Time To De-Escalate

With India and Pakistan teetering on the brink of a war, world is finally waking up to the alarming situation in South Asia. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed "deep concern" over the escalating tension between the two countries and has called on both sides to take steps for a "meaningful mutual engagement".  The wider international community has also called on the two countries to de-escalate and show restraint. The US president Donald Trump has said that the tensions between the two countries would end soon and that he  had a "reasonably decent news" from the region. Earlier, US Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo spoke to foreign minister Sushma Swaraj  and  Admiral Philip Davidson, Commander of United States Indo-Pacific Command, spoke with Admiral Sunil Lanba, the Indian Navy Chief.  US Ambassador to India, Ken Juster also held talks with foreign secretary Gokhale. US officials have held similar talks with Pakistan.

Meanwhile, India has handed over dossier to Pakistan with details of JeM role in Pulwama attack which earlier it had chosen not to do. On the other hand, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has also made conciliatory noises. He has offered fresh dialogue and a promise of investigation if provided evidence of Pakistani involvement in Pulwama attack which killed over 40 CRPF personnel.  Also, the fresh videos of the Wing commander Abinandan Varthaman  in Pakistan captivity have sent out good vibes. 

If anything, the tit for tat attacks between the neighbours have gone a long way to impress upon the people of the two countries the perils of further escalation. It has also shown that a limited war under a nuclear overhang is not possible. India's effort to squeeze some strategic space for a punishing attack on the neighbour hasn't turned out as easy as the TV warriors and some hawkish strategic experts had billed it out to be. Situation has every chance of going horribly wrong and lead to a full-scale war. And in a war between nuclear-armed countries there are no winners. In fact, even in a war between the countries disproportionately unequal in power there are no clear winners.

To understand this, we have to only look at the war in Afghanistan where the superpower US is suing for peace after seventeen years of fighting what is basically a ragtag militia armed largely with Kalashnikovs. There are other examples in the world where wars have led to economic ruin of the countries and unleashed the death and destruction at a catastrophic scale. This history wouldn't certainly be lost on the leadership of the two countries.  It is therefore still time for them to pull back from the brink and get back to dialogue and reconciliation.


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