Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), on Wednesday told the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir that the Pakistani armed forces were standing by them and will go to any length to protect their land.

Addressing a press conference at the General Headquarters on the situation in occupied Kashmir since the Indian government revoked its special autonomy, the military’s spokesperson also said a “befitting response” will be given to any false-flag operation staged by India.

“I want to give this message to Kashmiris that we stand by you and will continue to do so. It is sad that your independence struggle was presented as terrorism,” he said.

“Kashmir is our jugular vein and we will go to any lengths to protect it.”

Maj Gen Ghafoor began his presser by saying that he would talk about the situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir and its effect on national security.

He said Pakistan’s geographical situation cannot be ignored by regional countries or world powers.

“India is a country with a huge population, a follower of Hitler is in power [there]. The world community has interests in India.

“Then there is China, an emerging world power. China has issues with India as well but their economic relations with India are stable. Afghanistan has seen nothing but war, martyrdom and loss of lives,” he added.

Maj Gen Ghafoor said Pakistan has good relations with Iran but due to the situation in the Middle East, Iran is facing some problems. “But Iran has a huge role in regional peace,” he added.

‘We have avoided escalation’

“In India, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Nazi ideology are in power. They endanger minorities including Muslims and Dalits,” he said, adding that the situation is such in India that there is no religious or social freedom there.

In occupied Kashmir, he said, the “fascist” government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “uprooted Nehru’s step for the region”.

In contrast, the armed forces have established peace in Pakistan and the country is also playing its role for regional peace.

“We have avoided escalation,” he said of recent tensions with India over occupied Kashmir.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan in his first speech after taking office had extended an offer of dialogue to India “in response to which they sent in two warplanes and received a fitting reply”.

“Nuclear countries have no room for war,” the military’s spokesperson said.

‘Kashmir is our jugular vein’

He said India has “indirectly continued to attack Pakistan”, an example of which he said was Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.

“We are playing a role in the Afghan reconciliation process. If peace is established in Afghanistan, our troops deployed at the western border will probably be removed.

“Maybe India thinks that it should take action against us that would weaken us. We want to tell India that wars are not only fought with weapons and economy but with patriotism.

“The Quaid-i-Azam’s vision and our belief is that Kashmir is our jugular vein.”

He recalled that there are United Nations resolutions on the conflict in Kashmir.

“Recently Modi took an immoral step and repealed Article 370 of the Indian constitution. This is no longer a conflict of ideologies.”

He said Pakistan has been fighting a hybrid war for the past 20 years and considering the conflict spectrum, Pakistan’s options of response revolved around economy, diplomacy, finance, intelligence, etc.

“For the first time in 50 years, the UN Security Council held a session on Kashmir. PM and the foreign minister have talked to several nations’ heads and foreign ministers.

“Modi says he doesn’t want mediation. If you don’t want mediation, then what did you talk to [US President Donald] Trump about?” he said.

Thanking international and local media for effectively covering the oppression in Kashmir, he said the issue of Kashmir which was previously ignored by the world has now gained international attention.

“No step by Indian authorities that does not lead to the self-determination of Kashmiris is acceptable to us,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said.

At the same time, he added, “Any isolated step by us that might take the attention away from Kashmir issue will be cruelty to them.

“Armies protect a nation’s sovereignty. When that is threatened, warfighting becomes a compulsion instead of a choice. It is up to India and the rest of the world.

“How can you think that we can do a deal over Kashmir? we have not agreed to do that in 72 years, why would we do that now?” the ISPR chief said.

Maj Gen Ghafoor’s press conference comes amidst heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following the Indian government’s decision to unilaterally revoke Article 370 of its constitution, which granted special autonomy to occupied Kashmir. A communications blackout and heavy restrictions on movement imposed by the Indian authorities from the eve of this development entered their 31st day today.

Following India’s decision to repeal Article 370, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic relations with New Delhi and suspended all bilateral trade. The Indian ambassador was asked to leave and train and bus services with India were also suspended.

‘Army chief did not want extension’

In response to a question, Maj Gen Ghafoor said the decision to grant an extension to Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was a prerogative of the prime minister, which he had exercised.

“Army chief did not want [an extension]. After over 40 years of service, every person wants to return to normal life and rest, but he has personal rapport with many nations’ heads. It was the prime minister’s prerogative and he exercised it and let’s hope it pays off,” he added.

No ‘no first use’ policy

Answering a question regarding the use of nuclear weapons, Maj Gen Ghafoor said this was a serious issue and a political one. “This is not discussed in press conferences or rallies,” he stressed.

He added: “It is not about the weapons but the confidence of the nation.

“India should think that our perpetual threat is just one and has been for the past 70 years. When it comes to the eastern border, everything is devoted to it, full stop.”

He said using weapons of deterrence was a political choice. “We have no ‘no first use’ policy, these are weapons of deterrence,” he added.

In response to a question regarding the Indian defence minister’s suggestion that India might change its no first use policy, Maj Gen Ghafoor said. “If they (India) want to change their policy then it is their choice. But there is a second after first.

“Statecraft does not run on emotions, it runs on reality. It is easy to take a popular decision than a wise decision,” he added.

He said the Kashmir issue will be resolved “whether it takes a day or a year”.

The ISPR chief said that India has been saying that Kashmir is a bilateral issue for the past 70 years. “What has happened? How is it that you terrorise and discriminate and then say we will solve it?” he questioned.

“Pakistan has always tried to resolve this peacefully through table talks. Now the government has said that we will not extend one-sided offers of negotiations.”

The military’s spokesperson said that the struggle for freedom is now in the DNAs of Kashmiris.

“[Indian] Occupation forces are facing tough opposition from the people. The world will stand with us and the Kashmiris.”

Afghan peace process

Talking about the reconciliation process underway in Afghanistan, Maj Gen Ghafoor said Pakistan has only a one-line stance about the end state in the neighbouring country: that there is peace there.

He added that peace could be achieved through intra-Afghan dialogue in the latter part of the reconciliation process.

Discussing the fencing on the Pakistan-Iran border, he said cooperation between Pakistani and Iranian forces has improved recently.

He said first the Pak-Afghan border was considered sensitive, which is why fencing is underway there. “Now [militants] had started to infiltrate from the Pak-Iran border and we felt that it has become sensitive,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said.

“We increased FC (Frontier Corps) forces there and now we are fencing,” he said, adding that 70 per cent of the work on the fence has been completed.

Pak-Israel relations

About rumours regarding the establishment of relations between Pakistan and Israel, Maj Gen Ghafoor said rumors such as these are spread as part of ‘fifth-generation warfare’.

“We are the only country in the world whose passport refuses entry to Israel; we have had this stance for the past 70 years,” he said, adding that any change in this policy would be a “political decision”.