“Tit-for-tat” games between Pakistan and India will sustain for 2-3 months

Analysts say that Pakistan targeting Indian military posts wouldn’t stand ground on international fora, where such a “misadventure” might be seen as a trigger for war

“Tit-for-tat” games between Pakistan and India will sustain for 2-3 months

Dhairya Maheshwari

Responding to Indian Air Force’s (IAF) “non-military pre-emptive strikes” on Jaish-e-Mohammad’s (JeM) terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot a day before, the Pakistan Air Force targeted military installations on the Indian side on the morning of Feb 27.

Reports indicate that Pakistan rushed its F-16 fighter jets to India’s Nowshera sector in hopes of targeting the military posts but had to retreat owing to strong air patrolling by Indian jets and ground systems.

While chasing the enemy aircraft away, India reportedly scrambled its MiG Bisons. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said at a press briefing on the same day that two of IAF’s MiG 21 Bisons were shot down during Wednesday’s exchange.

Partially confirming the development, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said as soon as the Pakistani jets were detected, a MiG 21 Bison scrambled to take care of the aggressor. “The Pakistani aircraft was seen by ground forces falling from the sky on the Pakistan side. In this engagement, we have unfortunately lost one MiG 21,” MEA’s spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told media persons.

“The pilot is missing in action. Pakistan has claimed that he is in their custody. We are ascertaining the facts,” Kumar added, after an unverified video of an Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot in Pakistan’s custody surfaced on the internet.

Commenting on the prevailing situation at the Line of Control (LoC), former GOC (General Officer Commanding) of Srinagar-based XV Corp of the Indian Army, Lt General (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain said that the “tit-for-tat” games between the two arch-rivals could go on “for the next two-three months.”

“I don’t think there would be a full-scale war, though the situation would continue to remain tense,” said the Indian Army veteran.

A major sticking point in Pakistan’s retaliation strategy, say analysts, is the choice of target on the Indian side. Analysts say that Pakistan targeting Indian military posts wouldn’t stand ground on international fora, where such a “misadventure” might be seen as a trigger for war.

“Our jets hit the terror infrastructure on their side. We didn’t target their military installations of civilian targets. It was a non-military and pre-emptive strike,” noted Hasnain. “We don’t have any terror camps on our side,” he said.

Hasnain’s observations were corroborated by the statement released by the Pakistani military in the wake of their Wednesday’s aggression. In a shrewdly drafted statement, Pakistan’s military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said the strikes were “not a retaliation to continued Indian belligerence.”

“Pakistan has taken strikes at non-military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage,” said Ghafoor, adding that the “sole purpose” of the strikes was to demonstrate Pakistan’s “right, will and capability for self-defence.”

In fact, Hasnain’s sentiment has been echoed by former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, who says that a “sense of confusion” seems to be prevailing in Pakistan’s military and political establishment as to what really go to for as they try to assuage public sentiment in the country.

Brigadier (retired) Gurmeet Kanwal, formerly a distinguished fellow at New Delhi-based think tank Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), told National Herald that “fog of war” will engulf the two countries in the coming months, as he ruled out the possibility of a “full-scale confrontation.”

“The stakes are too high for an all-out confrontation to take place. There are likely be intermittent exchanges along the LoC and the situation will remain volatile,” said the Indian Army veteran.

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