Major world powers have unanimously called on both countries to keep calm.
As a good neighbor of both Pakistan and India, China, in particular, has expressed “deep concern” over the situation, urging the two arch rivals to “exercise restraint” and resolve their dispute through dialogue.
It is a relief that the two governments have pledged to act with restraint and responsibility. But with nationalistic hysteria being on the rise in both countries, their leaders will have to work hard to ensure they are not hijacked by the mood of the public, especially after tit-for-tat airstrikes in which both sides claimed they shot down each other’s fighter jets and the Pakistanis said they captured at least one Indian pilot.
Since neither country really wants a full-blown war, the best policy is to minimize the chance that it may occur as a result of miscalculation by taking steps to de-escalate tensions.
India has long accused Pakistan of cultivating terrorists, a reason it used to launch what it claimed was a pre-emptive airstrike against militant camps in Pakistan after an extremist group there claimed credit for a bomb attack in Pulwama in the India-controlled part of Kashmir that killed more than 40 Indian troops earlier this month.
The anger over the heavy casualties is understandable. But using warplanes to bomb targets deep inside another sovereign country’s territory has only aggravated the situation. As has the rhetoric of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is keen to present a strong image ahead of the coming elections.
It is worth noting that shortly after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed power last year, he invited Modi for dialogue, although the invitation was rejected by New Delhi.
Actually, Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism, and because it is on the forefront of the global fight against terrorism, it has paid a huge price, with thousands of its soldiers and civilians having been killed by extremists that target them. That is why Khan told India on Wednesday that it is ready to cooperate in the fight against terrorism because “it is not in our favor that Pakistan’s soil is used (by any terrorist group)”.
Given the high risks involved in a prolonged conflict, both leaders must make sure any of the actions they are going to take are measured. Maybe Khan could start by releasing the captured Indian pilot, in a show of goodwill to improve its ties with India.