A day after India stunned the world by abolishing the special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan warned New Delhi that its action would carry grave consequences.
Addressing an urgently called joint session of parliament, Khan said the Pakistani government was considering diplomatic and military means to put pressure on India.
Read more: India abolishes Kashmir’s autonomous status
Khan accused India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of following a “racist ideology.” “They have violated their own country’s and international laws to [uphold] their ideology.
Khan also vowed to challenge India’s decision at the UN Security Council and demanded action from the international community.
“I want to make it clear that we will fight this issue on every forum, (including) at the UN Security Council,” said Khan, who also promised to also raise the issue with heads of state and take the matter to the International Criminal Court.
The Pakistani premier also predicted that the Indian government’s move would intensify the unrest plaguing the Himalayan region. “There will be more Pulwamas,” Khan said, referring to the last major suicide attack in India-held Kashmir that killed at least 40 Indian troops in February. “And then they will blame us for the reaction,” he predicted.
Pakistan’s limited options?
The prime minister’s remarks came shortly after Pakistan’s military announced it “firmly stands” by Kashmiris following a meeting by the army’s top commanders. “Pakistan Army firmly stands by the Kashmiris in their just struggle to the very end. We are prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfil our obligations in this regard,” Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, was quoted as saying.
Earlier, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry has also said it “strongly condemns” India’s decision and “will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps.” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has also taken the issue to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to win over their backing for Islamabad’s stance.
Furthermore, PM Khan has spoken to leaders of countries like Malaysia and Turkey to seek their support.
Rhetoric aside, Pakistan’s options remain limited, say observers. Given its size and influence, India appears confident that major world powers will not get involved in the longstanding Kashmir dispute.
And Islamabad’s past attempts to draw the world’s attention to India’s alleged atrocities in Kashmir have mostly been unsuccessful.
Last month, when US President Donald Trump offered to mediate between Pakistan and India on the issue of Kashmir, Islamabad welcomed the offer, but New Delhi rejected it. India has repeatedly said that it’s a dispute between the two countries and that it rejects any third-party intervention.
Pakistani analysts say Islamabad appears to be counting on support from China. On Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing is “seriously concerned” about the current situation in the region.
“China’s position on the Kashmir issue is clear and consistent. It is also an international consensus that the Kashmir issue is an issue left from the past between India and Pakistan,” she said.
“The relevant sides need to exercise restraint and act prudently. In particular, they should refrain from taking actions that will unilaterally change the status quo and escalate tensions.”
But observers say they don’t expect such diplomatic statements to translate into action.
There’s a fear that this lack of international action could embolden hawks on the Pakistani side, who favor supporting anti-India jihadi groups.
The Pakistani army has long been blamed for backing jihadi outfits in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Although using such outfits against India may seem attractive, Islamabad is already facing intense international pressure to eliminate support for terror groups operating from its soil.
Pakistan today is facing grave security and economic challenges. Last year, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global terror financing and money laundering watchdog, also put Pakistan on its watch list, meaning that the country has “structural deficiencies” in stopping money laundering and terror financing.
Pakistan is also suffering from acute economic problems. Facing a deteriorating balance-of-payments crisis, the country has been forced to tap on the doors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seeking help. The IMF has recently approved a $6 billion (€5.36 billion) loan to help right Pakistan’s faltering economy, and for the much needed cash to flow in, Islamabad needs to choke funding for terror groups.
The Pakistani army may well deploy more troops along the de facto border in Kashmir in response to India’s recent reinforcements, but the chances of an all out military confrontation are likely to be low, observers say.
During his address to the Parliament, Khan reiterated that Pakistan doesn’t want war with India. But if attacked, he insisted, Islamabad will respond effectively.
“What will happen then? They will attack us and we will respond and the war can go both ways… But if we fight a war till we shed the last drop of our blood, who will win that war? No one will win it and it will have grievous consequences for the entire world.”