A month since the Pakistan-sponsored terror attack on the CRPF convoy in Pulwama, followed by India’s air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot, it is time we examined the motive behind the attack, in order to strategise for the future. Pulwama was a well-conceived attack, masterminded by Pakistan’s deep state with a wide range of possible motives: a spectacular counter-attack in response to Operation All Out in Kashmir could show India’s political leadership in poor light and hurt their re-election prospects, derail the democratic process in Kashmir, and rein in Pakistan’s political leadership that had begun to divert attention from national security to economic revival. It could also herald Ghazwa-e-Hind (holy war against India), timed with the announcement of withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, besides avenging the killing of Jaish chief Masood Azhar’s nephews and demonstrating that he is still in control.
Pakistan has been uncomfortable ever since PM Narendra Modi took office. Starting with the invite to then Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif for Modi’s swearing-in, India’s rapid rise in international stature and improved relations with Saudi Arabia and UAE have been causing severe consternation to Pakistan’s military and the deep state, which get perturbed by the influence India’s leadership might have on Pakistan’s politics and people. Similar disquiet was seen when Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif were PMs, and even earlier. The December 2018 assembly polls in five states may have given a sense that Modi’s position is weakening, and the Pulwama attack could have been designed to portray his leadership in poor light and hurt the BJP’s chances of being voted back to power.