Pakistan and India have been at odds at each other since each nation gained its independence back in 1947.
The flashpoint then, as it has been for the past so many decades, has been the status of Kashmir and its people. Wars had started with both sides claiming victory of sorts in each of the battles.
But for a people who are essentially from the same stock that was colonised by the British back in 1747 and whose rule extended for almost 200 years, the conflicts speak of many unfulfilled promises and broken treaties.
From the beginning when independence was finally announced there were massive communal deaths from both sides, which did not bode well for ease of relations.
With successive wars in 1965 and 1971 when Pakistan lost the eastern portion of its nation which subsequently became Bangladesh, relations have yo-yoed back and forth between these two nuclear powers. The Kargil conflict of 1999 was another military adventure that fortunately did not spread into a wider conflict.
When Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan came into power not so long ago, there were signs of encouragement that the neighbours would begin a new era of peace and harmony, so important for the region and its people.
Perhaps Modi’s ill-advised and publicised bravado was a mask against rising opposition to some of his recent and widely seen as divisive policies including the notorious CAB, the new citizenship law that has millions of Indians demonstrating against it
Pakistan began with a series of positive moves such as opening borders for Hindu and Sikh devotees to shrines located within the country.
It began cracking down on suspected bands of terrorists, the most recent being Hafiz Saeed, a religious group leader who had long been suspected of being the man behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Ten Pakistani gunmen who were believed to be connected to Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Saeed’s group, infiltrated the city of Mumbai and, armed with automatic weapons and grenades, set about to spread mayhem throughout the city.
In total, at least 174 people, including 20 security force personnel and 26 foreign nationals were killed. More than 300 people were injured. Nine of the 10 terrorists were killed, and one was arrested. The lone gunman was eventually executed by the Indian authorities back in 2012.
Stamping out terror
The imprisonment of Hafiz Saeed was an encouraging sign by the Pakistani government who had vowed to speak softly but carry a big stick in their efforts to stamp out terrorism.
“Hafiz Saeed and another of his close aides have been sentenced in two cases of terrorism financing,” Pakistani prosecutor Abdul Rauf Watto told reporters gathering outside the courtroom.
This is a significant step in the country’s new chapter of fighting militant groups that spawned during the decades of conflicts between two superpowers, the US and the erstwhile USSR during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and later on when the US went to war in Afghanistan, following the September 11 attacks.
In the same week that Hafiz Saeed was sent off packing to jail, a French media outlet reported that India’s prime Minister Narendra Modi had asserted during the Annual PM’s National Cadet Corps (NCC) Rally 2020 at Cariappa Parade Ground in New Delhi that India would now make Pakistan ‘bite the dust’; if a war was to break out.
“Pakistan has already lost three wars. Our armed forces will not take more than 7-10 days to make Pakistan bite the dust,” Modi said in the address.
Point of no return
Perplexing as it may sound, any outbreak of war in today’s environment will serve as a flashpoint of no return. Modi is unwise to believe that Pakistan will sit back and watch while he pulverises them off into the dust. They will respond and most likely hard and the resulting destruction would be painful to both countries as well as those bordering them.
Perhaps Modi’s ill-advised and publicised bravado was a mask against rising opposition to some of his recent and widely seen as divisive policies including the notorious CAB, the new citizenship law that has millions of Indians demonstrating against it. Or maybe Modi is trying to take the pressure off his government for the poor showing of the economy which has reached its lowest performance in several years.
Whatever it is, it is not words that should be publicly expressed at this time. Leaders should look towards bringing nations together rather than indulge in a fanciful war of words. The media on both sides picks upon such statements and adds escalating and aggressive rhetoric that does not bode well for peace. Any major war between the two countries will have a massive impact on both sides. There will be no winners.
Instead, wisdom should prevail and politicians should begin to speak and act responsibly in the peaceful interest of their people.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena