The contours of Pakistan’s new narrative on India | Analysis
Pakistan has been disappointed that, barring a few exceptions, the international community has accepted that constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) have been part of India’s domestic process, and that India and Pakistan have to resolve the J&K issue bilaterally without the involvement of the United Nations Security Council. While this was bad enough, Pakistan has been truly shocked and dismayed at the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain conferring their highest civilian awards on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a time when it is reviling him and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the strongest terms.
In this background, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech on J&K on August 26 was as much an attempt to rally the people to the Kashmir cause as it was meant to quell inconvenient questions on the efficacy of his government’s diplomacy. At the same time, Khan sought to address other constituencies—the people of the Kashmir Valley, the major powers, and the Muslim ummah—in the largely familiar themes of staunch support for the Kashmiris, human rights violations, and the potential dangers of escalation of armed conflict between two countries with nuclear weapons.
The Pakistani establishment has always propagated that India’s secularism is hollow, and that India is a Hindu country where the minorities are persecuted. It is, therefore, ironic that Khan alleged that the constitutional changes violated Indian secularism, and it was a signal that India was only for the Hindus and all others were second class citizens. Khan held that the RSS was committed to the position that India was only for the Hindus. Bitterly denouncing it, and twisting Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s motivations for Partition, he asked the Pakistani people to be aware of the organisation’s ideology, for they should know their enemy’s thinking. He noted that the RSS’s ideology had killed Gandhi and that it was inspired by Nazi fascism. All this from the “selected” leader of a country that has used terrorism as an instrument of State policy.
Clearly, Khan spelt out what will become the foundation of Pakistan’s propaganda against India in the months and years to come: that India is changing ideologically, becoming aggressive, and a danger to regional and international peace, especially because of its possession of nuclear weapons. In this sense, the Pakistani establishment — and Khan is nothing but its mouthpiece — is taking the issue beyond the changes in Kashmir by claiming that they are only one manifestation of a dangerous ideology which will destabilise the region. Hence, the touching concerns for what may be called an earlier India, which Pakistan had always consistently and sharply denounced.
That this is hypocritical is obvious, but Indian diplomacy will have to factor in the direction which Pakistani propaganda is now likely to take. This is because Pakistan will hope it will appeal to the Islamic world and sections of western liberal opinion, particularly, western media, which, Khan noted, had turned against India as never before.
There is another significant aspect. For decades, but especially after 9/11 and Osama bin Laden’s killing in Abbotabad in May 2011, Pakistan has sought to change the narrative of its involvement in terror. The manner in which it handled the Kulbhushan Jadhav matter was an attempt to paint India as a State-sponsor of terror. It failed to do so. Now, it hopes that by internationally promoting the idea of a dangerous, fascist India, it will create a narrative that will divert attention from its terrorism.
India’s democratic and constitutional credentials are strong; its economic trajectory globally attractive; its essential social peace and stability resilient — though all sections of the people must feel a sense of equal participation in the national enterprise. All this will make Pakistan’s endeavours futile, but that does not mean it will not try, or that Indian diplomats can be complacent.
Naturally, Pakistan will try to use the ground situation in the Kashmir Valley as the peg to hang its narrative. It, therefore, follows that it will do its best not to allow it to settle down. Khan spoke of informing the world of the conditions that obtain “as soon as the curfew is lifted”. This is nothing but indirect incitement to violence. All the talk of Khan becoming Kashmir’s ambassador to highlight the so-called atrocities is an attempt in the same direction.
While it may eventually realise that this propaganda track will be counter-productive, the Pakistani establishment, for now, needs to show the people that it is active, especially till the coming United Nations General Assembly session next month. The planned weekly events to show solidarity with Kashmir are also meant to underline the establishment’s purposefulness in the matter. All this will only reinforce in the Pakistani mind that India is a permanent enemy. But that is what the establishment has always wanted.
Vivek Katju is a former diplomat
The views expressed are personal