India-Pakistan Tensions: Diplomacy, and Not Brinkmanship, is the Best Response

There are at least four reasons why the post-Pulwama situation requires Pakistan's measured assessment of the action and reaction, careful responses to India and other major nations. Equally important would be urgent action against all those non-state actors that have adversely impacted Pakistan’s image abroad.

Posted on 02/26/19
By Imtiaz Gul | Via Daily Times
Pakistan has put its air force on red alert amidst report of troops reinforcement by it and India. The image is of JF 17 Thunder that Pakistan has jointly developed with China. (Photo Rob Schleiffert, CC license)

The events surrounding the Indian aircraft incursions into the Pakistani territory have two distinct dimensions; first, this indeed provided PM Modi and most Indians to thump their chests for the “first ever act of bravery that embarrassed Pakistan.”

 

The second relates to the international reaction; the immediate advice out of Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union, New York, the headquarters of the UN, and Beijing was to urge both India and Pakistan for restraint. Even Australia joined the chorus by asking both to avoid any action which would endanger peace and security in the region and engage in dialogue.

 

In a statement, foreign minister Marise Payne said, “Pakistan must do everything possible to implement its own proscription of Jaish-e-Mohammed. It can no longer allow extremist groups the legal and physical space to operate from its territory,” she said.

 

There are at least four reasons why the post-Pulwama situation requires measured assessment of the action and reaction, careful responses to India and other major nations. Equally important would be urgent action against all those non-state actors that have adversely impacted Pakistan’s image abroad.

 

Firstly, should we see this as an embarrassment to Pakistan, or as a step that puts the onus of responsibility for escalation on India?

 

I would opt for the latter because the violations, that followed offers of cooperation by Prime Minister Imran Khan immediately after the Feb 14 Pulwama attack, paint India in negative light.

 

Also, why should it be an embarrassment in view of the speeds of jets ( Mirage 2000 can fly at 2,500 kilometers an hour) and the close distances involved ( say between the Line of Control and Balakot)? Its not even 100 aerial kilometers and Mirage fighters can cover this in a couple of minutes. These short distances over mountains and hills provide work only to the advantage of the fast-flying intruding aircraft.

 

The military high command thus has rightly rejected the Indian claim of having been in the Pakistani airspace for nearly 20 minutes. But this certainly does not exonerate the security apparatus of its responsibility in this hi-tech age.

 

Secondly, by choosing to mount a diplomatic offensive, Pakistan has done the right thing and by implication retains the high moral ground in a crisis-prone situation. This, however, should not obscure the fact that, despite Pakistan’s categorical denunciation of terrorism and terror-proponents, not a single country has condemned India for the “preemptive strikes,” which is a brazen violation of sovereignty by the Indian jets.

 

Says will request to “re-evaluate” it’s decision of inviting foreign minister of as “guest of honor” to address the group’s upcoming meeting of council of foreign ministers in UAE because India aggressed against an OIC founding member.

 

Thirdly, undertaking this attack, India has embraced the US theory of “preemptive strikes” but in its exuberance it probably overlooked the fact that the US is 14000 kms away from all the fronts it opened abroad ( Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan). But India and Pakistan are bound by a common border, which entails severe risks for both neighbors. None of them is insulated against consequences of any misadventure.

 

Following Indian violations “Preemptive strikes” can now become an acceptable norm. India initiated it and hence the onus rests on it.

 

Fourth, the incident has come as a blessing in disguise in times of extreme political polarization. Pakistan in general should thank PM Modi for having once again unified all political forces here. It would now depend on how smartly can the top leadership utilize the current circumstances to the country’s advantage.

 

Fifth, Pakistan obviously has to weigh the possible fall-out for on economy of its “befitting response and retaliation.” That is why common sense demands extreme care, even if provoked by mad actions.

 

Lastly, the best recourse for PM Khan is to directly contact the presidents of US, Turkey, Russia – and more importantly, China to apprise them of his position on the recent events.

 

Direct engagement with world leaders will have a direct bearing on the way foreign media projects Pakistan. And the demand of the hour is to work on improving the country’s perception by peddling peace, and not displaying brinkmanship.

 

This article was published in Daily Times. Click here to go to the original.

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