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Amit Shah’s political aim to recover PoK is not backed by India’s military capacity

By comparing the illegal occupation of PoK with that of Aksai Chin, India for the first time has diplomatically put China on defensive.

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After Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh, now S. Jaishankar has also made a strong statement on PoK. The External Affairs Minister Tuesday said, “PoK is part of India and we expect one day to have physical jurisdiction over it.”

Is there a paradigm shift in India’s foreign policy and national security strategy?

The parliamentary resolution of February 1994 clearly said that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) is an integral part of India. So, why is there a need to reiterate it, and that too ahead of the key UN General Assembly meeting?

The latest policy shift has put both Pakistan and China on notice, especially because the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which includes strategic road and rail links, passes through Gilgit-Baltistan.

Also read: Modi has finished Pakistan’s ‘unfinished business’ of Partition

Building the narrative

A day after the Narendra Modi government removed Jammu and Kashmir’s special status last month, Home Minister Amit Shah said in Parliament, “Kashmir is an integral part of India… When I talk about Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin are included in it”. Citing the Constitution vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir’s boundary, Shah said, “We will give our lives for this region”.

Barely a week after Shah’s statement, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, “If there will be talks (with Pakistan), it will be on PoK”. He reiterated the stand this weekend when he said, “The next dialogue will be about terrorism and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and nothing else.”

Last week, Minister of State Jitendra Singh said, “It is not only my or my party’s commitment, but it has been a resolve of Parliament who (sic) unanimously adopted a resolution in 1994 during then Congress government headed by P.V. Narasimha Rao, saying that Kashmir is an integral part of India and the only issue left to be resolved with Pakistan was Pakistan occupied Kashmir.”

Army chief General Bipin Rawat in a recent interview to ANI said, “The next agenda is retrieving PoK and making it a part of India. The government takes actions in such matters. The institutions of the country will work as per the orders of the government. The Army is always ready.”

While Akhand Bharat is a lofty concept, the BJP and the RSS are ideologically committed to recovering the territories under illegal occupation of Pakistan and China.

Strategic shift in foreign policy

There is no doubt about our de jure claim over PoK, which is enshrined in the Constitution based on the Instrument of Accession signed 26 October 1947. The same has been upheld by a resolution moved in Parliament in 1994.

PoK consists of ‘Azad Kashmir’ and Gilgit-Baltistan (both pseudo autonomous states but de facto governed by Pakistan), with Pakistan ceding Shaksgam Valley to China in 1963. India is also committed to the recovery of Aksai Chin and other areas of J&K occupied/annexed by China through a parliament resolution passed on 14 November 1962.

In the past, despite reiterating its claims over PoK and Aksai Chin, India had in real terms accepted the partition of Jammu and Kashmir with the Line of Control (LoC) and the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the de facto borders.

But the Narendra Modi government’s policy shift has now rattled both Pakistan and China.

Abrogation of Article 370 and its endorsement by the international community have sealed the issue as far as the present borders of Jammu and Kashmir are concerned. In future, these borders will be non-negotiable both at the international fora and in dialogues with Pakistan.

The recent strategic shift with respect to PoK will further deny Pakistan any leverage during bilateral talks, forcing Islamabad to discuss cross-border terrorism and economic cooperation with New Delhi. 

The China factor

By comparing the illegal occupation of PoK with that of Aksai Chin, India for the first time has diplomatically put China on the defensive.

China is Pakistan’s all-weather friend and would want to make CPEC a success. India has strongly opposed the CPEC because it passes through the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan. Now by design or default, in formally reviving its dormant claim on PoK and clubbing Aksai Chin with it, India has placed itself in a good bargaining position to formalise the LAC as a mutually acceptable border.

In my view, China has a lot at stake in Gilgit-Baltistan and it will strive to keep the region conflict-free.

Also read: Tension rises between China, India over Ladakh ahead of Modi-Xi October talks

India’s military position

Given our limited technological military edge over Pakistan, we simply do not have the capacity to make major gains in PoK in a limited war before the nuclear weapons come into play. But a J&K-centric limited war has always been on the radar of the Indian armed forces. We have the capacity to extend the LoC by 5-10 kms in selected areas in a 7-10-day limited war. And, this is what we should do at an opportune time to make our intent credible.

With respect to the recovery of Aksai Chin, given China’s overwhelming military and technological edge, we can do little more than maintain a firm stand. Also, due to China’s high stakes in CPEC, major operations launched by India in ‘Azad Kashmir’ and/or Gilgit-Baltistan will force Beijing to open a second front anywhere along the LAC.

Notwithstanding the Shia-Sunni divide in Gilgit-Baltistan, religion binds the people of PoK to Pakistan. The unrest stems from a long-standing demand for autonomy. In the long-term, it will be worthwhile for India to exploit these fault lines in the pursuit of national interests.

Three factors to consider

The success of Narendra Modi government’s strategic foreign policy shift is contingent upon three factors.

First, we have a serious situation in J&K, and Pakistan will try its best to exploit it. Our political strategy in Jammu and Kashmir is riding on the military strategy, which is not going to solve the problem. Until we don’t find a solution to the deadlock, our claims on PoK will not draw any support from the international community.

Second, our political aim to recover PoK is not backed by our military capacity. To establish overwhelming military edge over Pakistan and at least near-parity with China, we need to undertake holistic national security reforms and treble our defence budget. Also, rhetoric apart, it would take a long time to exploit the evolving fault lines in PoK.

Third, by raising the pitch on Aksai Chin and PoK – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through PoK – we have made sure that we will fight on two fronts in a future conflict.

It should suffice to say that our strategic shift on PoK is an excellent tool for diplomacy. But militarily, we may not be able to achieve much.

Also read: The politics, military tactics & geography behind how Pakistan won Gilgit-Baltistan from India

Lt Gen H S Panag PVSM, AVSM (R) served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal. Views are personal.

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  1. Seems like a Bollywood movie, indian army (cow urine drinker and ding eaters, terrorist hindus) attack Azad Kashmir and illegally occupied it, while PAKISTANI people fell in civilians war.

    I am surprised why indian forget bloody red face of abhinandan, good treatment by PAKISTANI civilians I.e reality.

    Kindly correct my English as it’s my mother language. Might someone have full grip on English as sleeping dictionary concept was a famous ritual in hindu people.

    • The time has come for sanatan dharam to regain it lost prestige.
      har! har! mahadev! Jai shivaji! Jai bhawani! Jai shree krishna!

    • But don’t forget India army killed your 300 terrorist in balakot strike your Pakistan leaders also admitted that in your kurdu channel ,your country lost every war with India,and our abhinandan shot us made f 16
      Islam and corona are same 😁😀😉😆

  2. Ab un ceasefire establish kar chuke hy ab dono pakistan aur india agy nahin barh sakty jo agy barhy ga wo wapis aye ga only solution plebiscite

  3. Things have started moving in the right direction..
    China realises that it cannot use Pakistan to the end of antagonising India..There is a certain limit beyond which China cannot go on appeasing Pakistan.
    Tibet sits on India’s northern border, all its important towns are much closer to India than China proper or any third country. For China to connect Tibet to outside world, India is the only viable option.
    For China, Pakistan is only of strategic importance while its relationship with India is more rounded in many spheres. Also wherever competition is there, it brings a sense of respect too.
    Since India has now firmly willed to reclaim POK, it certainly will do so in next decade.

    • it is the other way around, my friend.The lesson of 1962 has not been learned.If India pushes into Gilgit china will strongly oppose India
      India will end up losing Arunachal pradesh as a result .There will be a reason to go to war with India.As it stands, the border will not erupt into a war if India does not try to change the status quo

  4. Amit shah, speaking in hindi, in the parliament said “Jaan de denge” and not ‘Apni jaan de denge’.- There is a difference.

  5. This anti-national HS Panag tweeted in favour of a military takeover against Modi government and then apologised. This is all you need to know about his agenda. Gen K V Krishna Rao, Gen K Sundarji and now Gen Rawat have been the only real Army generals to strategise for decisive Indian victory against all adversaries. Otherwise Indian Army has many HS Panags who bleed the taxpayers for their own fabulous lifestyles and immediately become pacifists citing ‘technological superiority’ of Pakistan when asked to do what they are paid for. Such Army generals praising enemy nations in print media and stating that India does not have military capacity ought to be ashamed of their cowardice and anti-national bias. We must remember that during the decade of war (1962, 1965, 1971) all factors were against Indian military. We were under equipped, financially bankrupt, poverty stricken and no world power except Soviet Union supported us. India still survived and won a decisive victory in 1971 because we were led by men of steel not cowards like Panags. People like Panag should never join the armed forces because by definition an Army man must defend his nation at all costs and not (falsely) claim in media that we are weak while the enemy is strong. Shameful.

    • H S PANAG just showed the would be scenario if India invade POK. I think India has all the right and capability to take back POK as well as Aksai Chin. India must not think twice to invade Aksai Chin as well as POK.

  6. There are more ways then one to skin a cat. Since the author is an ex- military man he thinks in the way he is trained to. Getting back POK doesn’t have to involve starting a conventional war. As regards India’s military capacity over Pakistan’s, the proof of the pudding is in rating it. The only way to know is to fight a war.

  7. Nuclear weapons now ensure that borders cannot be changed in any significant way. The only way to change the status quo is through internal troubles. So, India collapsing into smaller nations could happen through internal rebellions – something that the JNU folks would love to see happen. Similarly, Pakistan could collapse into smaller parts due to economic stress and regional differences. Even China is susceptible to splitting up into ethnic parts. But these can only come about through internal pressures. The borders are largely locked in and no change is possible as long as India, Pakistan and China continue to remain nation states.

  8. Look like General Sahab can not think beyond war! A simple strategy to start fire on the other side of LOC is to offer Valley and POK is to offer them a unified state of Kashmir under Art 370 with pre-1953 arrangement with a PM, constitution, flag etc. This will divide Mirpuri Kashmiris from Pakistan and unite them with Valley Kashmiris but neither China nor Pak will allow this to happen and that side will go up in flames soon. At the same time, we should raise issue of human rights violations in Baloch and Sindh and give covert support for rebels there. We need to pay back Pak in the same coin. We are ready for war but why should we fight it, General Sahab? we can play these simple games and achieve our goals.

    • mirpuri kashmiris are not kashmiris but only “mirpuris”, they don’t speak kashmiri but rather they speak pahari/punjabi and are culturally indistinguishable from pakistani punjabis.
      It is the gilgit and baltistan/balwaristan areas which are more closely allied to kashmir linguistically.

    • Hello Kumar, nice to see a Quid pro quo mind here. First of all facts must be clearly stated here, to be very honest Anti Pakistan Sindhi campaigns have failed miserably and so is the Baloch separatists, who were once a pain in the ass for the state. However, the emergence of a Nazi and racially motivated PM in India that is Narendra Modi has put all separatist elements to think twice on the matter of separation. However, one thing you should clearly note here! And that is as far as Kashmir is related it is disputed territory between both and once again if India try to poke its nose in provinces would result in a compulsion for the ISI to poke its nose in those matters where it remained aloof for long time that is Nagaland, Assam , Punjab, Manipur and Naxalites and some other states you know better than I.You should know that ISI won’t mind to step in those provinces of yours. This message is from a Sindhi and we don’t like RSS NAZI Government of yours. So,if you plan to sow seeds of discord you should keep in mind.There is Rajasthan bordering with Sindh and we do share similar culture. It won’t be hard to sneak into Rajasthan and cause problems there too. You and your General “Sahab” must keep this in mind. When I was a child I used to think it would have been better if we were to be independent Sindh. But not anymore specially after seeing ugly face of Hindtuva.

  9. In which countrt in the world, a Home Minister interferes on external affair and Defense ministry matters.?? Can the motor mouth be shut off.???

  10. India should start a war. Actually, for the first time, Pakistan is hesitant to initiate a war. People of Kashmir, both sides across the line of control and Pakistan armed forces, will teach India a lesson. This war will be good for entire south Asia as it will practically give sovereignty to Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and other SAARC members. It will also be useful for seven sister states in the North East and Khalistan in the west

  11. Gen Bioin Rawat is saying, Give indian military a chance to do operation to recover POK-gilgit.

    Some Reitred Lt is saying, opposite,First Reiters mil to say, We dont have the capability.

  12. Just a few quotes from the column caught my eye. Treble the defence budget, say to $ 200 billion. Push the LoC by 5 – 10 kilometres by starting a limited war. The people of PoK are bound to Pakistan by religion; as those in our part of Kashmir are not bound to India. We have made sure that we will fight on two fronts in a future conflict. Just ensure that we do not end up frying the subcontinent with radioactivity.

    • Pakistan has as much interest is not frying up subcontinent as India has.. India should stop trying to be Atlas of South Asia, that Nehru wanted us to be.

  13. There is an ‘overwhelming technological edge’ playing out over both China and Pakistan, which the author has missed.

  14. if Indian mil doesn’t have military edge over Pakistan mil, then why does it eat up over 32 % of our annual budget? it should have been better spent on social and economic infrastructure. Imagine only Indian Air force budget is more than whole Pakistan military(army, AF, Navy) budget, but I don’t see them constantly whining about budget. Instead they came out on top in F16-Mig21 skirmish on 27th Feb…A fundamental question needs to be asked from Indian mil planners: are they buying fancy arms without any strategy? are they fooling bureaucrats and politicians?

  15. Poor English: “Till the time we don’t find a solution to the deadlock,…”
    It should have been “Till the time we find a solution to the deadlock,…”

    • Our main man Panag rocks! and so does his english, he is the quintessential Burra Saab.
      The General who writes in pidgin is a Sikh Gentleman with a pinched face, General KJ Singh , his is a wondrous english, we readers have never seen anything like it.
      However the General whose english was most difficult to understand was one from Pakistan, Parvez Kayani , as Richard Holbrooke remarked, Kayani had a tendency to mumble english incoherently.
      Gone are the days when the Hindoostani was banned from the officers mess.
      Modi, Ajit Doval and The vernacular rules, Vande Mataram

  16. In the case of two developed nuclear powers, the only way for one to get a huge advantage over the other would be the denuclearization of one of the powers. In the absence of that, it is not realistic for one nation to think of getting a big military advantage over the other.

    One can see how timid the USA is when CHina creates a military advantage for itself in the SOuth CHina Sea. The USA is bold only when fighting unarmed powers like Syria, Iraq , Serbia, and it is the same case with Russia.

    Similar rules of stand off will apply to India , no matter what grandstanding our Ministers indulge in.

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