The Pulse | Politics | Security | South Asia

What Explains the Timing of Pakistan’s Anti-India Dossier?

Islamabad has come forward with evidence about India’s role in spreading terrorism in Pakistan. That might be a politically smart move.

Umair Jamal
What Explains the Timing of Pakistan’s Anti-India Dossier?
Credit: Flickr/takebackpakistan

Last week, Pakistan came forward with a dossier allegedly presenting evidence of India’s involvement in funding terrorist activities in the country. In a joint press conference, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the director-general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Babar Iftikhar, revealed documentary evidence that has never been shared publicly before.

While the veracity of the evidence remains open for debate, depending upon how one looks at it, one thing that requires explanation is the timing of the revelations.

It is likely that Pakistan’s security agencies have been sitting on the evidence for some time, waiting for an ideal opportunity to make it public. It is important to note here that this is not the first time that Pakistan has shared a dossier alleging Indian attempts to destabilize the country. Previously, however, details hardly presented any proof with documents, videos, audios, local links, and conversations.

One explanation for the revelations at this time is that Islamabad is trying to get the attention of the incoming government in the United States. However, experts believe that it is unlikely to yield any concrete results for Pakistan. “Regarding the allegations, there are documented links between India and some anti-Pakistan groups. Given what Pakistan has done to India in the past, India has incentives to hit back. But in DC (and beyond), where Pakistan still has major credibility issues, there will be skepticism,” tweeted Michael Kugelman.

Explaining Pakistan’s motives behind the latest revelation, Avinash Paliwal noted on Twitter that “This might be meant to set the tone for the Biden’s approach on India,” but he believes it will “not make much of a dent on U.S. approach towards India.”

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“It will not dissuade India from carrying out offensive operations vis-a-vis Pakistan. In Indian eyes, the payback is too late, too little, and very legitimate. Pakistan, which has used proxy warfare as a policy tool for decades, will have little international political support on this,” Paliwal added.

Over the last two days, Pakistan and India have been going back and forth to reject each other’s claims and the matter is likely to die down as more developments pile up in the coming days. More importantly, as President Donald Trump continues to delay President-elect Joe Biden’s transition to the White House, it is unlikely that anyone in Washington is even paying attention to Pakistan’s claims at this point. However, this doesn’t mean that the claims do not carry any significance and do not require scrutiny from the international community.

The more important and neglected explanation of the military’s decision to disclose an alleged Indian hand in spreading terrorism in Pakistan has to do with domestic politics.

Arguably, the timing of the disclosure underscores the government’s attempt to take back political space from the opposition parties over the question of the military’s support for the current regime. The entire press conference was prepared and presented meticulously, ensuring that it was covered by all possible mediums in Pakistan. The entire state machinery — from the prime minister and the government’s social media accounts to the country’s electronic media — volubly maintained the irrefutability of the evidence presented. Moreover, with the latest revelations, Pakistan’s security apparatus has gained plenty of praise for its diligence and exposing New Delhi’s alliance with a number of domestic militant groups and personnel.

It is important to note that some of the individuals mentioned in the dossier belong to groups that have recently gotten coverage from the opposition parties’ rallies against the government and its support base within the country’s security establishment. For instance, the opposition parties’ Quetta rally talked about the missing persons in Balochistan, with the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Maryam Nawaz, even criticizing the government on the issue.

The press conference placed plenty of focus on exposing the links of Balochistan-based militant groups with India, and in the process, nullified the opposition’s narrative against the national security establishment. So far, opposition parties have been quiet about the explosive disclosure and have resisted making any major statements.

If nothing else, the attempt boosts the government’s political standing to some extent and restores the military’s leadership position back to where it was before the opposition starting its naming and shaming campaign. The next rally of the opposition parties is scheduled to take place in a week. Reports are coming in that the government is planning to ban all political gatherings across the country, ostensibly due to the rising COVID-19 cases.

As it appears, there is a major war of narratives underway to discredit the opposition and undermine any momentum that they may have built with their previous rallies. The latest disclosures about India are important ammunition in the hands of the government in that war.