On the brink

Updated February 27, 2019

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IT is a wildly provocative and shockingly aggressive act — and the potential repercussions may extend to the hitherto unthinkable possibility of war itself between the two South Asian neighbours.

With good sense having failed to prevail in India, the whole region now stands on the threshold of the unknown. The aerial military incursion by India across the Line of Control and, allegedly, into KP in the early hours of Tuesday morning represents the crossing of a red line by India.

Set aside that there are duelling official Indian and Pakistani version of events of what occurred on Tuesday morning. Few, if any, facts are publicly established when there are claims and counter-claims of military action along the LoC. But India has claimed and Pakistan has acknowledged that Indian munitions fired by Indian aircraft fell on KP soil. That itself is a shocking violation of Pakistani sovereignty that India ought never to have contemplated.

The awful spectacle of the Indian state, overwhelming sections of its media and seemingly swathes of the population celebrating an attack on Pakistan suggests that much of India does not understand what it has potentially triggered. Rational, right-minded and sensible denizens in both countries would recognise that military action by one country against the other’s sovereign territory would virtually eliminate the options for the other country — the necessity of a military response may become all but impossible to resist. But it is distressingly apparent that the Indian war lobby does not appreciate or have any regard for what the outcome of provoking Pakistan into militarily responding to India could be.

Yesterday, the National Security Council headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan pledged that Pakistan “shall respond at a time and place of its choosing”, an assertion that was reiterated by DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor in his news conference. Surely, any remotely rational Indian policymaker or public figure would have recognised that Pakistan would reserve the right to retaliate against an attack on this country’s sovereign territory, but it does not appear that there are any rational Indian policymakers or public figures left.

Even as Pakistan reserves the unqualified right to defend itself against an unprovoked attack, the Pakistani state should urgently activate all diplomatic channels to put meaningful pressure on India to resile from its aggressive stand against Pakistan and to immediately halt its policy of repression of the people of India-held Kashmir. The international community simply cannot stand by and watch as India sends this region hurtling towards conflict and worse.

Time and again, global and regional powers have recognised the potential of the Kashmir dispute to unravel into unthinkable conflict between India and Pakistan. Now it is India itself that has deliberately and forcefully dragged the region to the precipice of a historic conflict. The world must not allow India to bring destruction to a region of one-and-a-half billion people.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2019