Pakistan On The Bind

Pakistan seems to be in a state of paranoia following the ‘pre-emptive non-military strikes by India in Balakot, Muzaffarabad and Chakoti on the early hours of 26th February. No sooner had the Indian Foreign Secretary announced to the world about the strikes, Pakistan was jolted. The reactions from the political and military class as well as the media in Pakistan were along expected lines. However, the world knows the reasons behind India’s pre-emptive strike. Paksitan’s airspace is closed, transport has been cancelled, hospitals have been asked to remain prepared and also food-stuff are being hoarded; in the event of any military escalation with India. However, its civil and military establishment are now calling for bilateral talks with India. This is the oft-repeated jingle that India has heard from across its western borders. India’s firm yet unequivocally stance is terror and talks don’t go together.

On Wednesday, India shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16 aircraft that had intruded into Indian airspace. An IAF Wing Commander was drawn into an ‘air ambush’ and seems to have crossed into Pakistani airspace. Later, he was shown by the Pakistani TV channels in a condition that is unacceptable. India has called for the return of the Indian Air Force officer. The Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said,“India strongly objects to Pakistan’s vulgar display of the injured personnel of the Indian Air Force in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention. It has been made clear to Pakistan to ensure that no harm comes to the Indian defence personnel in its custody. India also expects his immediate and safe return”.

Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner in New Delhi Syed Haider Shah was summoned by India. He was informed about India’s objections to the violation of the Line of Control (LoC). India lodged a strong protest at the unprovoked act of aggression by Pakistan against India, including by violation of the Indian air space by Pakistan Air Force and targeting of Indian military posts.

This is in contrast to the India’s non-military anti-terror pre-emptive strike at a JeM terrorist camp in Balakot on 26 February 2019. It is unfortunate that instead of fulfilling its international obligation and bilateral commitment to take credible action against terrorist entities and individuals operating from its soil, Pakistan has acted with aggression against India.

 It was clearly conveyed to Pakistan that India reserves the right to take firm and decisive action to protect its national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity against any act of aggression or cross-border terrorism.

New Delhi also regretted the continuing denial by Pakistan’s political and military leadership about the presence of terrorist infrastructure in territories under its control. A dossier was handed over to Pakistan side with specific details of JeM complicity in Pulwama terror attack and the presence of JeM terror camps and its leadership in Pakistan. It was conveyed that India expects Pakistan to take immediate and verifiable action against terrorism emanating from territories under its control.

Meanwhile, international pressure is building up on Islamabad to de-escalate. The US, UK and France are jointly moving a motion in the UN Security Council for seizing the assets of the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror outfit. The move could be a big blow to Pakistan. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who spoke to Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureishi, ‘firmly asked’ Islamabad to take “meaningful action against terrorist groups operating in Pakistani territory after India’s counter-terrorism action against it”. Secretary Pompeo also spoke with India’s External Affairs Minister and ‘emphasized the close security partnership between India and the US’. The US Secretary of State said New Delhi and Washington share the goal of maintaining peace and security in the region.

Clearly, the onus is on Pakistan for de-escalating the situation. Pakistan Prime Minister should know that ‘the game of war is not a game of cricket’.

Script: KAUSHIK ROY, AIR: Strategic Affairs Analyst