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Can we take PoK by force?

If talks with Pakistan resume and Pakistan puts Kashmir on the table, we can counter their demarche by putting the return of PoK as our riposte. Within the format of talks, this is a perfectly legitimate thing.

Updated:Saturday, September 21, 2019, 00:15

Can we take PoK by force?There is a great deal of muscular rhetoric in evidence with regard to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). That it is a part of India is unquestionable, and Parliament has passed a unanimous resolution to this effect. However, now many BJP leaders speak about taking over PoK; Amit Shah made such a statement; Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh repeated it; General Rawat, the Chief of the Army, said that our armed forces would be willing, if desired by the political leadership, to do what is required to achieve this goal; and External Affairs Minister, Dr Jaishankar, has most recently said that India’s jurisdiction will prevail over PoK.

Our legal claim over PoK and Gilgit and Baltistan is impeccable. These territories were part of the kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir. When, on October 26, 1947, then Maharaja Hari Singh, signed the Instrument of Accession in favour of India, the whole state, including PoK, and Gilgit and Baltistan, became a part of India. Pakistan is thus in illegal occupation of these territories. We have a right to claim them back. But can we wage a war to achieve this, against a country that is, like us, a nuclear weapon power state?

To confront Pakistan with the return of PoK, and Gilgit and Baltistan is a good negotiating strategy. If and when talks with Pakistan resume and Pakistan puts Kashmir on the table, we can counter their demarche by putting the return of PoK as our riposte. Within the format of talks, this is a perfectly legitimate thing to do. The Simla Accord of 1972 conjoins both India and Pakistan to ‘settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations’. If Pakistan can talk about J&K, we can talk about PoK.

But, the boast that we should take over PoK by force is, frankly, just that. We have to be aware that war, even if meant to be conventional, can escalate to a nuclear confrontation, and this would be highly undesirable for both countries. Outright war, therefore, is not the preferred — or even feasible — option.

Given this, the use of inflammatory language about regaining PoK by force may sound attractively nationalistic, but it is, in reality, a lazy argument. The hard work that we need to do is to create a situation in PoK, where its people would themselves agree to merge with J&K. We must remember that so-called Azad Kashmir — as Pakistan calls its occupied areas — is only informally a part of Pakistan. It has no representation in the Parliament of Pakistan. Besides, it is brutally governed by Pakistan’s Federal Ministry of Kashmir Affairs, which has failed to empower the people of this area. In fact, genuine self-governance was once allowed in the so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’ by Pakistan only briefly in the 1970s. Moreover, several independent observers, including NGOs like Human Rights Watch have said that the residents of ‘Azad Kashmir’ are anything but free, and Pakistani authorities govern the area with very tight control on basic freedoms.

An unhappy PoK and an equally unhappy Gilgit and Baltistan is a fertile ground for our covert activities. We need to step them up, so as to create a situation that these territories fall into our lap, like as Chanakya would say, a ripe apple. But, for this, we must also work to make the J&K currently under our control an area of democratic freedom, harmony, peace and prosperity. That is why the return of normalcy in Kashmir, and the return of democracy to our Kashmiri citizens, is a matter of the utmost importance. Kashmir — compared to Pakistan’s repression in PoK — must appear an attractive place to rejoin.

Rhetoric comes easy. One can spout it at any time. War-mongering is the lazy option for strategic thinking. If we really want our territories now in the possession of Pakistan to come back to us, we must persuade the people in this area that this is the best thing that can happen. Covert operations are a recognised tool of strategic offensive. They are required in Balochistan too. Let us get down to it. If Pakistan implodes in the process, so be it.

Pavan K Varma is a guest contributor. Views expressed are personal.

Source: Times Now News

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