOs and Kashmir support groups with the funding to be channelled by the ISI. The use of local NGOs to espouse the Kashmir cause at the United Nations and in the European Union is part of this new strategy. Some reports say that key Pakistani functionaries have also been told not to indulge in India-bashing. Significantly, Jihadi leaders like Hafiz Mohammed Saeed have been told to continue their anti-India propaganda but keep the government completely out so deniability can be achieved. Part of the strategy is to ensure that while infiltration will be controlled, the attacks in Kashmir will be intensified to give them a local colour, and as the reaction from the Indian security forces grows, this will be showcased through hired NGOs and amplified through media stories to help internationalise the Kashmir issue. While the strategy is devious from the analysis provided to South Block is it apparent that Sharif's K plan will achieve two objectives: one, get the Kashmir issue back into focus as the core issue in the dialogue with India, and second, to ensure that international pressure is on India, with the issue taking centrestage through a concerted campaign by NGOs in Europe and the US to help build a case for Kashmir being a conflict zone. Armed with these inputs, India will now have to factor in the new Kashmir strategy in its diplomatic approach as it prepares for the New York meeting. Besides this, sustained pressure needs to be built on Islamabad, that the dialogue process will not gain momentum till Pakistan takes action against the perpetrators of the 26-11 attacks. Bad news for J&K While Sharif is unlikely to make any dramatic concessions to India on the issue of terrorism, and the 26-11 trial may not yield much, but there could be some progress on the issue of trade where Islamabad may give India Most Favoured Nation status couched in a different name to signal progress. With Plan K back on the table, however, India should be prepared for a fresh onslaught of violence in Kashmir.