Pakistan-India tension: Diplomatic victory for Pakistan

Imran Khan and VTs Raja Mujtaba, photo by gduff

By Sajjad Shaukat for VT

This week, tension escalated rapidly between India and Pakistan when on February 27, this year, in response to the Indian so-called pre-emptive air strike near the town of Balakot, close to the border with Pakistan’s sector of Kashmir, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) shot down two Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets and launched aerial strikes at six targets in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK).

Addressing a press conference on the same day, Director General of Pakistan Army’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Maj-Gen. Asif Ghafoor said that Pakistan Air Force have conducted aerial strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) from Pakistani airspace and shot down two Indian aircraft. One of the two Indian air force pilots was taken into custody.

Regarding Indian surgical strike, Maj-Gen. Asif Ghafoor elaborated: “There are only mud-brick homes. There is no madrassas. There isn’t even a concrete house…Two of the dried mud structures were damaged in the explosions…No one has been killed, no one has been seriously hurt…Indian planes crossed into the Muzafarabad sector of Pakistani-side of Kashmir…Pakistan scrambled its warplanes and the Indian jets released their payload in haste near Balakot.”

Afterwards, journalists visited the targeted site of Balakot and Islamabad also released a video which exposed the false statements of New Delhi that IAF fighters targeted the camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and killed 350 militants.

But, during the press briefing on February 26, India Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale called the strikes on Pakistani soil “non-military preemptive action”. He refused to answer questions by the media, as he could not show any proof in this respect.

Following the false flag Pulwama terror attack in the Indian Held Kashmir (IHK), which killed 44 Indian soldiers—Islamist militant group JeM claimed responsibility soon for the car suicide attack, New Delhi provoked Islamabad through the so-called surgical strike.

Without any investigation and evidence Indian high officials and media started accusing Islamabad, saying that the attackers had come from Pakistan to stage the assault.

The Indian foreign ministry allegedly said in a statement, “We demand that Pakistan stop supporting terrorists and terror groups operating from their territory and dismantle the infrastructure operated by terrorist outfits to launch attacks in other countries.”

On the other side, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson stated: “We have always condemned acts of violence anywhere in the world…We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations.” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Quereshi also rejected Indian false allegations regarding Pulwama attack.

Speaking to the Indian media, former Chief Minister of the Indian Held Kashmir Farooq Abdullah said: “I was saddened to hear about the deaths of the soldiers…This is not something happening for the first time. These incidents happen everyday there…India should talk with Kashmiris, because using the force of guns and army is not the solution…Don’t blame Pakistan because local people are joining Kashmiri fight” [War of liberation].

Meanwhile, on February 21, 2019, India was humiliated at the diplomatic level when Pakistan’s name was not mentioned in the declaration by the UN Security Council condemning Pulwama attack. New Delhi tried everything possible to involve Pakistan’s name in the statement and tried to use American influence as well. Multiple countries were briefed in New Delhi regarding the attack.

However, various contradictory developments and reports proved that Pulwama terror attack was a false flag operation, conducted by New Delhi to malign Islamabad in order to obtain various designs.

In this regard, quoting the report of the daily Kashmir Times of September 10, 2017, Pakistan’s media and even some leading newspapers of India revealed that the Indian drama was exposed after the disclosure that the alleged suicide attacker of the Pulwama attack Adil Ahmed Dar was already in the custody of the Indian army. “The Indian army had arrested Adil Ahmed Dar during an operation in Shopian on September 10, 2017…It is a big question that how he carried out the suicide attack when he was already in the custody of Indian army.”

Blindly alleging Pakistan, some Indian newspapers, especially India Today wrote: “Intelligence agencies in Jammu and Kashmir believe Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed commander-Ghazi Abdul Rasheed-is the mastermind behind the gruesome Pulwama terror attack that rocked the nation on February 14. He is one of the closest aides of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azha.”

It is notable that religious cleric Abdul Rasheed Ghazi was killed in 2007 during the Lal Masjid operation in Islamabad, launched by the then President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Nevertheless, taking cognizance of Indian blame game and war-like posture, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said on February 19, this year, that Pakistan will take action, if New Delhi shares any actionable evidence, concerning the suicide bombing in the occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama area, which targeted Indian paramilitary soldiers.

Offering cooperation and another chance at a dialogue over the Kashmir issue, the premier had also warned India against any act of aggression, saying Pakistan would not hesitate in retaliating to a provocation.

But, by creating jingoism in India, Indian extremist government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rejected any cooperation with Islamabad and has continued threatening diplomacy against Pakistan.

In a televised address on February 27, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that his country is ready to cooperate with New Delhi into the investigation of the February 14 suicide bombing, claimed by Pakistan-based armed group, JeM which was banned by the government. He called for talks with India and hoped better sense would prevail so that both sides could de-escalate. Khan pointed out: “History tells us that wars are full of miscalculation. My question is that given the weapons [Nuclear] we have can we afford miscalculation.”

India has also handed over its files on the February 14 bombing to Islamabad. Prime Minister Khan on February 28 stated in the joint session of the parliament, “Today they [India] have sent a dossier on Pulwama…They should have given us the dossier first, and if we had not taken action, then they could have taken action.”

In his address, Khan reiterated his call for de-escalation. He explained, “I am saying to India: do not take it further than this. Because whatever you do, Pakistan will be forced to retaliate. And then two countries who have the weapons that the two of us, we should never even think of such a thing.”

Prime Minister Khan also announced the release of Indian captured pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who was attacked by a mob and then saved by Pakistan’s army. He was released on March 1 and handed over to the Indian authorities.

In this context, Khan remarked: “We have an Indian pilot. As a peace gesture we will release him”. Khan also stated, “I tried to call Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi…I wanted to make it clear that we do not want any kind of escalation”. But, Modi did not attend his telephone call.

It is of particular attention that in a rare joint press conference by the top brass of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force on February 28, the top military officers also presented evidence that Pakistan had AMRAAM missiles mounted on its American-made F-16 fighter jets to target Indian military installations.

Concealing ground realities, the press briefing by the Indian military’s high officials appeared to be an apology of the highest order, clueless and confused. They had no answers to the questions of the journalists and even no proof of claimed damage in Balakot strike was presented. They could not provide any evidence of JeM camp and killing of 350 terrorists.

The air force officer said that he cannot comment on it and left it to the civil government. Similarly, no evidence of Pakistani F-16 which they claimed was shot down could be presented in the briefing. While, they confirmed aerial strikes of Pakistan on the Indian Controlled Kashmir by displaying fragments from a missile they claimed matched the Pakistani F-16 fighter jet that purportedly crossed into Indian airspace and was shot down.

Pakistan was quick to claim that it did not use F-16s in the attack and that it had lost no aircraft. However, one of the pictures released by Pakistan showed wreckage of the MiG-21 fighter.

It is worth-mentioning that ISPR said in a statement on February 28, “Pakistan’s armed forces are on high alert along the Line of Control [LoC] and are prepared to deal with any Indian aggression…During the last 48 hours, Indian troops have resorted to increased ceasefire violations in Kotli, Khuiratta and Tatta Pani sectors along LoC…India’s deliberate firing on civilians resulted in the martyrdom of four citizens…Pakistan Army troops responded effectively to the violations and there were reports of casualties to Indian forces and damage to Indian posts”.

Some of Pakistan’s airports remained closed to commercial flights until 6pm local time (13.00 GMT) on March 1.

The operation of a bi-weekly cross-border train service between India’s capital New Delhi and Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore has been temporarily suspended due to the prevailing tensions between the two countries.

Nonetheless, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s move to release the Indian captured pilot was described as a diplomatic victory of Pakistan over India. Many Indian politicians, journalists and renowned persons, including Kashmiri leaders and artists appreciated Khan’s optimistic decision as a peace gesture.

On the other side, India’s 21 opposition parties and famous figures, chief ministers of Delhi, Bengal, puppet chief minister of IoK, civil society groups and artists criticised Modi for continuing his scheduled public events, including an election rally, while staying mum amid a major military stand-off with Pakistan. Nevertheless, it shows Indian diplomatic defeat.

It is mentionable that many Western countries such as US, UK, France, Germany and Russia, including China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have expressed concern at the current situation, urging New Delhi and Islamabad to show restraint and de-escalation.

Particularly, Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state stated that he has spoken with the leaders of India and Pakistan and has urged them to avoid “any action that would escalate and greatly increase risk”.

On February 28, this year, US President Donald Trump has hoped that Pak-India tension will de-escalate soon—the United States has been mediating between the two sides and trying to have them stop.

Earlier, President Trump said on February 22, 2019, “Right now between Pakistan and India, there is a very dangerous situation. We would like to see it [hostilities] stop. We are very much involved in that [process].” Unlike his previous blame game of cross-border terrorism against Pakistan in relation to Afghanistan, Trump also admitted that Washington has improved her relations with Islamabad shortly.

Especially, Russia and some Arab countries, including Turkey and the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern over tensions between Pakistan and India, and have offered their mediatory roles between both the nuclear countries for de-escalation.

Besides, the organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on February 26, condemned India’s incursion against Pakistan, urging the two countries to exercise restraint and avoid any steps that could endanger peace and security in the region. On the same day, in an emergency meeting, the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir expressed grave concern at the rising tensions in South Asia and strongly condemned the recent wave of repression, killing of innocent civilians, and frequent incidents of rape perpetrated by Indian forces in occupied Kashmir.

Notably, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the joint session of parliament on March 1 that he would not attend the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC in Abu Dhabi (Taking place in Abu Dhabi on March 1-2, 2019) over the presence of India’s minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj, adding that lower ranking officials would attend to represent Pakistan’s interests. In fact, India was invited to participate in the conference on February 23, 2019 before the surgical strike and response of Islamabad in this connection.

It is also of particular attention that Indian Prime Minister Modi’s extremist party- BJP had got a land sliding triumph in the Indian elections 2014 on the basis of anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan slogans. Therefore, since the Prime Minister Modi came to power, he has been implementing anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan agenda with the support of fanatic coalition outfits.

Now, double game has become the BJP strategy to win the Indian general elections 2019. In this respect, BJP leadership seems to have geared up its activity for forthcoming poll-2019.

In the aftermath of the false flag Pulwama terror assault, New Delhi also launched a diplomatic offensive to isolate Pakistan in the international community. But, India herself was isolated, as world’s major countries held India responsible for heightening the tension with Pakistan through surgical strike. Besides, Kashmir issue has been internationalized to a greater extent, as Indian security forces have accelerated state terrorism on the innocent Kashmiris who are waging war of liberation and are demanding their right of self-determination, recognized by the related UNO resolutions.

In fact, without bothering for nuclear war, in the aftermath of the terror attack in Pulwama, India is deliberately increasing war hysteria against Pakistan.

It is noteworthy after the World War 11; nuclear weapons were never used, and were only employed as a strategic threat. During the heightened days of the Cold War, many crises arose in Suez Canal, Korea, Cuba and Vietnam when the US and the former Soviet Union were willing to use atomic weapons, but they stopped because of the fear of nuclear war which could eliminate both the super powers. Hence, the two rivals preferred to resolve their differences through diplomacy.

In the past too, Indian rulers had intended to implement their doctrine of limited war in Kashmir or to fight a conventional war with Pakistan, but they could not do so owing to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

Unlike the former Soviet Union and the USA, war-like situation exists between New Delhi and Islamabad due to the perennial firing by the Indian forces across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary in wake of the unresolved issue of Kashmir which remains a nuclear flashpoint. And both the neighbouring countries have waged three wars on this dispute.

In the present circumstances, BJP-led fanatic government of Modi is badly mistaken, if it overestimates India’s power and underestimates Pakistan’s power. In this case, a prolonged conflict with conventional weapons could result into atomic war between the two countries.

Taking note of the Indian war-like posture, Prime Minister Imran Khan on February 27, chaired a meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA) to discuss a response to India’s Line of Control violation. The meeting was attended by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chiefs of all three services. The NCA is the apex civilian-led command headed by the prime minister to oversee the policy formulation, exercises, deployment, research and development, employment and operational command and control of the country’s nuclear arsenals.

Unlike India, Pakistan’s ruling party, opposition parties, members of civil societies and military are on one page regarding Indian aggression.

In this connection, on March 1, the joint sitting of the Pakistan’s parliament in demonstration of unity against any external aggression, passed a unanimous resolution strongly condemning the blatant Indian aggression of 26th and 27th of February against the country and the parliamentary leaders said that they are standing shoulder to shoulder to the armed forces of Pakistan.

The resolution completely rejected India’s self-serving and fictitious claims of having destroyed alleged terrorist facility—pointed out that facts on the grounds clearly contradict India’s false claim and so have been testified by independent observers. The resolution noted that timely and effective action of the Pakistan Air Force repulsed the Indian attack without loss of life and property—India’s baseless allegations against Pakistan in the wake of Pulwama attack were politically—the Indian government’s subsequent action has been guided by its electoral calculations.

Strongly condemning the Indian atrocities in the IHK, the resolution rejected the India’s attempt to project the legitimate Kashmiri struggle for self-determination as terrorism. It reiterated that Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute, pending on the agenda of the UN Security Council due to Indian intransigence.

It underscored that a just and peaceful solution of Kashmir dispute. The resolution mentioned Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call to avoid further escalation and urged the parliament of India to support the call by this joint session of Pakistani parliament for de-escalation and dialogue between Pakistan and India.

Undoubtedly, we can conclude that peaceful strategy of Prime Minister Imran Khan and belligerent policy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have culminated into diplomatic victory of Pakistan over India.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations



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