New Delhi: The scrutiny of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by a special panel over corruption allegations will only skew the power equation further in favour of the Pakistani army which holds grave implications for India. Analysts said the incidence of terrorist activities could go up in Kashmir as well as the rest of India leaving it vulnerable to a Mumbai-style attack witnessed in 2008.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled there was insufficient evidence to order Sharif’s removal from office but it ordered further inquiry by a joint investigation team to probe allegations of corruption shrouding three of Sharif’s four children who are alleged to have used offshore companies to buy properties in London.
Two of the five judges on the court bench recommended Sharif should step down, saying he was dishonest “to the nation as well as to the parliament”, but they were out voted, a Reuters report said.
The verdict was watched with interest in India with which Pakistan has gone to war four times, three of which were in the Himalayan region of Kashmir.
There was no immediate response from the Indian government with foreign ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay declining to comment on the development at a briefing on Thursday.
But at least three people aware of the development in the government, who did not want to be named, said they anticipated a spike in terrorist violence across Kashmir and the rest of India. Two of them pointed to a sequence of deterioration of ties with Pakistan that almost coincided with the leak of some 11 million documents held by Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca almost exactly a year ago which put Sharif under pressure in his country.
“The court verdict (on Thursday) has further weakened Nawaz Sharif and a weakened Nawaz Sharif means the Pakistan army gets more powerful and could mean trouble for India because Sharif may come under pressure to play up Kashmir,” said one of the people cited above. “There could be an increase in violence in Kashmir, we are seeing evidence of that already. But in the coming days it could go up,” the person said.
India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads over Kashmir since 1947 when the Indian subcontinent was partitioned. India accuses Pakistan of fomenting terrorism in Kashmir, a charge Pakistan denies.
According to former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh, “with the military in a commanding position (in the power equation with Nawaz Sharif), the military could take a more belligerent position vis a vis India, which means this year is unlikely to be a good year for India-Pakistan relations.”
“Now that the snows have melted and there are indications of stepped up infiltration of terrorists into Kashmir—the evidence of which can be seen from the trouble in Kashmir—one can foresee more trouble in Kashmir,” Mansingh said.
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Currently, India-Pakistan ties are at rock bottom with peace talks at a standstill since 2013 and at least three major attacks against Indian military installations last year—starting with Pathankot air force station in January, an army garrison in Uri in September and an army residential complex in November—have brought to naught nascent efforts in 2015 to get a peace process on track. The summer of 2016 saw heightened unrest in Kashmir following the death of Burhan Wani who India says is a terrorist belonging to the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group but Pakistan describes as a “Kashmiri leader”. Pakistan also sent envoys to different world capitals to highlight what it called the human rights violations in Kashmir, something India denies. India retaliated with slamming Pakistan for its support for terrorism at the international fora as well as highlighting the human rights conditions of people in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. The terrorist attack at the Uri army garrison resulted in India conducting “surgical strikes” against terrorist “launch pads” in Pakistan-administered Kashmir in September. New Delhi also pulled out of a South Asian summit in Islamabad in protest against the terrorist raids in India.
According to data from the Indian home ministry, incidents of terrorism have been on the rise in Kashmir in the past year as have incidents of stone-pelting and petrol bomb attacks by the mob on security personnel. India believes that this cycle of unrest in fuelled by Pakistan.
According to home ministry data, Jammu and Kashmir witnessed 155 cases of terror attacks from October 2016 to March 2017. Till February 2017 alone, 43 infiltration attempts have been made along the India-Pakistan border, with 2016 recording the highest infiltrations bids at 371, compared to 121 attempts in 2015 and 222 attempts in 2014.
“Now with Sharif further weakened and the military seemingly toughening its posture towards India as seen in the increase in attacks in Kashmir, this year is unlikely to be an easy year for India-Pakistan relations,” Mansingh said.