Issue :   
September 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.          September 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019


Paying Islamabad in its
own coin

Rajeev Sharma

S. Jaishankar Ever since the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi carried out political surgical strikes on Pakistan by scrapping Article 370 of the Constitution and ending the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, few would have noticed that it’s only defence minister Rajnath Singh who has been making new policy statements about Pakistan while all other CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) ministers, including home minister Amit Shah have either kept quiet or just reiterated stated Indian policy on Pakistan. In fact, other CCS ministers like foreign minister S. Jaishankar have only reiterated the existing Indian policy on Pakistan while finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has just kept quiet and not issued any statement about Pakistan since the Centre downgraded Jammu and Kashmir from a full-fledged state to two union territories comprising Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh.

Call it psyops or a well thought out and calibrated Indian strategy on Pakistan which has virtually become the Republic of Sulkistan since the Modi government’s Kashmir masterstroke as Pakistan has only been sulking since then and taking unilateral actions like downgrading diplomatic, trade and people-topeople ties which are more of self goals and do not hurt India one bit!

For decades, Pakistan has been known to turn the tables on India by its psyops, but this time India has turned it around completely and now it’s Pakistan which is facing a barrage of Indian psyops

Rajnath Singh Rajnath Singh’s two very important Pakistan-centric on-record remarks need to be viewed and analyzed from this template.
Rajnath Singh’s first Pakistancentric policy pronouncement came on August 16 when he hinted that India’s No First Use nuclear policy doctrine was not sacrosanct and it might change. On that day, after visiting Pokhran, the site from where the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had carried out Indian nuclear tests 2.0 in 1998, Rajnath Singh came with a pregnant statement with this tweet: "Pokhran is the area which witnessed Atal Ji’s firm resolve to make India a nuclear power and yet remain firmly committed to the doctrine of 'No First Use’. India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. What happens in future depends on the circumstances.

Then on August 18 he came up with his second policy statement that talks would be held with Pakistan only on Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). "If talks are held with Pakistan, it will now be on PoK," he said in a public address after flagging off of the BJP's 'Jan Ashirwad Yatra', from near Chandigarh.

How does one decode it? My understanding is that the Modi government has decided that in this surcharge atmosphere when a sulking Pakistan has been upping its ante with a flurry of provocative moves taken unilaterally, Pakistan will be spoken to only by its defence minister. In other words, the Modi government’s not-so-subtle message to Pakistan is that if they are itching for an extreme scenario like a war, then so be it. Thus, the best minister to articulate India’s Pakistan policy is its defence minister and none else.

India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (left) meeting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (centre left) in Bangkok, Thailand, Secondly, by his two very strong remarks India, through Rajnath Singh, has sought to call Pakistan’s bluff on its nuclear arsenal just as the Modi government had done with its two military surgical strikes on Pakistan in the recent past. And by his PoK remark, Rajnath Singh has taken the strategic game right into the Pakistani camp. In effect, while the Indian defence minister cautioned Pakistan not to threaten India by their nukes as India may press the nuclear button first, if required, with his PoK remark he sought to drive a mortal fear into the Pakistani military and strategic establishment that India may go ahead in wresting PoK militarily, if need be, and thus end the Kashmir dispute once and for all!

Of course, these are more of psyops than anything else. Effectively, what it means is that Pakistan is no longer the king of psyops it used to be all this while and that the Modi government has decided to speak to Pakistan in the language it understands and the language Islamabad has been speaking with India for two decades since they became a proclaimed nuclear weapon state.

Needless to say that the Pakistani response was that of being shocked and awed. "The substance and timing of the Indian Defence Minister's statement are highly unfortunate and reflective of India's irresponsible and belligerent behaviour," said a Pakistan foreign ministry statement. In the past, such were Indian responses after bellicose remarks from Pakistan. But now the tables have been turned!

Amit Shah Now consider remarks of two other CCS ministers – Amit Shah and S. Jaishankar. On August 6, Amit Shah said in Lok Sabha that India will continue to claim the territories of Jammu and Kashmir under the occupation of Pakistan and ruled out any talks with separatist amalgam Hurriyat Conference.
Earlier on August 3, Jaishankar made it clear to his American counterpart Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of the Asean-India Ministerial Meeting and the 9th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bangkok that any discussion on Kashmir, if at all warranted, will only be with Pakistan and only bilaterally. His remark came days after US President Donald Trump offered to mediate on the Kashmir issue.

Jitendra Singh Interestingly, the only union minister who has spoken on policy issues and amplified Rajnath Singh’s remarks is Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office. Jitendra Singh said on August 18 that India will free PoK from Pakistan’s clutches, adding that after the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, people should now pray for the integration of the PoK with India in their lifetime.
In this entire narrative, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, a CCS minister, has kept mum.
The above explanation should explain why Rajnath Singh made Pakistan-centric policy statements and why he only made these remarks.