Journal : Global Times (Chinese) Date : Author : NA Page No. : 14
URL : NA

Full translation :

Indian fighter planes flew across the India-Pakistan LOC in Kashmir early in the morning on 26th. They attacked a terrorist organization camp inside Pakistan identified by the Indian side, thereby escalating the conflict between the two sides. Pakistani and Indian warplanes crossed the LOC on the 27th. Pakistan announced that it had shot down two Indian fighters and publicly broadcast a video of a captured Indian pilot. India also claimed to have shot down a Pakistani fighter plane, but no video was released as of 27th (late) night.

This is the biggest strike by India, farthest across the LOC in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, since the third India-Pakistan war in 1971. It is also the first time in 20 years that the two sides have dispatched fighter bombers across the LOC and shot down the other’s warplanes. The fuse of escalation in the conflict between India and Pakistan has (thus) been stoked.

However, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech on the 27th called upon India to sit down and talk with Pakistan. He said that India and Pakistan are nuclear countries and cannot afford a miscalculation. Escalation of the conflict will lead him and Modi to lose control of the situation. The Indian side has also said that it is not carrying out military operations against Pakistan as such, but only to “combat terrorism”.

After the Indian Air Force first crossed the LOC on the 26th, Indian public opinion was jubilant. On the 27th, Pakistan shot down Indian military aircraft and broadcast a video, which is rather embarrassing for the Indian side. Whether the Indian side will take further military action to cater to domestic morale will be critical for the direction the situation will take

On the whole, however, neither India and Pakistan is prepared for a large-scale conflict. This round of clashes was triggered by 44 deaths of paramilitary forces in the Indian-controlled Kashmir region caused by suicide bombings on February 14.  Indian society is indignant and, with Parliamentary elections approaching in May, the Modi government has acted to assuage public opinion and gain more support.  While the shooting down of an Indian warplane will make difficult for Indian voters to vent their anger, the risks of operations continuing have also increased.

The Kashmir region has enough dry wood and gunpowder for it to be ignited into a raging fire.  That is surely not what India and Pakistan want. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been in power for just a little over half a year. Modi is going to fight for re-election. Although the media has encouraged a tough posture, a war is clearly not the gift that the citizenry wants from its leaders.

The power differential between India and Pakistan has been widening in recent years, but since they are both nuclear countries, this gap has not translated into decisive Indian deterrence of Pakistan. Indian nationalism is more potent, and politicians have to walk the tightrope between driving it and being driven by it. Pakistan does not enjoy strategic leeway /depth vis-a-vis India. It is clear that it will suffer from adopting a tough approach towards India, but it too has compulsions of domestic nationalist pressures and they cannot be overlooked.

As the Kashmir territorial dispute is outstanding, and without prospects of being resolved in the short term, it has become an active volcano that has repeatedly shaken India-Pakistan relations. It is impossible for the two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, to completely liquidate the other. Their impulse for escalation lies in answerability to domestic public opinion.  It is totally unrealistic to expect (either) to be able to completely overwhelm the other. The reality is that military conflict between the two countries will only consume them both. Therefore, the rational choice would be to cut losses while there is still time, howsoever faint the hope that alternative might offer.

At this juncture, no matter how far the India-Pakistan conflict progresses, both sides must stop at some point. Stopping later is worse than an early stoppage; the sooner both sides stop, the more manouverability (freedom to be active, or  (उन्मुक्त in the sense of being liberated or unshackled) there will be.

The problems between India and Pakistan are far more complicated than a tabular interpretation of public opinion can capture. The two governments must guide public opinion; they cannot be led by public opinion. In general, there is no problem between the two countries. Moreover, extremist forces have the capacity to create troubles and carry out deadly attacks. The extent to which the situation (conflict) will expand (deteriorate) will depend on the ability of the governments of India and Pakistan to control the complex situation. If India and Pakistan give in to each other’s hostility and react, it will be a bottomless pit.

India has been repeatedly attacked by extremist forces and is deserving of sympathy. Developing relations with Pakistan and leveraging India-Pakistan friendship to counter extremism and terrorism may be better in the long run than the impact  of India (attempting to) “do it itself” is likely to have.  Peace and stability in South Asia is the common treasure of India and Pakistan.  New Delhi and Islamabad should cooperate to control and check extremist forces, and cool nationalist tempers in the region, to enable rational approaches to grow.

 

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