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Howdy POK: How Modi Government is Creating a New Geopolitical Normal

focus on pok

It was the time when Balakot happened and subsequently events around Abhinandan Varthaman took place. You might have come across many opinions that have argued that despite all the wrongs in their side Pakistan manages information war better than India. It is interesting to see where things stand today. While the Pakistan army restricted itself to social media posts and building falsehoods on the platform, India has evidently built a Jammu-Kashmir narrative of its own as well as a Pakistan narrative of its own and effectively conveyed it to the global powers. The peak moment of this unfolded in the recent Howdy Modi event.

Has India been able to put POK agenda on global discourse and put Pakistan in a totally defensive position? Here are certain developments that hint at a bigger picture emerging in the days to come, putting POK (Pak Occupied Kashmir) or POJK (Pak Occupied Jammu and Kashmir) to be precise.

  • In ‘Howdy, Modi’ event President Trump said that India and the US are committed to protecting its citizens from ‘radical Islamic terrorism’. PM Modi at later point singled-out Pakistan as the source of terror without taking its name. He said, “Whether it is 9/11 or 26/11 everybody knows where it had emanated from.”
  • Outside the venue of Houston’s ‘Howdy, Modi’ event representatives from Baloch, Sindhi and Pashto groups gathered to meet PM Modi and President Trump to help them to get freedom from Pakistan.
  • PM Modi exhibited in front of US administration the great support he has from the people for abrogating Article 370.
  • President Trump in his speech had said both the US and India are extremely cautious in safeguarding their borders.
  • Before all these were showing up on the global stage, in India, the defence minister and the army chief were seen talking tough on the issue of POK.

All these events give us an opportunity to ‘connect the dots’ and understand the rising clout of India that leverages its strength to make global powers either to support or stay neutral in any eventual action to secure its national interests.

How Things Are Shaping Up to India’s Advantage

India has changed the terms of engagement with Pakistan under the Modi government by saying that any future talks will start from the issue of Pak Occupied Kashmir. India has upped the game with that stance of late. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has gone to the extent of saying Pakistan will be broken into pieces if it continues human rights violations in PoK. Further, he spoke about the human rights violations on Baloch and Pashtuns in Pakistan. It may also worth recalling that the Defence Minister had earlier also said that India to this date has adhered to the ‘no first use’ policy for nuclear weapons but the stance may change depending on the situations in the future.

Again, you couldn’t help but recall what PM Modi said about Pakistan in the ‘Howdy, Modi’ event. Among other things his indirect reference to Pakistan was “those who don’t know how to manage their own country”. When PM Modi was making this pitch, there were a group of people from Pakistani origin near the venue, holding a first-of-its-kind protest against Pakistan and requesting the heads of India and the US to get them freedom from Pakistan.

A social media activist of Pakistani origin who went all the way to Houston has this expectation from India.

So, all these happenings make the Indian narrative to the global community quite clear. Since Pakistan is playing with Jammu-Kashmir which legally belongs to India, the Indian administration no longer shies away from talking about Baloch, Pashtun and other issues which it hardly touched upon previously since they were seen as an internal matter of another country.

Back in 2016, PM Modi had raised the issue of human rights violation in POK and Balochistan. The narrative which puts Pakistan on the defensive side really picked up from there. We have explained the fault lines within Pakistan in our article A Mirror to Pak PM Imran Khan on Who Really is ‘Fascist’, ‘Majoritarian’. In recent days this seems to be playing to India’s advantage. For example, it is reported that Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, the principal body representing Pashtuns in Pakistan has rejected Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent call to come out on the streets in support of Pakistan’s narrative on Kashmir.

On top of all these, Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat has said “The Army has war-gamed any possible action in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and has accordingly made plans for it”.

Changing Global Scenario

There are ample reasons to believe that all the pressure building up on Pakistan may culminate into some kind of action on POK from the Indian side for which global community at large may give clandestine support as they did in the instances of surgical strikes and aerial strikes on Balakot.

The prime reason for this possibility is the change of geopolitical situation. Experts have argued that keeping Jammu-Kashmir contentious suited  the Western powers back then in 1947. Since Soviet Russia was close to J&K border then and the top Indian leadership at that time had a leaning towards USSR, it was beneficial for the Western powers to keep that part contentious. The way in which the British had handed over Gilgit-Baltistan to Pakistan without a bullet fired substantiates this claim. You may like to read the details in our previous article A National Discourse on POJK That Counters Propaganda War of Pakistan and It’s Proxy.

Now after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, if there is any ‘buffer zone’ the Western powers want to have, it is against China. The naturally rich Gilgit-Baltistan is under the illegal occupation of Pakistan, but the control over the resources in that region is with China since Pakistan has signed the mining contracts with them. If one chooses to look at from the Western viewpoint, the expansionist programme of China such as CPEC is a strategic threat.

POK and Balochistan constitute two ends of CPEC and it is thus advantageous for Western powers like the US to support India on Jammu-Kashmir narrative to check the influence of mighty China in the region.

PM Modi in his ongoing visit to the US has also taken a veiled dig at China in the United Nations.

In the changing geopolitical realities, PM Narendra Modi is evidently leading a narrative putting India’s interests on the forefront. Those who are trying to propagate that PM Modi went to the US just to endorse President Trump have got it all wrong.  His act of proudly owning the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent attack on Pakistan in front of President Trump and the US administration could indicate other things in store.

In the last, Indians can be reminded of those moments in the Parliament, in which Home Minister Amit Shah had thundered, “Do you expect me not to be aggressive on this issue? When we say Jammu Kashmir it also includes POK. We are ready to give our lives to reclaim it”