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Why Peace Building Is Now Difficult in Kashmir

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The turmoil since 1989 has established uncertainty and chaos as the new normal in the valley of Kashmir. Undoubtedly Kashmir that was so proudly called as the paradise on earth is now full of inconveniences. It is the place where everything is politicized now but never resolved.

The decades of mass alienation and unaccounted violence has shaped up mass anger and that collective rage has slowly led to distrust against the government and also torn the social fabric. Amid the suffering masses, the constant blame game and labelling is the norm and those who talk of oppressors forget that they have themselves been guilty of committing the same atrocities when in power. The masses have always felt suppressed and the prolonged conflict has thus shaped a gory history, a bitter memory and a life of indignity, hopelessness, and exploitation. Standing witness to half-revolutions, vested interests and unmet promises, the state of Jammu and Kashmir seems to be reeling under a severe crisis, collective anomie and alienation. Thanks to the leadership crisis and lack of vision of the contemporary power regime.

It is not that Kashmiris don’t want peace, today every Kashmiri cries for peace and calm and the whole valley is yearning to grow and longing for Peace but instead of building peace and displaying practical seriousness and interest in peace process, ‘Give a damn policy’ continues and delaying tactics prevails. Consequently, normalcy is a luxury and peace is fragile, the calm is a deceptive calm which keeps waiting for a trigger to blow up every summer. The governance is not treated by masses as pro-Kashmir and there still exists a major sustained lack of effort towards enhancing credibility and social justice on the ground. Whereas, every committee or Human rights group suggests restoration of social justice but till date no report has been respected or paid any serious heed to. The feel secure psyche has vanished long before and getting rid of ambiguous and invisible control seems an impossible task. Amid a plethora of suppliers of instability, there exists an urgent need for a leadership that fully comprehends the Kashmir case and understands that there invariably exists a relationship between the equations of peace building and the forces of the sustenance of uncertainty which needs serious intervention. Akin to the nature of politics, where one party’s action invokes a quick reaction from the opposition, every action today in Kashmir has a reaction purely because of the prevailing dichotomous social realities and massive enemy perception! From the governance side, the constant crisis mishandling and bad conflict management besides violent crimes against the civilians have shattered people’s faith in the concept of democracy and the trust deficit is too high to be abridged now. The inhuman incarcerations have inevitably become the order of the day and the bitter and painful past and narratives of torture and suffering are becoming the motivating reasons behind young Kashmiris’ choosing the path of violence.

On the social intervention front, the chief stake holders need to see whether the target population interfaces well with the problems addressed in the programmes launched for them or is there an acute sense of discredit due to the political nature of the Kashmir problem. Why does this discredit exist and how can it be addressed in the first place remains a big question and simultaneously a big task to accomplish? The answer is simple, address Jammu and Kashmir politically first and foremost and the development and all other discourses will follow and will definitely get mass recognition later. This is what people in power though know but never acknowledge. It is also important to make a note of those still left out and understand why, with regard to the overall welfare interventions, much still remains undone despite tall claims to the contrary, since 1947. The single most significant prerequisite to overall development is the restoration of human dignity and safety in Kashmir, the rest can come later but the power elite always talks about the rest and ignores the fundamental. An empathetic approach therefore needs to be incorporated in a broader perspective, realizing the grave magnitude of the prevailing situation and that primarily needs willingness to deliver justice and restore Kashmir’s lost glory, without further delay.

On the security front, there is a dire need of strict discipline, human sensitivity and especially gender sensitivity while tackling the conflict. The important is to see to what extent working ethic or SOPs while operating are maintained and why have lapses continued for so long? What is the actual work done through WHAM (winning hearts and minds doctrine) and beyond encounters or killings what are the genuine peace efforts in-built into the existing system, what are the new peace friendly and mass friendly models of peace-building developed and most importantly to what extent is the Soldier-Civilian gap abridged over the years, etc,. Why is the enemy perception graph so all time high in the valley now? Why are even cops not safe? Unfortunately, policy and planning on Kashmir seems to be dismally lacking in vision and practicality so far resulting in civilian killings in every major or small uprising whereas the tactics to handle uprisings outside Kashmir are always different. The enemy perception continues to grow and peace building as a project continues to remain as a mere idea. Whose fault is this and who will take the responsibility? Who is responsible for pellet killings and pellet blinded victims? Also the security apparatus has to ensure principles like honesty, transparency, quick action against HR violations, internal transformation of the Jawan, understanding the local ethos, sensitivities and vulnerabilities are taken care of and followed with due respect and regard to maintaining their sanctity. However, from a mass perspective, the whole security apparatus resorts to putting things only in black and white as far as probes are concerned. What is clearly visible is the lack of strong evaluations, decentralisation in judgements, lack of clear statements and open documentation of their and others operations. The security apparatus including the local police in today’s Kashmir needs to think beyond the big brotherly attitude that has actually contributed to alienation and unrest, even the young and educated home-grown militancy. It also needs to be seen to what extent poor local participation, randomisation and generalisations destroy security calculations that got reflected so vividly in the 2016 uprising once again seeing slain militant commander Wani’s Funeral. It is also important to know that perspectives on peace practice and strategy need some theoretical frameworks and know-how, which demands vision and able leadership. Further understanding Kashmir’s changing society, social and political preferences, emerging new social dimensions and extent of social inequality amid the conflicting situation, etc, needs to be understood by all the significant stake holders properly and strategies to be framed accordingly. An effective social participation will go a long way in building a new political consciousness and ultimately a new peaceful Kashmir. Is anybody really interested in Peaceful Kashmir?

Another question that has to be answered satisfactorily, is to evaluate how well do the masses understand what they are consenting to or what they are heading towards, what principles and precepts they are following and why? Why are stone pelters even attacking vehicles and why mob violence and mentality has become a new craze and so much of legitimacy? In the recent past my vehicle was almost destroyed completely at Mochu-Budgam despite being a media person. The same Kashmiri youth were abusing us and hitting our vehicle all around. I am still wondering what our fault was and how will such treatments and violence against same Kashmiris or anyone else contribute to Azaadi? Sane Kashmiri minds especially youth have to disown such violent groups who attack even people for fun and see stone pelting at vehicles as a fight for freedom. Even the local community where such miscreants create such horror scenes have to intervene to discourage such rowdy behaviour.

It needs to be found as to why even the effective and intelligent change makers couldn’t completely curb the volatility and transform Kashmir into a peace zone? Why every Kashmiri feels demonized and insecure outside the valley and why still Kashmiri students are beaten even in universities and colleges in the country? The nation has to embrace Kashmiri if it loves Kashmir.

The need of the hour is to develop effective and functional links between local sentiments, embedded social problems and governance via policy-making in a range of contexts. Just continuing with and extending the learning summaries of key issues, closed door discourses, back door diplomacy channels, futile interlocutions, delaying tactics, ego clashes, oft repeated useless strategies, irresponsible political statements, insecurity hype for politics, and political provocations are not going to work, especially in today’s Kashmir which has a youth bulge that is highly aware, articulate and living amid a high political culture. At this juncture when so much of waywardness prevails, the desired actions and good and visible governance is much needed to make intervention efforts more inclusive. Actions which are politico-military and environmentally conscious need to be designed and made public friendly and practical. For instance, fair and faster probes in all past human rights abuse cases, issuing clear statements on sensitive issues from local/regional security headquarters unlike the central hegemony, a people friendly stand of AFSPA, immediate steps to heal the bruised environment of Kashmir valley, addressing water issues, power projects and financial loss of the J&K, respecting the resilience and suffering of innocent Kashmiris’ and fast delivery of justice in pending cases and innocent killings, etc,. It is important to rehabilitate the victims and deliver justice in a fair manner and is quite possible. Kashmir obviously and altogether needs a different policy and sensitive tackling at the central level along with a media that represents true Kashmir and only then peace in the region can be aspired. In addition, the task of sociological or psychological handling as well, needs to be assigned to good brains and astute minds. Kashmiris’ need space of all kinds and a friendly platform to give vent to their suppression and unheard grievances. In Kashmir the desired social change can be achieved if Kashmiris are empowered to exert influence and make decisions about their own social collective without any fear. The time has definitely come when the Centre needs to think out of the box for a new Kashmir! Time has come when the half-widows of Dardpora and the rape victims of Kunan-Poshpora and parents/kins of the disappeared need to be given justice. The time has also come when the Gawkadal,Kupwara, Pathribal, Chhatisingpora and Wandhama massacre culprits need to be suitably punished for their crimes and firmly put behind bars.

Last Word

The time has come to love the Kashmiri first and then Kashmir! Time has come, above all, to negotiate the venomous dichotomies of Us vs Them, skilfully and in a manner commensurate with the prevailing situation, so as to ensure a progressive way forward rather than talking rising wahabism, radicalism, ummah vs nationalism as responsible for all the mess in Kashmir! I also do not buy the argument that the discourse in Kashmir is shifting to primacy of Islam also. It is definitely shifting to more resolve for Azadi and the graph of dissent is constantly increasing. It is adding more young angry minds and it is not just the spirit of jihad but in most cases the hunger for revenge and resistance against the unaccounted atrocities. There has to be some end to this chain reaction. Till date, hardly a serious debate has been initiated by the institution of politics on such issues baring a few useless interlocutions. Kashmir needs to be delivered with humanity, democracy and Kashmiriyat what has so far only been a slogan. Understanding Kashmir requires an in-depth and empathetic understanding of its sociology, history-a history of suffering, deceit, oppression and continuing conflict. The fact remains, that peace can be achieved in Kashmir by understanding Kashmir and going through the path of social justice and political solution.

[A version of this article first appeared in Kashmir Pen-A prestigious weekly based in Srinagar]

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South Asia

Pakistan at a crossroads as Imran Khan is sworn in

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Criticism of Pakistan’s anti-money laundering and terrorism finance regime by the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) is likely to complicate incoming Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan’s efforts to tackle his country’s financial crisis.

Addressing the criticism of the 41-nation APG, which reports to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism watchdog that earlier this year put Pakistan on a grey list with the prospect of blacklisting it is key to a possible Pakistani request for a US$ 12 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.

A US demand that any IMF package exclude funding for paying off Chinese loans coupled with the APG/FATF criticism, against a backdrop of the Pakistani military’s efforts to nudge militants into the mainstream of Pakistani politics and the incoming prime minister’s mixed statements on extremism, could push Mr. Khan to turn to China and Saudi Arabia for rescue, a move that would likely not put Pakistan in the kind of straightjacket it needs to reform and restructure its troubled economy.

The APG criticism followed Pakistani efforts to demonstrate its sincerity by passing in February the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance of 2018, which gave groups and individuals designated by the UN as international terrorists the same status in Pakistan for the first time.

Pakistan, however, has yet to implement the ordinance by for example acting against Hafez Saeed, a leader of the banned group Lashkar-e-Taiba and the alleged mastermind of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, who despite having been designated a global terrorist by the United Nations Security Council and having a US$ 10 million US Treasury bounty on his head, fielded candidates in last month’s election.

The APG, which just ended talks with Pakistani officials, has scheduled follow-up visits to Pakistan in September and October to monitor Pakistani progress in addressing its concerns, which focus on legal provisions governing non-profit and charitable organisations, transparency in the country’s beneficial ownership regime and the handling of reports on suspicious financial transactions.

Those concerns go to the heart of the effort by the Pakistani military and intelligence to mainstream militants who garnered just under ten percent of the vote in last month’s election but have a far greater impact on Pakistani politics. The military and intelligence have in the past encouraged militants to form political organizations with which mainstream political parties have been willing to cooperate and establish charity operations that have had a substantial social impact.

Similarly, Mr. Khan, who earned the nickname Taliban Khan, is likely to have to counter his past record of allowing government funds to go to militant madrassas, his advocacy for the opening in Pakistan of an official Taliban Pakistan office, and his support of the Afghan Taliban. His Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-headed government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, gave in February US$2.5 million to Darul Aloom Haqqania, a militant religious seminary.

Dubbed a “jihad university,” Darul Aloom Haqqania, headed by Sami ul-Haq, a hard-line Islamist politician known as the father of the Taliban, counts among its alumni, Mullah Omar, the deceased leader of the Taliban, Jalaluddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani Network. Asim Umar, leader of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, and Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, Mullah Omar’s successor who was killed in a 2016 US drone strike.

Those may be policies that, at least initially, may be less of an obstacle in assistance on offer from China and Saudi Arabia to replenish Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves that have plummeted over the past year to US$ 10.4 billion, enough to cover two months of imports at best. Pakistan’s currency, the rupee, has been devalued four times since December and lost almost a quarter of its value.

Chinese loans have so far kept Pakistan afloat with state-owned banks extending more than US$5 billion in loans in the past year. PTI officials said this week that China has promised the incoming government further loans to keep Pakistan afloat and enable it to avoid reverting to the IMF, which would demand transparency in the funding of projects related to China’s US$50 billion plus investment in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a crown jewel of its Belt and Road initiative.

And that is where the rub is. Despite Chinese officials reportedly urging Pakistan to reduce its deficit, neither China nor Saudi Arabia, which has offered to lend Pakistan US$4 billion are likely to impose the kind of regime that would put the country, which has turned to the IMF 12 times already for help, on a sustainable financial path.

Relying on China and Saudi Arabia would likely buy Pakistan time but ultimately not enable it to avoid the consequences of blacklisting by FATF, which would severely limit its access to financial markets, if it fails to put in place and implement a credible anti-money laundering and terrorism finance regime

Moreover, relying on China and Saudi Arabia, two of Pakistan’s closest allies could prove risky. Neither country shielded Pakistan from FATF grey listing in February. A Chinese official said at the time that China had not stood up for Pakistan because it did not want to “lose face by supporting a move that’s doomed to fail.”

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The problem of pellet guns in Kashmir

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Jammu and Kashmir is the only northern state of the Indian union dogged with an overridden unhealthy political atmosphere. The valley of Kashmir is beset with a major governance deficit which has given renewed impetus to the dissenting voices of the masses day in and day out. Dissent is the hallmark of a democracy which acts as a medium for the expression of the masses against the system. There are certain rights and duties guaranteed by the Indian constitution for the citizens, including the right to freedom of expression and right to life. Caught in the quagmire of a political crisis that has deeply permeated the society, the people in Kashmir from time to time vent up their dissent. Hartals are the tools for the masses through which they ventilate their pent up emotions. Kashmir is not a different case. It is also amuck with crisis and caught in a looming distress day in and day out. Kashmir is the most sensitive zone of the whole Asian sub-continent, where situations turn awry with the passage of time, like the seasons of the year and is the only state of the Indian Union where there has been a reckless use of the pellet guns without any regard for the precious life of the common man. This is a sort of dichotomy.

The use of pellet guns is a major problem which has not only maimed, blinded and killed the masses, but also shaken the collective conscience of the people, who have fallen prey to a different approach of dichotomy of the government. The killing of militant commander Burhan Wani in 2016 brought about a volcanic eruption in valley which not only deteriorated the situation in Kashmir, but also increased the massive alienation of the masses. The waves of grief and anger against the day-to-day killings and maims that the people felt increased with each passing day. In order to control the crisis, the security agencies used the deadly pellets which caused heavy damage to the sufferers. More than 1200 people lost their vision in 2016. According to a report of State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), more than 75% people suffered injuries due to pellet guns, ranging from minor to major in 2016.There was a heavy loss of life.

Although small in size, these black metallic balls have deteriorated our young generation. The use of pellet guns has wreaked crisis in Kashmir. For the security agencies, it is meant to disperse the crowds, but, for the common masses, it is a problematic affair. Pellet guns are pump-action shotguns which fire a cluster of small, round, metal pellets with high velocity over a broad range.

Recently, after the killing of a militant from Pahalgam area during the anti-establishment protests, a number of people were injured due to pellet A nurse working in the same area personally told me that we healed at least 100 plus pellet injured victims. The bloody Sunday of this year’s April and the subsequent clashes of the protestors with the security agencies left many injured, with multiple cases of pellet injuries to the eyes of the protestors.

Naseer Ahmad Bhat of Seer Hamdan, Anantnag was killed by the security forces during the post-Burhan phase of 2016 protests in Kashmir. He was an able worker and a good cricketer who fell silent to the pellets. Not only the collective conscience of the people was shaken, but also a state of disparity ensued. These deadly pellets have not even spared the school going children and snatched the power of seeing of the victims. Insha, a pellet victim who passed her matriculation examination last year despite odds is an inspiring hope for the likewise victims.

Pellets cause a number of biological ramifications in the victim, like the loss of vision, the state of paralysis, in case, the damage is caused to the spinal cord, defacements, and death in case of damage to the vital organs of the body, like, heart, kidneys, lungs, brain, etc. Moreover, the pangs of guilt that a victim suffers in silence dishearten one and all. The use of pellet guns as a crowd-control method during protests, whether in case of cordon and search operations (CASO) or common protests has added a volley of questions to the psyche of the common man? Being a part of the Indian union, that two acing the crown, Kashmir has been treated otherwise all through the passing times. People have got million queries, but, there are no solid answers to their problems and subsequent tactful solutions.

The substitution of pellet guns with PAVA shells can in no way control the crisis. The way people of other parts of the country are treated should form a close semblance in case of protests in Kashmir. Why the security forces are using pellets and bullets against the people whom the system claims with a sense of belonging. There can be other alternatives, like the use of water cannons without any damage and subsequent ensuing crisis that engulfs the society and creeps the psyche of the common men. If this is the notion of the system to punish dissent, then dissent itself takes a u-turn of additions and alterations with the passage of time. The bleeding valley is giving a close call for one and all to unite and ensue a state of peace and order. There is an urgent requirement of the administrative and political will to stop the use of pellet guns in Kashmir.

Whatever is happening to the people of Kashmir has not been experienced by the other people of the country. After all, it is a question of humanity. People suffer out of the ways as circumstances decide or may be destined otherwise. But to expect a peaceful valley without the intervention of a political will would be an underestimation of statements. There is a dual intolerance in Kashmir, one from the people and next from the system. The systematic targeting of the protestors from a point blank range irrespective of regard for the human life has shattered several families in Kashmir

Kashmir is passing through the phases of testing times with each passing day. The ugly turn of the situations and recurring events and the amateur dealing of the same has created an unhealthy atmosphere everywhere, where people have lost faith in the governance systems. The safety and security of every Tom, Dick and Harry is the looming question of the hour. Exits from dwellings and adieus from home don’t guarantee the safe return of the leavers. The interlocutor of the centre in vale, Mr. Dineshwar Sharma once reiterated that, ‘the priority is to prevent Kashmir turning into Syria’. The imbroglio has crippled the educational scenario, down slowed the economy, increased the unemployment, but, above all, the ultimate question is the redressal of the problem at stake, which for God sake can erupt into a lava-laden volcano one day and engulf the whole peace, stability and order of the South Asia, if not tactfully handled in the current times by the government.

The victory of BJP at the centre with the thumping majority after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with the slogan of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ falls short of words and has partially failed in the state of J&K.The killings of the common masses are in no way remedies to the political ailments. There should be the ultimate regard for the human lives. Why has the blood of the people become so cheap .When will peace return to the valley of Kashmir? The government of India had constituted an expert committee in July 2016 to explore other possible alternatives to pellet guns as non-lethal weapons. Although, the committee submitted its report and the recommendations were taken into account by the government for implementation. But, what happened afterwards lies in the public domain for discussion. The use of pellet guns is tantamount to the violation of rights of the people.

In order to direct the valley towards the state of peace and development, the role of multiple players of India, Pakistan and Valley is necessary. This way the government can make a significant contribution in the restoration of normalcy. The need of the hour is the unity of all the stakeholders of the society, like government, non-governmental parties, NGO’s, etc. to help these pellet victims via financial or other means.

Although, there has been a strong criticism of the use of pellet guns not only at the local level ,but also at the international level, but the main part of the problem resolution lies with the government of India and the state. Although, much has been said and written about the people of Kashmir with the flow of waters of the river Jhelum, but the stability of the region is a farfetched dream. Here, comes the role of the government into play. The use of pellet guns against the dissenting masses has wreaked havoc and wounded the collective psyche of the people, particularly those who have lost their near and dear ones due to the deadly metallic balls. Those who have fully or partially lost the vision and are living in dark suffer in silence. The government should review the situation and put a full stop for the future use of pellet guns. Those who have lost their dear ones should be financially compensated or by provision of bread and butter. However, the clarion call of the people is the complete ban and stoppage of these pellet guns in order to prevent the further damage and restore the faith of the people in the system. The government of India should pass a resolution to put a terminal pause to the use of pellet guns in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The vital task for the current times is to build a consensus for the total pellet ban. The use of non-lethal methods by the security agencies like water cannons could be the best alternatives. This will not only restore the faith of the people in governance, but also generate a feeling of belongingness among the masses. The bruised scars of the pellets have defaulted the trust of the people in the political system. Although, the situation is worrisome for one and all, but, in which direction the boat sails lies with the future course of action. After all action speaks louder than the words.

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South Asia

Pakistan not a Threat for Israel: Clearing Misconceptions

Uzge A. Saleem

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Ever since 1998; the beginning of Pakistan’s nuclear age, the state’s self-defense mechanism has been a source of worry and unrest for India and the US. Both these states never really accepted that a small state like Pakistan could develop the prestigious asset and was now well capable of defending itself against external threats. US opposed the program on the grounds that it had been tested after the signing of NPT and that it is an “illegitimate” program. Their basic concern was Pakistan not being a party to NPT and US non-proliferation efforts failing. India, though very much against the program, could not openly oppose it on the same grounds because its own Nuclear Program had the same issue i.e. it was tested after the signing of NPT and they had also not signed the treaty.

There  are  a  lot  of  ambiguities  surrounding   Pakistan’s  nuclear  program  which  are  there intentionally for the benefit and security of the program and state. However, there is one thing which has been kept very clear since day one and that is the Indo centric nature of Pakistan’s nuclear program. The program was developed because the conventionally strong next door neighbor had developed their program. Pakistan, in an attempt to ensure territorial security, had to develop its own program as well. US, China, Russia, France or the UK were never a threat to Pakistan nor was Pakistan on their attack agenda. India on the other hand was in close territorial proximity, a historic enemy, conventionally stronger and now also a nuclear power. After evaluating all these factors any national strategist would suggest a nuclear program for Pakistan and that is exactly what the state did.

There have been news in an Israeli newspaper,  Haaretz, that Pakistan is more of a threat to Israel than Iran. This was published on 20 May, 2018. The grounds for this allegation have been identified  as  Pakistan’s  growing  arsenal  and  other  similar  reasons  which  have  always  been popular in the western policy circles. Iran, a conventional enemy, one with which there have been numerous conflicts, has been ruled out as a threat to Israel since they do not have a nuclear arsenal.

However, there are many concrete facts that have been ignored in this propagating debate. For instance Pakistan has had no wars with Israel. Both the states have never even been on the verge of an all-out war. The states have never even had a conflict that could’ve led to war. Although Iran does not have  a nuclear arsenal at present but that did not stop the states from indulging into conflicts before and although initiating a nuclear war might not be a possibility for Iran but a conventional war is very much within their skill set.

Pakistan is already indulged in a two front defense strategy on its eastern and western borders. The Taliban threat from the west and the ever present Indian threat from the east, particularly along the  line of control is already consuming most of the state’s energy, attention and resources. Under such circumstances, jumping into any sort of venture as far as Israel without any apparent or direct conflict seems like an amateur move which is not expected from Pakistan whatsoever. If any linkages are being made based on the fact that Iran and Israel have cordial ties then they are weak to begin with. On the other hand India and Iran have more than friendly ties and India’s nuclear arsenal is growing rapidly with the US help. However, this does not mean that just because India is a nuclear state and a friend of Iran, it will be inclined to attack Israel.

Pakistan’s nuclear program is solely for the safety and security of the nation against any external threat.  The program  is not for the state  to pick  and choose  enemies  and start  non-existing conflicts. That is definitely not how Pakistan intends to use its resources and deviate from the real agenda which is to protect the state of Pakistan. The only condition under which Pakistan would use its nuclear weapons against any state would be if they choose to attack the territory of Pakistan in a nuclear or non-nuclear manner. The state has been absolutely clear about this from the very beginning of its  nuclear era.

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