Why Is Pakistan So Apprehensive About Indian ‘False Flag Operations’?
Pakistan’s leadership wants to externalize the woes of the society and the current regional security situation present them with an ideal pretext, argues Umer Farooq.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Sunday evening reiterated Pakistan’s apprehension about a possible Indian “false flag” operation against Pakistan, while giving out information about the latest military deployed of Indian forces along with the Line of Control (LoC). He reportedly said, “India could carry out false flag operation against Pakistan as its forces have cut the Line of Control (LoC) at five places and deployed missiles there.
He didn’t specify what exactly he meant by Indian forces cutting the Line of Control or which missiles has been deployed by the Indian army on the Line of Control. Indian has a variety of short-range surface-to-surface missiles that could be used to hit military targets. Similarly Indians use anti-aircraft batteries on the line of control as artillery pieces.
If Indians have deployed Prithvi surface-to-surface short range tactical missiles on the Line of control (LoC) this could be taken as a major escalation in the military tensions in Kashmir as this weapon system—with its several variants—could be used to hit military as well as civilian targets along the Line of Control (LoC). Both Indian army and Air Forces are in possession of deployable variants of Prithvi missiles. However, so far there are no reports about their active deployment.
The foreign minister, however, told the news conference that the United Nations has been informed that New Delhi could go for a military misadventure against Pakistan in an attempt to divert the world’s attention from its internal chaos and the continuing siege of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK).
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is not the first Pakistani leader to openly talk about possible Indian military adventurism as the internal situation in India and Indian held Kashmir continued to deteriorate. Before him, Pakistani top political and military leaders have also hinted about possible Indian adventurism on their border.
It appears that Pakistani leadership’s assertions about Indian military adventurism are based on some intelligence reports that they might have received from their military led intelligence agencies.
However, it could be said that in the existing tense environment any intelligence agency would make the same assessment about possible Indian military adventurism. No military planner can simply be sure about rival state’s intentions, even if he is presented with such an intelligence report.
I mean you could have intelligence reports on your table, but no military planner could be sure about the veracity of the intelligence report presented to him by his intelligence agencies. He would have to rely on his past knowledge to make sense of the intelligence report related to the assessment of Indian intentions.
Any Pakistani military planner would be confronted with two types of past experiences in making an assessment about Indian intention. Firstly, India has behaved very aggressively in the wake of terror attacks on mainland India allegedly by Pakistan based militant groups. Major military mobilization had taken place on the Indian side in the wake of terror attack on Indian parliament in 2002. This didn’t lead to military clash but Pakistani and Indian armies were never so close to a conflict as they were in the wake of 2002 parliament attack. Therefore, this is the first lesson Pakistani military planner would have in mind while assessing the veracity of intelligence report presented to him.
Secondly, in February 2019, Indian Air Force did cross into Pakistani territory and carried out air strikes on mainland Pakistan. In the words of a senior Pakistani military officials, “As Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan alluded that India was contemplating a missile attack on the night of February 27, the upper notches of escalations ladders may precede the lower ones in Indo-Pak hostilities”.
Therefore, this military crisis was unlike any previous military crisis between the two countries. In 2002 military standoff, India military took at least 27 days to fully mobilize its strike crops close to Pakistani border. The counter mobilization by Pakistan took even longer.
News reports in Pakistani media suggest that 14 Indian Air Force Fighter jets crossed the Line of Control (LoC) on the night of February 26, 2019 dropped payload into areas that could be described as part of Pakistani province of KP.
This group of India fighter jets included both MiG-21 and state of the art Russian SU-30 aircraft. One of the MiG-21 was shot down.
Pakistan Air Force responded within hours and struck targets on Indian side of the LoC. Pakistani Air Force didn’t specify but news reports in Pakistani media suggest that indigenously produced JF-17 were used in this air strike.
Both Indian Air Force’s SU-30 and Pakistan Air Force’s JF-17 are nuclear capable aircrafts.
These is no way the Air Force of either country could have picked and detected the kind of payload the incoming aircraft was carrying, when their radars detected the intruding aircraft. Presumably, the either Air Force could have taken the intruding aircraft to be carrying nuclear payloads.
This would be another lesson Pakistani military planner had learnt in dealing with India, which must have influenced their perception of Indian military threat and which would influence the way they would assess the intelligence report presented to them by their military intelligence agencies about possible Indian move to carry out a false flag operation.
Thirdly, there is another type of information that is regularly bombarded on Pakistani capital from all the major capitals of the world since the Pulwama attacks in Kashmir, that is that the world capitals’ capacity to influence Indian decision-making in case of another terror attack on Indian mainland have been drastically reduced. In other words, these world capitals are telling Islamabad that they could not come to the rescue of Pakistan to force India to deescalate or not to escalate in case of another terror attack on Indian cities. This could be one reason Pakistani leadership is so vocal in expressing its apprehension about Indian false flag operations or any Indian military adventurism in the coming days or weeks.
There, however, is another reason, related to domestic political situation that explains why Pakistani leadership is so vocal in expressing their apprehension about possible Indian adventurism. Pakistan society is passing through a highly volatile political and social condition—protest and unrest has become a norm, groups not satisfied with present political arrangement are becoming restive and discontent with the high handedness of stat machinery is on the rise.
Media reporting in the conventional media is not truly reflective of the situation on the ground as the security apparatus is tightly controlling the media. In such a situation Pakistani political and military leaders want to externalize the woes of the society and regional security situation present them with an ideal pretext.
Umer Farooq is an Islamabad-based freelance journalist. He writes on security, foreign policy and domestic political issues.