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Pulwama crisis

Junaid Jhandad
HUMANITY was struck with catastrophe on 14th Feb, 2019 when an exasperated young local Kashmiri, aged between 19 and 21, claimed the lives of more than 40 Indian paramilitary forces in a suicide attack. The suicide attack not merely portrayed that Kashmiri freedom fighters have been persuaded, due to the suppressive policies of Indian regime, to use extreme mode of ferocity as a last resort. Rather, the attack also depicted loss of hope in humanity, international law, norms, and international regimes, and an alteration in Kashmir’s freedom movement. The attack, also, brought two nuclear armed states on the brink of an apocalyptic war. Though the attack was orchestrated by a Kashmir based freedom organization, yet, astonishingly within few minutes, India laid the responsibility of this incident at the door of Pakistan. Blaming and shaming poured in and tension skyrocketed. Warmongering and irrational Indian media, a few fanatics within and outside the government offices were demanding a befitting retaliatory strike on Pakistan. Consequently, India was left with no option rather than conducting or staging a so-called surgical strike on Pakistan. Hence, to no one’s surprise, according to India’s official version, on 26th February Indian fighter jets attacked a terrorist training camp operated by the Pakistani-based group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
India claimed that Indian fighter jets crossed the Line of Control (LOC) before dawn and carried out “non-military, pre-emptive air strikes” within Pakistan to target a training camp of the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed. The so-called bogus, as evident from international media reports and observers, Indian surgical strike ratcheted up already high tension between the nuclear-armed belligerents, that both administer parts of the disputed territory but each claims it entirely. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s official account was quite altered as compared to India’s stance on the professed “non-military, pre-emptive air strike”. According to Pakistan’s official statements, Indian air jets did violate Pakistan’s airspace. Nonetheless, they dropped the payload in an uninhabited forest located in Balakout in order to swiftly fly back to their own airspace due to prompt response of PAF fighter jets.
Furthermore, on 27th February the State of Pakistan signalled its capability, credibility and will with the assistance of quite rational and prudent retaliatory action in which Pakistan Air Force’s fighter jets hit several deserted lands near Indian military targets without violating the Line of Control (LoC). This retaliatory action by Pakistan, whose imperative intent was not more than portraying its will and capability of striking back rather than actually hitting back, resulted in downing of Indian jets, which violated the LoC amid Pakistan’s illustration of will and capability. Resultantly, Pakistan incarcerated an Indian pilot during all this fiasco between India and Pakistan. Fortunately, the imprisoned Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, proved to be a positive turn in the crisis as Pakistan, while manoeuvring rather cautiously and pragmatically, decided to release apprehended Indian pilot as a “peace gesture”. This provided a human face to the standoff and helped to defuse tension.
Nevertheless, the existing and prevailing verbal standstill further inflated when the hawkish and warmongering Indian Administration further intensified its threatening and dogmatic statements towards Pakistan instead of welcoming Pakistan’s gesture of peace. The irrationality of Indian administration in particular and its media in general could be gauged from their hawkish, irrational and threatening statements. Amid this squabble, intense cross boarder firing was constantly observed between both nuclear-armed vying states. Though Pakistan’s Premier Imran Khan stated time and again that both countries, that possess immense destructive weapons, cannot afford to further exacerbate the escalation, yet Indian officials did not withdraw their jingoistic statements. Though, Pakistan and India should have exercised extreme prudence, as both states possess nuclear weapons and rationality is essential ingredient of deterrence. As a matter of fact, it was purely Pakistan which acted quite rationally and pragmatically throughout the warmongering situation. Moreover, deterrence is inevitable between two nuclear-armed states, if failed then it could trigger an apocalyptic scenario for both the states in particular and for the region in general. Nuclear conflict would be very disastrous for rest of the world and has highly dangerous and spillover effect.
Precisely, even if there will be a limited nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India more than 21 million people will be killed in the first week from “blast effects, burns and acute radiation”. An additional “two billion people worldwide would face risk of severe starvation. Studies have estimated that regional nuclear war could lead to the death of some two billion people worldwide. One might be cognizant of the term the ‘Nuclear Winter’ which means that India and Pakistan will not be able to grow crops for 20 years. Cancer would be more common than the common flu. An estimated 15 megatons of black carbon will be released into the upper troposphere. It would take about a week for the smoke to reach North America and about two weeks to cover the entire earth. No one in the entire planet would be safe. As both states have fought three wars over 70 years, maintain a near-constant state of military readiness along their border and have little formal government-to-government dialogue. Given these facts, war hysteria between the two most antagonistic nuclear neighbours, could have easily escalated to an all-out war if Pakistan has not manoeuvred meticulously. To put it in a nutshell, Pakistan’s rationality saved the entire world from devastating and perilous incident i.e. Nuclear Winter. World leading journals and leaders rightly and magnificently spoke high of Pakistan’s big heartedness and Pakistan did showcase and portray herself as a highly responsible nuclear state.
— The writer is Lecturer, IR department, National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad.