War Not An Option But What Happened Today Shouldn’t Be Taken Lightly
Today, 26 February 2019, at pre-dawn, the Indian Air Force violated not just the Line of Control (LOC) but also (aerial) sovereignty of Pakistan proper by dropping what the Pakistani military termed as “payload” that, according to the Indian claims, destroyed a terrorist camp being run by Jaish-e-Mohamamd (JeM). However, Pakistani government officially denied such a possibility and, instead, claimed to have defended its territory by forcing the Indian fight jets to flee back. The Modi-led BJP government was under severe domestic pressure to teach Pakistan a blue lesson in the wake of the Pulwama incident which India believed was masterminded and operationalized by JeM at the behest of Pakistani security establishment. The latter not only rejected such allegations but also demanded verifiable evidences which India, as of now, has not produced at the state level.
It re-established the so-called Doval Doctrine centered upon military strategy called the Cold Start. India already claimed to have reacted in terms of the Cold Start Doctrine, in 2016, in response to what India believed was a Pakistan sponsored terrorist attack on its security personnel stationed at Uri.
While the Pulwama attack certainly ignited nationalistic jingoism on both sides of the border along with intensification of military means in Jammu & Kashmir by the Modi government – thus, provoking Kashmiri hatred and resistance against India – the Balakot intrusion has added insult to injury. On the one hand, this fateful incident has highlighted the scale and degree of Indian military aggression towards Pakistan. It has, on the other, manifested disbelief in diplomacy to find negotiated settlement of bilateral disputes, especially Jammu & Kashmir. Moreover, the incident reflects India’s overconfidence and a sense of military superiority vis-à-vis Pakistan in terms of selection of a target, utilization of the air force and, importantly, execution of the plan. In addition, it reinstates the so-called Doval Doctrine centered upon military strategy called the Cold Start. India already claimed to have reacted in terms of the Cold Start Doctrine, in 2016, in response to what India believed was a Pakistan sponsored terrorist attack on its security personnel stationed at Uri. Islamabad denied it outrightly and asked for actionable intelligence. Moreover, Pakistan, while internationally highlighting the Kulbhushan Jhadav case, posited that India caused terrorism in Balochistan and other parts of Pakistan.
Indeed, the disgraceful defeat of the BJP in recent state election in UP and Rajasthan has exposed its ideological poisoning, political division and organizational flaws to its rival political parties and the masses at large. Also in South India, where BJP won considerable number of seats in the 2014 general election, the political forces are being united against the RSS inspired BJP
The Balakot intrusion has its implications for Indian politics, India-Pakistan relations and regional peace and stability. Politically, Modi and co are most likely to consume this story, which is quite viral on (social) media in India, for electoral purposes because the former has miserably failed to fulfill the campaign promises, i.e. jobs for the youth. Indeed, the disgraceful defeat of the BJP in recent state election in UP and Rajasthan has exposed its ideological poisoning, political division and organizational flaws to its rival political parties and the masses at large. Also in South India, where BJP won considerable number of seats in the 2014 general election, the political forces are being united against the RSS inspired BJP. Thus, in the absence of any saleable commodity before the general election scheduled for May this year, the Pulwama incident was seen as a blessing in disguise. The Modi team, therefore, cashed in on the incident by reinforcing the right-wing anti-Pakistan propaganda – circulated domestically by the pro-BJP corporate media – and, secondly, by violating the international law in terms of committing an act of war against Pakistan by intruding into its territory and bombing it through its air force.
Strategically, the Balakot intrusion has potentially brought India-Pakistan relations to the brink of a (nuclear) war. The Pakistan government so far has acted prudently by calling the Indian highhandedness as “grave aggression”. However, the Pakistani (social) media is calling for strident action by Pakistani military whose air force carries the capability to strike deep into the Indian territory. Since India seems to have set a precedent to intrude into Pakistan proper after 1971, it is likely that Pakistan Air Force (PAF) will respond back in the same manner and proportion in order to undo this precedent. If Pakistan chooses not to act accordingly, it will embolden India further with the likelihood of more such armed intrusions in Pakistan proper in the foreseeable future.
If and when Pakistan reacts militarily by crossing into the Indian air space, India could intercept and strike back, thus, further escalating the situation to a point where other services such as army would also become part of the brinkmanship. This will then amount to India-Pakistan war
However, herein lies the danger. If and when Pakistan reacts militarily by crossing into the Indian air space, India could intercept and strike back, thus, further escalating the situation to a point where other services such as army would also become part of the brinkmanship. This will then amount to India-Pakistan war, which is a real possibility right now, and it must be prevented by the leadership of the two countries as well as the regional and international powers such as the US, China, Russia, the OIC and the EU. For if India and Pakistan fight another war, it may turn into a nuclear one consciously or incidentally. Nuclear weapons, if used, will annihilate the entire region with gross physical and material consequences for rest of the world.
Thus, war is not an option for India and Pakistan. The two must restraint their militaries to deescalate. Importantly, being a larger nation in terms of area and population, it is India’s moral responsibility to respect the sovereignty of its smaller neighbor(s) and put a permanent end to unilateral military adventurism like the one seen in Balakot. Remember, if India counties to commit such violations in the pretext of targeting terrorists, it will only ruin bilateral peace and regional stability. On its part, Pakistan must also avoid any resort to military action. Rather, it ought to speed up its diplomacy in order to highlight Indian military aggression against its sovereignty and, in the process, draw regional and global attention to the unresolved Jammu & Kashmir conflict. The Modi government must stop state atrocities on the innocent and unarmed civilian population that must be accorded the right to self-determination.
Finally, what India (under Modi) has failed to learn is that until Jammu and Kashmir issue is resolved, the local population will use all available means to register its resentment and resistance against the Indian oppression. It was reflected by the Pulwama attack. In other words, the problem of what India terms as terrorism will only grow in size and impact until the hostile environment in which a common Kashmir lives is not altered, structurally and legally, to his favor.
The author is political and military analyst with a PhD from Heidelberg and Postdoc from Berkeley. He is also DAAD and Fulbright fellow. He tweets @ejazbhatty