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The Pulwama Crisis

The Pulwama Crisis

Now is the time for diplomatic efforts

The bilateral ties between Pakistan and India have been characterized by crises of different magnitudes and natures. The hostilities are deep-rooted and well-entrenched, affecting every segment of society. The historical legacy of defective partition plan including Kashmir dispute, psychological trauma of partition and massacre; nerve-wrecking competition over strategic and economic interests; weaponization of anti-state sentiments as proxies to destabilize each other; India’s hegemonic designs to dominate South Asia and Pakistan’s counterbalancing acts in different domains; unremitting war-mongering and jingoism shown by Indian media; religious fanaticism and militant nationalism are some of the underlying factors that are seemingly intractable and insurmountable impediments in the way of achieving peaceful coexistence of these two neighbours. Out of all these destabilizing factors, Kashmir fundamentally accounts for triggering all active confrontations – excluding Fall of Dhaka – between the two nuclear-armed neighbours: The war of 1948 involved direct intervention of Indian and Pakistani armies in occupation of territories of Jammu and Kashmir; Gen Ayub-led, poorly orchestrated Operation Gibraltar ignited full-blown war of 1965; and Kargil Operation through which Pak Army attempted to gain strategic advantage to better monitor the mobilization of Indian army in Indian-occupied Kashmir, all highlight the centrality of Kashmir dispute in this topsy-turvy relationship.

Latest addition to an already exhaustive list of crises between India and Pakistan is the Pulwama suicide attack and the Balakot ‘surgical strike’. As usual, the underlying force was Kashmir that brought both nations to the brink of an Armageddon. The Pulwama attack of 14th February claimed the lives of 40+ troops of Central Reserves Police Force (CRPF) which provided fuel for series of actions and reactions on the part of India and Pakistan. Despite the valid questions that underline the false flag nature of Pulwama attack designed to benefit Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the upcoming general election, the attack was an unprecedented phenomenon in Kashmir as it indicated the ever-growing, rampant frustration among Kashmiri youth. In post-Burhan Wani era, Indian Army’s worst brutalities have resuscitated the indigenous Kashmiri armed struggle against India. The funerals of martyred freedom fighters are well-attended; encounter sites are thronged to provide safe passage to the mujahideen and the ranks of Kashmiris organizations are reinforced continuously. Ajit Doval’s muscular approach to suppress Kashmiris is backfiring owing to increased unease and frustration with the presence of Indian armed forces. In this backdrop, it is not a surprise that a youth, who has been subjected to worst form of barbarism by Indian forces – as reported by BBC, New York Times and other international media outlets – decided to deploy the ultimate weapon of most persecuted minorities: suicide attacks. A growing pile of circumstantial evidence points to the indigenous nature of suicide attack and substantiates the stance taken by the sane elements in India as well as the world community that denial of right of self-determination is the sole cause of resentment in Kashmiri youth against the Indian state.

The recent surge in tension started with the killing of 40 CRPF personnel in a suicide attack on their convoy in Pulwama. The incident sent shockwaves across India and war-frenzied media began demanding punitive strikes on alleged training centres of Jaish-e-Muhammad in Pakistan. The war-hysteria reached to such an extent that Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, had to deliver a speech, asking India to give actionable evidence. Indian media’s unending war-mongering and jingoism compelled Indian government to not share any evidence. On the other hand, the leaders of the ruling BJP, a Hindu-nationalist party, started beating war drums and moved ahead to launching a strike inside Pakistan in sheer violation of the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty. On February 26, warplanes of Indian Air Force (IAF) attempted to violate Sialkot, Okara-Bahawalpur and Muzaffarabad sectors. However, upon effective scrambling from Air Combat Units of Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Indian jets retreated hastily but they dropped off their payload haphazardly which fell in Jabba, near Balakot. Pakistan’s political and military leadership termed it an act of aggression and sheer violation of international law that warranted a befitting response.

On the next morning, Pakistan retaliated. PAF fighter jets chose six targets including Indian army’s brigade headquarters in Indian-occupied Kashmir. IAF jets tried to respond but in the process PAF pilots shot down two Indian jets and captured one pilot Abhinandan Varthaman alive. By attacking Indian-occupied territories, Pakistan delivered its message loud and clear: ‘We have the right, the will and the capability to respond to any act of aggression at the time and place of our choosing.’

The night of 27th February was perhaps the most dreadful in the history of Indo-Pak ties when the nuclear-armed countries operationalized their warheads and mobilized their nuclear arsenals for any eventuality. Indian armed forces, with close collaboration of Israel, planned to fire BrahMos missile with conventional payload to target Karachi and Bahawalpur with an aim to attain upper hand against Pakistan. However, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, ISI, forestalled the attack with advanced intelligence and conveyed Indians that if they resort to any misadventure, a retaliatory attack on mainland India will come. India pulled back and the next day, Pakistan announced to release captured Indian pilot unconditionally as a peace gesture and to de-escalate the tensions, as well as for projecting Pakistan’s positive image as a peace-loving country. The sudden announcement provided a boost to international community’s de-escalation efforts. Now that India has received its captured pilot and is celebrating the so-called surgical strikes – boasting also the downing of a Pakistani F-16 (equally ludicrous claim) – and self-proclaimed diplomatic victory, it seems that Narendra Modi has now decided to go for de-escalation and stay content with ‘incursion of Pakistan airspace’ and ‘downing of PAF’s F-16′, the evidence of which he is yet to share.

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