Indo-Pak relations in a war-like mode

Pakistan seems to be miscalculating the current situation not realising that the Indian side under Narendra Modi would not mind even a showdown

Photo by Nitin Kanotra/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Nitin Kanotra/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Zafar Agha

Ominous war clouds seem to be gathering over Indo-Pak borders along the Line of Control. Relations between the two nations have deteriorated fast in recent months. The narrative along the border is fast becoming a story of an eye for an eye.

It all began with the Uri attack where terrorists killed 19 soldiers, and India retaliated with surgical strikes killing jihadis inside Pakistan, as was claimed by the India Army in September 2016.

More recently, a Pakistani military court awarded death sentence to former Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who Pakistan claims was arrested in March 2016 in Baluchistan—something which India disputes. India took up the matter at the International Court of Justice and managed to get a verdict in its favour.

As the Jadhav incident happened, Pakistan provoked India by beheading two Indian soldiers. India made retaliatory strikes along the Pakistan border sometime this month—and released its army action video along Naushera border in Kashmir. All these developments are happening at a time when the Kashmir Valley is on the boil like never before—naturally at Pakistan’s bidding.

There seems to be a clear method in this madness. Both the sides have adopted macho attitude which could lead to uncontrolled violent clashes between the armies of India and Pakistan.

In this backdrop, what’s very alarming is that the escalating tensions gel with the political atmosphere on both sides of the border. The Pakistan army establishment is caught in a tussle with its civilian government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The Panama papers leak has entangled Sharif in a judicial war with his bête noire Imran Khan, who seems to be enjoying tacit support of the Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Pakistani military establishment wants to fix Sharif for taking liberty to make peace overtures to India after Narendra Modi assumed power in India. It would naturally suit the Pakistan army to keep the border on the boil.

But General Bajwa is perhaps miscalculating the situation not realising that the Indian side under Narendra Modi would not mind even a showdown with Pakistan.

Modi himself in no peacenik. He rather excels politically in a confrontation—both internally as well as externally if the situation demands. Modi’s political record right from his Gujarat days—when he spun ‘action-reaction’ theory in the 2002 Gujarat riots—till date, he loves to take on his rivals and uses his victory for his own political ends.

Besides, the Indian political narrative is already highly charged up along high-pitched jingoistic nationalism. There is a constant play up of the ‘other-who-needs-to-be-fixed’ rhetoric. This sentiment is being further fuelled by the electronic media.

So, the backdrop is ready for escalating tension on the India-Pak border. Any miscalculation on either side may lead to a push which could end up in a war-like situation.

It is all not just sheer analysis. There are already growing concerns both in national and international sectors regarding the possibility of another Indo-Pak war. Indian share market, for instance, witnessed a dip on May 23 after the Army declared that it hit Pakistan posts along Kashmir border.

Externally, too, the Trump administration in the US has expressed concerns about heightening tensions along the Indo-Pak border. Two US officials deposing before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services on Worldwide Threats assessment on May 23 informed the Committee that New Delhi is “considering punitive operations” to “raise the cost of Islamabad for its alleged support to cross border terrorism”.

It is, indeed, a dangerous game wherein the two sides seemed to be entering knowingly or unknowingly. There is still time to deescalate. It, however, requires statesmanship on both sides of the border which is at a discount now. But, if the two sides continue to practise ‘action-reaction’ theory, it may eventually lead to some sort of a war which no one knows to what end it would lead the two sides to.

Zafar Agha is the Editor-in-chief of Qaumi Awaaz, a sister publication of National Herald

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Published: 24 May 2017, 9:26 PM