Peace between India and Pakistan, the real, tangible, deep-seated peace, which is strong enough to dissuade warmongers attempts to ignite crisis, is but an elusive chimera that tempts but shies away at the slightest touch.
And that real peace is what would benefit both countries, especially the people, more than any short-term advantages of scoring futile political points. There is no doubt in Pakistan that when Prime Minister Imran Khan recently asked his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to “give peace a chance”, in response to Modi’s comments, he was reiterating the genuine desire of the Pakistani nation.
Modi’s public reminder to Khan to standby his promise to fight alongside India against poverty and illiteracy is a step back from the insanity of the past few weeks following the targeting of Indian soldiers in the Pulwama attack.
But while the leadership in both countries toned down the rhetoric, tension still remains high. Airspace violations by Indian jets has upped the ante. War is a real possibility and any accidental transgression by trigger happy elements on either side could be the catalyst. However, air force incursions, especially in a highly-charged environment do not happen by chance. This is worrisome. War is not an option even if it’s started with the intent of being a brief, limited strike endeavour.
Wars have a tendency to escalate, any loss is compounded and becomes the driving force for reprisals. Wars between nuclear armed states that happen to share borders is worse. Come to think about it, there have been no wars between nuclear armed states actually, no direct confrontation, only proxy wars fought far off in third states that serve the battleground for misplaced ideologies and race for hegemony. It would be sheer insanity for Pakistan and India to set a historical precedent in this case. Disaster. Irrespective of the disparity in size and strength of conventional forces, nuclear war becomes the leveller, and the annihilator. Does anyone in India or Pakistan want that?
Indians baying for blood argue that they have suffered enough at the hands of terrorism perpetrated by Pakistan and it needs to be taught a lesson. And when attempts to isolate and strangle Pakistan compounded by threats of stopping water flowing from eastern rivers into Pakistani soil flounder, the only option left is war. But is it? And does this disillusioned lot even think of the consequences of war?
Khan does not have the luxury to procrastinate in this case. He has promised a full investigation in return for any “actionable evidence” presented by India over Pulwama. He should extend this commitment and extend diplomatic support to start working jointly in this regard.
But, he also stands committed to retaliation if India chooses the course of force, a stance any leader would take if confronted by threats of attack. The glimmer of hope that came with Modi retreating from a maximalist position now stands dulled by the latest airspace violation. If this incursion was a threat, a reminder of the possibility of war it was foolish. If accidental, New Delhi should then say so.
Modi faces a tough election. The BJP has already lost ground and Modi’s stance on Pulwama would also determine the support from his own vote bank. The bigger problem at the moment for the Indian premier is his losing grip on those in the secular vote bank that elected him for his economic acumen. There is so much Modi could spin and deliver. The dynamics of the system are a force in themselves.
The past five years of religious intolerance not only against Muslims but other minorities in a secular democracy, the rise of the Hindutva have had a collective impact on the psyche of the Indian people and not just those who stand opposed to such ideology. More dangerous is the boost the militant Hindu factions got under Modi. The attacks on Kashmiris nationwide following Pulwama is a case in point. It reached a point where the Supreme Court stepped in and Modi was forced to side with the Kashmiri people in a public address.
Maybe Modi and the larger Indian leadership should sit and review Indian policy towards Kashmir.
As for Pakistan, it is high time it safeguards itself against indigenous individuals and organisations that have turned rogue or are operating on an agenda that ultimately is against its national interests. Yes, national interests, for war with one’s neighbour, especially if it’s India is detrimental - to the nation. Pakistan must not abandon its commitment to peace with India.
As for PM Khan, he must reiterate his commitment to helping Indian investigation if he meant that, which I believe he did. Moreover, if Pulwama in any way was linked to anybody on Pakistani soil then he must make an example for those miscreant elements seeking to damage relations with India. India must also not misinterpret Pakistan’s efforts to do so and it should refrain from its gungho attempts to coerce any such development. It would backfire.
The region has witnessed significant geopolitical changes and it is in Pakistan’s interests as is India’s to mend ties. Peace is the ultimate prize and would do more for settling disputes than any confrontation, proxy or otherwise.