PRIME Minister Imran Khan, on April 06, aptly criticised India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for whipping up war hysteria in an attempt to win more seats in the general election. Pakistan and India were almost on the brink of war when earlier in February both countries launched tit for tat air strikes. India is going through its general election and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking another term. Having failed to deliver on many accounts, the BJP is campaigning on a hawkish national security platform, especially towards Pakistan. Recent meeting of the Indian Cabinet Committee on Defence was quite intriguing. Session was presided over by the Indian Prime Minister and also attended by all 3 Indian service chiefs who stated that they were ready to act against Pakistan and only required a political nod. Responding, PM Modi said that he had granted them free hand and they already had his permission. Indian military chiefs said that they have already selected targets, which are military in nature and are not necessarily restricted to AJK, but can go beyond AJK.
This indicates that India is taking escalation to a new level. Pakistan has aptly warned Delhi against any misadventure. Indian Deputy High Commissioner was summoned to the Foreign Office to receive a strong demarche. It’s surprising that no official denial was issued by India. This is a very dangerous game being played by India, yet once again. Pakistan consistently supports the peaceful political Kashmiri struggle. It believes that it is their legitimate political and moral right which is being brutally repressed. Pakistan’s stance is reflective of over a dozen UN resolutions of Kashmir. India has resorted to continuous firing and provocation at the LoC before and especially after the Pulwama incident, targeting Pakistan’s civilian population.
Popularity gain that the Indian government wanted through Pulwama and the ensuing propaganda has backfired. Yet, misleading and erratic statements are continuously pouring out from India aimed at intensifying war frenzy. Government of Narendra Modi is risking peace and stability of the whole region for politicking and electioneering. There is reliable intelligence assessment that India is hatching a new plan for aggression against Pakistan. This could happen in between 16-20 April. A new incident like Pulwama may be staged in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK). The objective could be to use such an incident to increase diplomatic pressure on Pakistan and justify another spate of Indian aggression. BJP thinks that such an action would boost its vote count. Pakistan aptly decided to share this information publically in order to appraise the international community, expose Indian-designs and keep Pakistani people duly informed. Pakistan immediately brought this to the knowledge of P-5 Ambassadors through a formal briefing. The Foreign Secretary appraised them of concerns, urging the international community to take notice of this irresponsible behaviour and restrain India from embarking on this path.
Post Pulwama Indian narrative and propaganda stands amply exposed. And it is not Pakistan but the international media which has exposed it. Modi government tried to gain Indian public sympathy on three accounts namely: India alleged that it struck 3 terrorist camps inside Pakistan through surgical strikes. The world saw there were no terrorist camp. India failed to show any camp through satellite imagery. The world just saw 4 holes and some damaged trees due to Indian bombs, but the camps India claimed were not seen by anyone. Their second allegation was targeting and killing more than 350 terrorists. They could not show even one dead body, could not provide footage of even one funeral, nor show injured in hospitals. Their third allegation was that they shot down a PAF F-16 which Pakistan denied. Now, Foreign Policy magazine has reported, and US has verified, that no PAF F-16 was affected or shot down. The count of F-16s is complete and verified.
During post Pulwama days, Indian attitude has been aggressive whereas Pakistan followed a conciliatory approach. Pakistan unilaterally decided to hand over the captured Indian pilot in a goodwill gesture. The message put across to India was that Pakistan will not tolerate any act of aggression against its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Pakistan showed a gesture of peace and goodwill to deescalate the situation by returning the captured Indian pilot. The world observed these developments closely and appreciated the conduct and the decision of Pakistan. Even during these difficult times, Pakistan decided to send its delegation to discuss the operationalization of Kartarpur Corridor to India. As a result of this meeting, meaningful progress was made on Kartarpur initiative of Pakistan and it was decided with mutual consent that next meeting will be held in Pakistan on 02 April to bring it to its logical conclusion. But, unfortunately India cancelled the meeting on flimsy grounds. Now this meeting will be held on 16 April, hopefully the things would move in right direction.
In another goodwill initiative Pakistan has released 360 Indian captives/fishermen unilaterally. India is yet to reciprocate. World must observe Pakistan’s positive approach to post-Pulwama events and the obstinate behaviour of India. Both countries have issues which need resolution. Jammu & Kashmir dispute, water issues, Sir Creek, Siachen, economic relations, all these remain unresolved and Pakistan believes they could only be resolved by dialogue. Two nuclear powers connected by geography cannot think of any other way to resolve disputes – to even consider any other option would be disastrous. India will hopefully understand this. One does not expect statesmanship maturity from incumbent India government to become a part of immediate dialogue with Pakistan. However, if post-election Indian government wishes to resolve all issues through dialogue, it will find Pakistan forthcoming to join the process.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.