Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan says recent statements made by Satya Pal Malik, former governor of Indian-administered Kashmir, “vindicate its stance” on the 2019 Pulwama attack.
In February that year, 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers were killed in a suicide attack in the Pulwama district of the disputed Himalayan region also claimed by Pakistan since 1947.
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Malik, who was the governor of Indian-administered Kashmir at the time of the attack, told India’s The Wire news website in an interview that he “realised that all the onus of the attack will be put on Pakistan” to reap electoral benefits.
"Narendra Modi is a very ill-informed person."
Satyapal Malik opens up to Karan Thapar on what really happened in Pulwama – including the PM's instructions to not speak about lapses – in this explosive interview.
— The Wire (@thewire_in) April 14, 2023
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had repeatedly cited the Pulwama attack to mobilise voters in the 2019 general elections, in which he returned to power with a larger majority in parliament.
In his interview, Malik, the former governor, blamed Pakistan for the attack but added that it happened due to the “incompetence” and “carelessness” of Modi’s government.
Malik claimed that Modi told him to “stay quiet” about the security lapses he allegedly raised with the government. He added that India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had also told him to remain silent over the alleged lapses.
“His [Malik’s] disclosures demonstrate how the Indian leadership has habitually used the bogey of terrorism from Pakistan to advance its sham victimhood narrative and the Hindutva agenda, clearly for domestic political gains,” a statement from Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Sunday.
“Hindutva” refers to the Hindu supremacist agenda pursued by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in order to convert a constitutionally secular India into an ethnic Hindu state, where its 200 million Muslim minority will be reduced to second-class status.
Pakistan’s foreign office said India must answer the questions raised by Malik. “It is time India be held accountable for the actions that imperilled regional peace in the aftermath of Pulwama attack,” it said.
“We hope that the international community would take cognisance of the latest revelations and see through India’s propaganda campaign against Pakistan driven by selfish political considerations and based on lies and deceit.”
Abdul Basit, a former Pakistani envoy to India, told Al Jazeera that Malik’s claims exposed the Modi government.
“This interview clearly exposes what the Indian government under Narendra Modi is up to and what they are doing, with their anti-Pakistan, anti-Kashmir narrative as well as allegations about so-called cross-border terrorism and maligning Kashmir’s struggle for freedom,” he told Al Jazeera.
Basit, who was Pakistan’s ambassador to India between 2014 and 2017, said the Modi government is focusing on domestic politics with their “anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistani and anti-Kashmir rhetoric” to unite the “extremist Hindu voters”.
However, he added that Pakistan needs to do more to fight “Indian propaganda”.
“In order to expose Indian designs against Pakistan and undermining the struggle of Kashmiris, we cannot rely on just one statement. It is required on part of Pakistan to make sustained effort. Diplomacy is not about one event, but it is a process, and we need to have well-planned, well-calibrated efforts to counter them,” he told Al Jazeera.
But India’s foreign policy expert Radha Kumar said she believes Pakistan was behind the Pulwama attack.
“It was clear from intelligence reports that the attack was planned and supported by groups in Pakistan, so if the Modi administration wanted a reason, it had one. The real intent in what Malik claims to have been told was to cover up the shockingly irresponsible decision of then-Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the passivity of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval,” she told Al Jazeera.
Kumar, who authored Paradise at War: A Political History of Kashmir, says Malik’s comments will not hurt the Indian prime minister.
“Modi’s supporters don’t care if Pakistan is targeted on a pretext. What will hurt is if the opposition makes a point of how little the Modi administration cared for the lives of our soldiers, and how lightly they take national security.”