Amjad Ali Siyal
SOUTH Asia has always been a troubled region. Each country of this region has issues with the one or the other. Amongst all, Indo-Pakistan relations have always been risky since their independence from the colonial master. Despite the fact both the countries have fought three wars resulting in thousands of causalities yet hostilities continue almost on a regular basis. Both the States have ignored important history class lesson which says “war leads towards destruction and poverty, which compels states to behave in a humble manner leading towards cooperation and prosperity”. As Pakistan has been inviting India for negotiations, it seems India has not yet learnt from that history lesson and is probably awaiting for more serious disaster than earlier ones to pursue a path of peace. After the Pulwama incident, both the States were almost on the brink of an all-out war. Pakistan and India have combined 250 nuclear warheads and a miscalculation could have led to an accidental war. For instance, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the National Assembly, apprised that after the dogfight between the two air forces and subsequent shootdown of IAF jets and Abhinandan capture, India was to launch a missile attack. In response, Pakistan was prepared to respond with the force three times that of India. As it was the election season in India, Modi regime could have indulged in the brinkmanship in order to force Pakistan to accept Indian dominance. Fortunately, due to the intervention of Middle Eastern states, China, the United States and Abhinandan release tension was defused.
India was exploiting Pakistan’s economic woes to its advantage. Its war-architects’ calculation was that Pakistan would not retaliate owing to the obvious reason that Pakistan cannot sustain war-like situation, not to talk about retaliation. Indian GDP worth is more than $3 trillion while Pakistan’s is about $250 billion. Further, Pakistan has debt to GDP ratio of about 71.4 per cent. Undoubtedly, India can afford $1 billion in war-gaming whereas Pakistan cannot even afford even Rs1 billion keeping in view mounting debts and servicing, low GDP growth (3.3 per cent against 6.2 per cent target for the last fiscal year), etc. Nonetheless, Indian war-architects’ miscalculation caused irreparable loss to themselves. It resulted in hitting their helicopter in friendly-fire, shoot down of two fighter jets and capture of Abhinandan, damage to their reputation at the international diplomatic stage by constant feeding lies such as 300 terrorists killed at Balakot and F-16 shot down by IAF, etc. Apart from that, this miscalculation could have led to accidental war of unimaginable consequences. If India has, out of its madness, launched BrahMos attack to this side of the border, Pakistan must have no option than to retaliate with massive force due to four reasons. One, Indian side’s wishes to subdue Pakistan could have fulfilled and Pakistan was to be dictated by the aggressor in future. Two, it could have set a new normal that any attack on Indian forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir would have resulted in punishing Pakistan through air strikes etc. Three, it should have damaged the very notion of “deterrence” thus rendering nuclear weapons useless even in the context of maintaining security from external threats. Four, Pakistan’s defense forces’ credibility could also have been hurt. Hence, this tit-for-tat could have been highly disastrous not only for both the States but also for the entire world.
Additionally, Indian misadventure has benefitted the Kashmir cause. Earlier it was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. After the Pulwama incident, as both the States have been on the brink of nuclear war, the world has realized that they cannot ignore Kashmir and keep it on the back-burner. In this context, President Trump while meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan on 22 July said, “I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago. We talked about the subject and he actually said, ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?’. I said where, he said ‘Kashmir’.” This episode certainly highlights the fact that the Kashmir issue has been internationalized by India itself. Arundhati Roy believes “Since 1947 the Indian Government has bristled at any suggestion that the conflict in Kashmir could be resolved by international arbitration, insisting that it is an internal matter. By goading Pakistan into a counter-strike, and so making India and Pakistan the only two nuclear powers in history to have bombed each other, Modi has internationalized the Kashmir dispute.”
Hence, it is in the interest of the two countries in particular and of the region in general that India and Pakistan learn a lesson from history to pursue a trajectory of peace by resolving outstanding issues. India must realise that “misadventure” has cost it heavily and further escalations will hurt it too. Therefore, on the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, his India counterpart should also advance towards peace and resolve all the irritants at the table inter alia Kashmir and terrorism. If Japan and America be friends, Germany and France be friends, why cannot Pakistan and India? Despite the fact both the countries cannot afford hostilities then why not to work on confidence building measures like Kartarpur Corridor and talking Kashmir and terrorism even though election session has passed. Seven decades have been wasted in mutual hostilities, why to waste more decades? It is time to learn from the history and move forward in the pursuit of shared goals to eradicate poverty, promote peace and dedicate more investment for human development instead of war-machines.
—The writer is a development sector practitioner with keen interest in domestic and international affairs.