De-escalation of tension between India and Pakistan is a necessity that would stand both the countries in good stead. The necessity is guided by the geo-political realities in South Asia, where already a 17-year-old war in Afghanistan is showing no signs of ending – all the optimism about the US- Afghanistan talks succeeding any time soon is based on delusion for the hard ground is yet to be covered. India and Pakistan cannot afford a war in these times or in future ever because of their inherent constraints. To make this thing real, there are certain conditions that both Delhi and Islamabad must fulfill.
The aerial strikes at Balakot in Khyber Pukhtnawa in Pakistan on February 26, precisely 12 days after the Pulwama suicide bombing that left 40 CRPF personnel dead, has a lot of strategic value irrespective of the claims of Pakistan that not even a single militant was killed, because there were none. India made it clear, for the reasons of avenging the Pulwama attack, which it had to send a strong message to Pakistan to discourage the latter from hosting masterminds of militancy. No action is without consequences, and there are many – Pakistan retaliated. Its aircrafts stuck on this side of the Line of Control, without causing any damage. But it did suffer a loss of an F-16 aircraft that were given to it by America on certain conditions. Pakistani forces on their side of the LoC downed one of the Indian aircrafts piloted by Wing Commander Abhinadhan Varthaman. He was captured by Pakistanis. This had brought the two nuclear powered countries to the brink.
Indian and Pakistan perspectives contrast each other. Those have to be. India wants a firm action against the militant camps and militants operating in Pakistan and in other Kashmir. The militant groups are a serious threat to peace in the region. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had warned Pakistan that it cannot rear snakes in its backyard and hope that they will never bite it. Pakistan, by its own admission, is the worst victim of militancy.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has pointed it out repeatedly that his country has lost 70,000 lives at the hands of militants– mind it he is talking of the home grown militants or the groups that were based on its western borders with Afghanistan. For sure, he is not exaggerating the number of casualties of Pakistanis, and among them are nearly one-tenth of the Pakistani security forces personnel. This backdrop is quite ghastly and also a lesson for Pakistan that keeping such militant groups or allowing them to use its soil to strike India will not serve any purpose. Imran Khan has admitted it quite candidly.
It was pointless to expect Pakistan to say anything or do anything more than this given the situation that has characterized the relationship of India and Pakistan over the past few years, particularly after the heightened militant activities on the Indian soil – Pathankot airbase was attacked in January 2016 and in the September same year an attack on an army camp in Uri, in north-west Kashmir, left 20 soldiers dead. Despite the “surgical strikes” of September 28, 2016, there was no let up in the attacks on the Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.
Now what has happened after all the thunderous rhetoric and the rattle of the air forces in the sky, the situation along the Line of Control has deteriorated. According to the Indian army estimate Pakistan army has targeted Indian soldiers and civilians nearly 50 times and inflicted casualties in the last one week. “Indian army has retaliated strongly and effectively,” is the standard line of the Indian army. There have been casualties oh the Pakistani side of the LoC as well. Soldiers and civilians have lost their lives.
The question is what wrong have these civilians done to invite the casualties upon themselves. Only insane can love their houses being shelled, frightened children running for safety. Is this the kind of life anyone wants to live? Absolutely not!
So why are they being punished. India and Pakistan should look at the LoC and those living there. Silent guns on LoC, revisit the November 2003 ceasefire on borders and make it real yet again that would be the real de-escalation to begin with.