Pull Back From The Brink

The growing chorus in India for a military response to Pulwama attack which killed 44 CRPF personnel have upped the stakes in the region. A possible retaliation from Pakistan to any military attack from New Delhi or yet another fidayeen strike at a security installation  or a convoy could dangerously escalate the situation, should New Delhi choose to respond again. And the continuing escalatory spiral could end up into a full-fledged war  and a possible breach of the nuclear threshold of the either country. 

This is a doomsday scenario that alarms the world and should also deeply concern the people of the region. Though the two countries have even earlier been engaged in cross-LoC operations, none ever admitted them in public and hence there was no pressure on either of them to respond. But with New Delhi  under Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring in 2016 that it carried a surgical strike across LoC  to destroy the militant launch pads, the old doctrine of the strategic restraint no longer holds. And it is as a consequence of this public retaliation in response to Uri attack which killed 19 soldiers that Modi government is now under tremendous pressure to visibly respond to Pakistan after Pulwama bombing. And unless the central government finds a more sober way of addressing this unrealistic public expectation, it will always feel obliged to launch a military response against Islamabad in the event of  an attack on this side of  Kashmir or in any other part of the country which results in the loss of lives  And this tit-for-tat approach carried on endlessly would not only destabilize the region but bring it nearer and nearer to an all-out war. This will only bring death and destruction for both the countries. In fact, more so for India, which is poised to take over as one of the world’s formidable economic powers.  

The political machismo may win politicians their votes and retribution may give sections of the media their high and TRPs, but a government policy guided and dictated by such considerations and pressures will lead to catastrophic consequences in the long term. We already have examples of the countries which have gone down this route, among them United States itself. Far from controlling terrorism,  its war on terror in Afghanistan and the  Middle East have given us ISIS which took all the global powers together to defeat.

Similarly, Israeli’s  intervention in Palestine, a territory with just a basic wherewithal of a state, has still not bought it peace.  Instead, the conflict has only gotten worse by the day. What India, Pakistan need is a sustained engagement uninterrupted by the violence geared to finding a lasting solution to long festering issues. Only such a course of action will free the region of the decades of political uncertainty and violence and deny extremist forces on both sides of their raison d'être.

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