By Sunil Garodia
What is Pakistan trying to achieve by repeatedly raising the spectre of a nuclear war? Imran Khan first used the op-ed space of the respected US daily, The New York Times, to issue a veiled threat a few days ago. He has repeated the same in an interview to the news channel Al Jazeera that was telecast on Saturday. Specifically, Khan said that "if we are fighting a conventional war (and) we are losing and if a country is stuck between the choice: either you surrender or you fight till death for your freedom, I know Pakistanis will fight to the death. So when a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, it has consequences". This can be construed as a direct warning to India that Pakistan will indulge in nuclear warfare once it feels that it is losing a conventional war (and it is most likely to lose a conventional war with India).
The reason why Khan is issuing these repeated warnings is that Pakistan thinks that by abrogating Article 370 of the Indian constitution, India has 'annexed' Jammu & Kashmir. In the same interview, Khan had said "eight million Muslims in Kashmir are under seize for almost 6 weeks now. And why this can become a flashpoint between India and Pakistan is because what we already know India is trying to do is divert attention from their illegal annexation and their impending genocide in Kashmir".
This is a very strange and potentially dangerous statement from the Pakistani premier. How can abrogating an Article in one's own constitution and reorganizing the boundaries of one's own territory become a flashpoint for war? Instead, since Pakistan illegally occupies a major part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (a part that was ceded to India by the state's last ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh), it is that part that can become a flashpoint if Pakistan tries to interfere in India's internal matters.
It is clear that the Pakistani army is prodding Khan trying to draw a parallel with Bangladesh here. They are hoping that as and when the restrictions are lifted in J&K, people will revolt against India and the Indian government will try to subjugate them. If that happens, Pakistan will falsely claim that lakhs of refugees are pouring into its territory and might start a war against India to 'liberate' J&K. The 1971 defeat still rankles and Pakistan has been itching to take revenge. They hope they will be able to "do a Bangladesh" in J&K.
But that is highly wishful thinking. Nothing of that kind is going to happen. Of course, there will be protests in J&K if restrictions are lifted. Pakistan will try its best to fan these protests. But the Indian government is capable to control this within the framework of the country's constitution and the legal process. The people of J&K will be allowed to elect their government and all Indian laws will be made applicable to the state. Investments will be made in infrastructure projects and industrial units will come up providing jobs to the youth who are being misled by Pakistan. Pakistan is hell-bent on ensuring that this does not happen and Khan's repeated warnings about war are clearly indicative of that.