Wednesday, February 27, 2019

India, Pakistan on the edge again

There is only question many Indians and Pakistanis are asking now: Is the tit-for-tat armed combat on the border over, or will we see an escalation? My prayers are two-fold: one, may the conflict not escalate. Two, may the cause of the conflict be resolved once and for all.

The troubles began right on the night the two nations were born in August 1947. The first war broke out just after two months. The second in 1965, and the third 1971. After this, there was low-level warfare in 1999. Then in 2001, there was heavy troop buildup and a fullscale conflict was narrowly averted.

At the centre of it is the status of the border state Kashmir. A part of it is with India and the other is with Pakistan. The unresolved issue is not just an open wound; it's been bleeding, and bleeding badly all these years; a source of great pain for both the nations.

It's extremely sad that when Pakistan leadership (just as the rest of world too) knows very well that Pakistan itself is a victim of terrorism, and that there are many radical organisations with violent ideologies within Pakistan's borders, neither Pakistan itself, nor other nations (US, UK, Russia, China etc.) do anything about it. 

India has been always saying talks and terror can't go together. But still, out of goodwill, in between wars and terror attacks, India has initiated a number of confidence-building measures over many decades, by separating the people-to-people interactions from the larger political and military issues. But all these years, Pakistan has simply not reciprocated them.

Take the latest incident. On February 14, there was a terror attack in Pulwama, when a bomb-laden truck rammed into a convoy of paramilitary soldiers; and Pakistan-based militant organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility. India asked Pakistan to do something about it.

If Pakistan had been sincere in its desire to end violence and ring in peace, it would have done something, at least now, with a new Prime Minister Imran Khan at the helm who promised a 'New Pakistan'. It didn't do anything. Not even a condemnation of the incident.

And India was forced to act yesterday -- a terror camp in Pakistan was hit by Indian Air Force jets. It provoked Pakistan which retaliated today by targeting Indian military assets. Luckily, the Pak jet was brought down. India lost a fighter jet in this first air-to-air combat between the two nations after 1971. The pilot of the Indian fighter is in the custody of Pakistan.

A military route will not be the end solution. So, India must explore all other avenues -- diplomatic, political, social, economic and cultural -- to make Pakistan realise that it has to put an end to harbouring and encouraging radical and militant ideologies that threaten peace not just in India and its neighbourhood but the world at large. I hope and pray we all will see that day sooner than later.