The Russian Federation in chorus with the People’s Republic of China have again called on India and Pakistan to refrain from further escalating around the disputed Kashmir region, where in the last 48 hours the parties exchanged air strikes and artillery bombardment that resulted in human casualties for the first time since 1971.
Russia and China have seldom seen eye-to-eye during the course of the 20th century on the subject of India and Pakistan – with Russia historically favoring India, and China with Pakistan.
The Russian Federation and other external forces have concerns that the situation in the armed confrontation of two long-standing geopolitical opponents could get out of control. In India, the prime minister has nationalist views, and Narendra Modi is also soon awaiting parliamentary elections. Many pundits are explaining that India’s moves are little more than a gambit to either distract from other issues where he is less popular, or to raise his support among his nationalist base which may have begun to question his commitment to nationalism in light of his previous inaction surrounding the February 14th terrorist attacks.
At the helm of power in Pakistan is the “inexperienced” head of government, Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was elected only last year and has not yet faced such serious challenges.
State-run Russian media outlets previously had a ‘love affair’ with then candidate Khan, as he had made commitments to clean up the Pakistani ISI, which has strong ties to Saudi Arabia and the CIA. Since his election, he has proven incapable of such a reorganization, showing that Pakistan is essentially still a military dictatorship run by its own ISI based ‘Deep State’, that in turn is largely influenced by Saudi and U.S intelligence.
Still, Putin would like to aid Khan in any future moves that could reform the ISI. This is critical in any potential for de-escalation. As long as the ISI operates independently of Islamabad’s civilian government, then agreements with Khan’s civilian government are much less useful in the direct and immediate sense.
The Pakistani ISI was a critical co-organizer of the anti-Soviet Taliban guerrilla movement in Afghanistan, exploiting the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and lending both logistical, intelligence, and material support to that branch of the Taliban that would eventually evolve into the Osama Bin Laden led Maktab al-Khidamat and later termed ‘Al Qaeda‘ in the west. The Saudi Arabian Al Mukhabarat Al A’amah funneled money to the Afghan Mujaheddin via their contacts in the ISI of Pakistan.
The off-spring of these organizations still operate out of Pakistan, and while Indian leadership may have both ulterior motives regarding upcoming elections, and a general desire for territorial irredentism regarding the Kashmir, the development of Al Qaeda-type groups in the Kashmir which threaten India is not entirely a gross exaggeration – ISI sponsored Kashmiri rebels in Kashmir killed at least 42 Indian paramilitary forces on February 14. Khan promised Modi definitive and corrective action, and yet for two subsequent weeks, nothing tangible was seen. During this time, Modi’s ultra-nationalist critics saw this as evidence that Modi’s commitment to placating India’s rivals was more important than preserving or pursuing India’s sovereign rights.
While last night the two nuclear powers of South Asia made it clear that they were ready to move away from the dangerous course of confrontation, by Thursday morning (the 28th of February) in Kashmir, which had again become a zone of hostilities, no signs of irreversible de-escalation were observed.
Following the call by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday to sit down at the negotiating table, the Indian Foreign Ministry issued a statement in which Delhi “reserves the right to take decisive measures to protect national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity from any act of aggression or cross-border terrorism” .
Modi’s apparent rejection of Khan’s call for negotiations should not be read as a desire on the part of Indian leadership for war. Rather, it is a recognition that negotiations with Khan are negotiations with a civilian leader of government that is not in control of the actual intelligence agency, the ISI, which is likely to be involved in the organization of terrorism in the Kashmir against Indian forces.
Russia, the United States, China, Turkey, the United Kingdom and others called for calm. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, even late on Tuesday night, February 26th, urged both parties to “avoid escalation at all costs” and establish a direct link. As is known, earlier Delhi and Islamabad recalled their ambassadors “for consultations.”
These are the ‘standard’, respectable, and expected statements from the U.S and UK, but should not be taken as evidence that their intelligence services are playing no role in fact in escalating said tensions.
On February 27th, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed “serious concern over the exacerbation of the situation along the line of control between India and Pakistan and the outbreak of tensions between friendly states.” The Russian Foreign Ministry called on both sides to “restraint and intensify efforts to resolve existing problems by political and diplomatic means.”
“We are ready to continue to assist in strengthening the counter-terrorism potential of New Delhi and Islamabad,” the ministry stressed.
This statement should be read as a definitive statement in support of New Delhi on the part of the Russian federation. Russia recognizes that, unlike India, Pakistan is suffering from a condition of dual-power – one in which its civilian elected government seeks closer ties with all regional neighbors, but its foreign dominated intelligence service still operates as a launch-pad for pro-Saudi and CIA backed Al-Qaeda-type terrorism.
On the morning of February 27th the parties exchanged air strikes and shelling. Earlier on Wednesday, Pakistani air forces reportedly launched air strikes on the territory of Kashmir controlled by India and are said to have shot down two Indian military aircraft in the country’s airspace. One of the planes fell on the Indian territory of Kashmir, the second – in the sector of the region controlled by Pakistan. The pilot of the second aircraft was captured, specified in the Pakistani command. Later, official representatives of the Indian Armed Forces announced their view that a Pakistani F-16 fighter had been shot down over the disputed Kashmir region, which had previously invaded Indian airspace.