A responsible state: Pakistan’s post-Pulwama behaviour
The writer is a Karachi-based security analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com
By all standards, the Pulwama terrorist attack can’t be supported. However, not surprisingly, the Indian side did not take even a second breath to accuse the Pakistani state behind executing the said attack which cost precious lives of Indian active forces, leaving aside their atrocities in India-occupied Kashmir. Pakistan not only condemned the incident but also offered evidence based tangible joint investigations, an indicator of a responsible nation-state. The Narendra Modi government in India which is subjected to fear of losing in its upcoming elections naturally created hype of the attack being their old traditional political anti-Pakistani rhetoric that unfortunately has been instrumental in winning the hearts and minds of hardliner Hindu community associated with India’s BJP. It is also a known fact that all Hindus in India are not fanatic and thus do not want to be indulged in an anti-Pakistan rhetoric. There are so many numbers of Hindus who are moderate and peace-loving, but somehow or the other hawks overcome their voices as mostly the perception making tool the Indian media is dominated by hardliners.
Without getting prejudiced, even a simple student of international relations would understand that Pulwama incident by no means has gained any advantage for Pakistan. Only three reasons would be enough to substantiate the argument, first, the Saudi Crown Prince was due in Pakistan two days after the Pulwama attack in which no state with so much of economic expectations could indulge in such an adventure, two, Pakistan’s political and military leadership are focused on economic stability after having brought the most difficult War on Terror (WoT) in the history of fourth generation warfare to a logical end, third, Pakistani premier’s resolve “not to let the Pakistani soil used by any terrorist element to plan or conduct terrorist activity against any state.” Yet India built a war-like scenario and threatened Pakistan with dire consequences without any evidence. The Indian political leadership, perhaps, had two main aims behind their state approach. One, to divert the attention of Indian and international masses from Indian armed forces’ atrocities in response to indigenous independence movement in IoK whose intensity exponentially increased post-Burhan Wani killing and secondly, of course the political gains in terms of winning polls using the Pakistan card.
Sequentially, as expected the Indian armed forces especially the air force succumbed to the Indian political/hawkish media pressures and tried to challenge the sovereignty of Pakistan through air violations, which were successfully repulsed. Naturally, a response was definitely needed to keep the morale of the Pakistan Armed Forces and nation to utmost level. Now here comes the test of Pakistani political and military leadership. The dilemma was ‘not to let the situation escalate and at the same time keep the nation’s morale high’. Pakistan, being a rationale actor in the community of nations, took almost all possible textbook-like actions to address the dilemma.
Secondly, the Pakistani military leadership exercised maximum restraint by not indulging in carrying out destruction-based responsive conventional strike and instead opted for firing warning shots next to the intended six targets which if destroyed would have pained the Indians most thus could result into spiralling up the escalation ladder. The approach demonstrated the Pakistani military’s confidence in their capacities besides making friends and foes to believe that the armed forces have both brightest brains as well as toughest fighters. Moreover, the treatment extended to the Indian captured pilots is being appreciated not only domestically but on the other side of the border too, duly demonstrating restraint.
Thirdly, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech to the nation after the NCA meeting was not threat based rather truly of a confident and peace-loving national leader. While mentioning the captured Indian pilots, he did not use the words ‘Prisoner of War’ rather opted to say ‘they are with us’. It reflects that Pakistan still does not consider that Pakistan is at war with its eastern neighbour. Interestingly, Prime Minister Imran Khan yet again reiterated to hold joint investigations and offered dialogue even on the issue of terrorism. Pakistan-India composite dialogue is stalemated since 2012, which could get a kick-start with Imran’s offer. Apparently, the sense has prevailed, which the Pakistani premier had asked for. Statement from Indian Foreign Minister Shushma Swaraj about not escalating the military situation is a welcome step towards bringing back stability in the region which the international commentators refer to be a ‘fragile’ one.
Fourth, the Pakistani Foreign Office played dynamically and got statements in favour of Pakistan’s peace hugging approach. Statements from the OIC, UN and EU forums, the UK, US, Saarc countries especially the only Hindu state, Nepal, are a few to refer.
Lastly, there is no winner in war especially when it is between the two arch nuclear-equipped rivals. Humanity is the biggest loser, as the Pakistani premier highlighted. Perhaps few would be left to guess who had success. Only a sane leadership would opt for using the nuclear option, yet when sovereignty is at stake, Pakistani doctrine of First Use might see the day light. India must not try to call the bluff with respect to Pakistani nuclear capability and threshold, especially when the Pakistani premier’s clear stance post-Pulwama could not be called a bluff. Sanity should prevail on both sides and let’s give peace a chance.