India, Pakistan and the regional security
Tensions between Pakistan and India started boiling up in the wake of the fateful Pulwama incident of 14 February. Without doing the direly-needed introspection on the policies and heavy-handedness of the RSS-backed Modi regime that leads the Kashmiri youths to giving such an extreme reaction, Indian authorities have again chanted the same old mantra: blame Pakistan. However, the world has now realized that resistance in Kashmir is absolutely indigenous. It is due to this reason that no country in the world is ready to buy the Indian propaganda on Kashmir issue. Keeping in view Narendra Modi’s track record and the nature of India’s sociopolitical landscape, most unbiased analysts have put their weight behind the assertion that Pulwama was another false flag operation similar to Uri (2016) and Samjhauta Express (2007) incidents. They doubt as to how it was possible that 700+ kg of explosive was moved miles inside the world’s most militarized zone.
Elections in India are fast approaching, and who doesn’t know that Modi is going to be a big failure. Results of recent 3 state elections provide irrefutable evidence to it. Series of protests all around the country, particularly by minorities and farmers, establish the fact that people’s welfare have never been among Modi government’s priorities. All minorities, even low-caste Hindus such as Dalits, are looking forward to oust the bigoted regime. Indian soldiers too have started gathering courage to raise their genuine concerns against the government. Then, the Kashmiri youths, through their perseverance and countless sacrifices, have turned the tables, making the Kashmir issue a thorn in India’s side. The young Kashmiri freedom fighters have strongly resolved to say no to Indian tyranny, and also to avenge the martyrdom of their fellows by hunting Indian soldiers. The flip-flop in India’s policy statements in the aftermath of Pulwama incident evinced that Modi government was in a state of an extreme paranoia and something serious was cooking up inside.
In this situation, Modi wanted least damage to his vote bank and, hence, tried to placate his voters. Release of a film on Uri incident and the so-called surgical strikes, costly gun deal with the United States to buck his frightened soldiers up, blaming Pakistan for the shady Pulwama incident and the unrelenting beating of war drums, all seem ineffectual to bring any future political dividends for Modi and Co. Also, as many Indians had already doubted the credibility of Modi’s claims of ‘surgical strikes’, something tangible was badly needed. Thus, the Indian Air Force (IAF) was perhaps being persuaded to take a risk for this sacred ‘national cause’. So, some bomber planes of IAF dared to sneak into Pakistan on the Loc. Facing interception and a vigilant response from Pakistan Air Force (PAF), the Indian jets dropped off their payloads and instantly flew back. However, it provided the Indian government with something it would sell to its voters. The war-crazy and jingoistic elements in India made tall claims of exterminating a Jaish-e-Muhammad camp at Balakot killing ‘hundreds of terrorists’ – the claim no independent source has verified yet. After telecasting as the ‘biggest breaking news of the year’, Indian media started using its old antics, i.e. sabre rattling and sarcasm. It started provoking Pakistan by using the derogatory terms such as “Ghar ma ghuss k maara hy” (We have hit you inside your own house).
This 24/7 false propaganda made an unprecedented dent to national morale of the people of Pakistan. The nation wanted a befitting response to India. Social and mainstream media also started creating a kind of war hysteria. Pakistan’s National Security Committee decided to give India a befitting response for its flagrant LoC violation and Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, the Director General of ISPR, held a press conference, debunking India’s claims on the LoC violation. He further said “We are all ready. Now it is time for India to wait for our response … The response will come at a point and time of our choosing where our civil military leadership decides, and as a matter of fact, has decided.”
Then, as the story goes, the very next morning, Pakistan did respond. Pakistan Air Force, staying inside Pakistani territory, locked some Indian military targets inside Indian-occupied Kashmir with its JF-17 Thunder jets. A dogfight ensued and Pakistan hunted two of the Indian fighter jets and one pilot was captured. This gave a much-needed boost to the nation’s morale and people thronged roads and streets to celebrate this victory.
Along with this boost to the morale, one other thing that rose mercurially was the heat of regional security environment. Threat perception that India will attack again seemed much credible. Some quarters even assert that India was preparing to launch missile attacks but Pakistan made it very clear that it shall respond against any Indian misadventure. The whole nation stood by its valiant armed forces. Unity and clarity in the joint session of parliament was unprecedented. The Prime Minister apprised the nation of the nature of the threat, and also announced to release the captured Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, as a “peace gesture”. This was a great diplomatic manoeuvre that won global appreciation and endorsement – and even by many Indians. However, India again tried to intrude through sea but Pakistan Navy intercepted the Indian submarine and sent that back.
With the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan, as well as private diplomacy by the United States and the UN, the temperature started to cool down. India intensified unprovoked firing and shelling at the LoC which Pakistan has been responding befittingly. The two nuclear powers were at the brink of a full-fledged war. However, better sense prevailed, particularly on the Pakistani side and mainstream media. Political leadership, too, demonstrated great maturity and sanity.
Conversely, the role of Indian media, politicians and an overwhelming majority of general public proved pathetically immature in this whole episode. The myth of an educated, civilized, shining and rising India is being broken. In such a tense and dangerous strategic environment where a single missile hit can result into the outbreak of an all-out nuclear war, Indian media’s perpetual warmongering, without gauging the consequential horrors, is rueful and deplorable, to say the least. Do Indians really favour a nuclear Armageddon? Aren’t they aware that war cannot be an option between the two nuclear countries? Don’t they know that even a slight miscalculation can be horrific and ruinous?
Some analysts, nonetheless, believe that a limited war under the nuclear overhang is an inevitable reality for South Asia. This seems a far-fetched idea though. As PM Khan also posited in his speech, nations could only start the war, to end it is never in anyone’s hand. This is absolutely true. War is like water and it creates its own pathways. Especially with extreme level of mistrust owing to prolonged hostility and enmity, and the presence of hawkish media, two nations cannot afford a single erroneous nuclear signal. The limited conventional war is also not a viable option as Pakistan is no match to India in numerical strength of the military personnel as well as the conventional arms. So, in order to counter India’s offensive of conventional limited war under the so-called Cold Start Doctrine, Pakistan developed tactical nuclear weapons in 2011. However, they too can be a source of great risk.
The point is that war, limited or else, is not an option in the security environment prevailing in the nuclear-armed South Asian countries. Yes, the two countries will remain engaged in the fifth generation warfare with a hybrid of sub-conventional, unconventional and psychological methods employing all the kinetic and non-kinetic resources at their disposal. In the long run, peace is the only real option if the two nations want their future generations to be truly prosperous and developed.