PAKISTAN – THE PARIAH NATION

In an unprecedented admonition of Pakistan by the world at large, it has nowhere to hide. It’s all weather friend China, for a change, has also condemned all forms of state sponsored terror.

 BY Anil Anand & Suneel Koul

 Make no mistake about it. For Pakistan to abandon out rightly its policy of state sponsored terror that it conveniently & effectively uses as a lever against its adversaries & friends both, that would be plain wishful thinking. Given that it has no known assets, intellect & heft on the economic, diplomatic & political front to offer to the world, Pakistan has been deft at dangling out the bluster of a nuclear arsenal along with its various verticals of terror machinations, it so shamelessly manufactures in its clandestine laboratories of human disaster & destruction. Under these circumstances, it is imperative that the world stood united to tame this menace, took the bull by the horns & demonstrated its will, resolve & truthfulness in rooting out this monster from the unholy soil, that has entangled most of the civilised world in its vicious tentacles.

While the clamour for retribution continues to keep this government on its toes, with none other than the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself raising the 1.3 cr strong nation’s expectations to a feverish zeal, it remains to be seen if India can take it upon itself to overcome the immediate challenge to its pride & integrity. It is one thing to sound rhetorically excited, but quite another to actually make the enemy pay back in its own coin. Let us actually avenge ‘each drop of tear shed’ due to the atrocity as voiced by Modi. The whole of India is watching with bated breath the steps taken by this government to teach Pakistan a lesson & seize control of its territorial integrity, pride & prestige.  India stands united in this hour of national crisis.

The problem with India is that it has itself withdrawn into a self made yet unnecessary cave of patience & threshold, from where it is finding it too difficult to crawl out, leave aside balloon out. It has long forgotten the adage that everything is fair in Love & war & there is no greater worship & service to your nation & countrymen that saving them from hostile action & unholy design of its enemy. We must learn a lesson or two from the Israelis & the Chinese & the Russians & the US itself. Dialogues & discussions do not work with a rogue neighbour. Offence is the best form of defence & defending ones nation from perpetual enemy ingressions & hostile action is a role that all governments must fulfil efficiently & effectively, lest you stand guilty of having let your country down in front of a very feeble enemy country.

You either engage comprehensively & tactfully & uninterruptedly or you do not. There cannot be indecisiveness on a matter of immense national security. It is not about whether or not. It is about your best interests, And sometimes the enemy needs to be shown the mirror, given a slap on its face for some years of peace & prosperity back home. It is here that our country has failed. It has engaged in piece meal dialogue with Pakistan at times, withdrawn & again engaged. Sometimes it has reverted to unnecessary posturing & yet also offered olive branches at times. It has also sought international intervention in restraining Pakistan with as much zeal as it has discouraged unwanted external meddling in sub-continental affairs.

Under these circumstances, it is highly unlikely that a lasting peace can be achieved till your non-chalant neighbour realised the futility of fomenting terror & marketing this as its economic package to the world. Pakistan it must not be lost is yet to come to grips with its loss of Bangladesh to India in a military engagement. The uprising has to be from within the Pakistani army that for the current is least interested in any kind of rapprochement with India.  It is a fact that Pakistan cannot compete with the economic & geo-political standing of its neighbour. Hence it does what it knows & what it has mastered over the decades of its existence; To cultivate Jihadis & use this as an instrument for continuously coercing India into some kind of submissiveness. It knows very well that it shall suffer another humiliating defeat at the hands of its all powerful neighbour in any conventional war. Hence it uses its nuclear threat as a license to continue waging a proxy war against India & bleed us perpetually as a matter of state policy.

To me Pakistan is an irredeemable entity. Conventional wisdom would suggest that you either become one like your neighbour or you transform yourself into a ferocious, unrelenting economic & military powerhouse so that even before the neighbour has harboured any notion of wrong doing to you, he begins to sweat just thinking.

CURRENT SITUATION

As Indian and Pakistan armed forces stand at an eyeball to eyeball contact on a short stretch of International Border and more on the Line of Control (LoC) after Indian Air Force’s (IAF) targeting of terror factories in Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and subsequent retaliation by Islamabad, the question arises as to what was the real trigger behind this emerging explosive situation.

The immediate question arising here is whether India and Pakistan are heading towards a full-fledged war?

Yes Pakistan-backed Pulwama-Awantipur dastardly fidayeen attack on a CRPF convoy killing 40 of the Force’s personnel was a trigger. After all never before in the over three decades history of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir has such a deadly attack with certain new dimensions had taken place. It was both a national disaster and a human tragedy of immense proportions.

The nation went into a state of shock and anger and rightly too. Expectedly Pakistan once again emerged to be the villain of the piece. As the Narendra Modi government sat mulling over the causes behind the latest terror attack and upped the ante, ably backed by the well-oiled BJP machinery, targeting Pakistan, the agitated people cutting across caste, religion and region joined the chorus demanding exemplary action against Pakistan.

This all happened as the country is gearing up for Lok Sabha elections which are to be declared any moment now. Not the one to let any opportunity go to portray his government’s aggressive self and not the one to miss any opportunity to showcase his muscular approach, decisive government and supportive party, the BJP’s commitment to nationalism and patriotism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi came out all guns blazing and handed over a stern warning to Islamabad to face the consequences of Pulwama martyrdom of 40 CRPF brave-hearts.

In the aftermath of this attack Modi government lost no time in opening diplomatic and other channels to isolate Pakistan in the comity of nations. Modi’s assertion from a public meeting immediately after the Pulwama attack that the armed forces have been given a free hand to strike back at Pakistan “at a time and place of their (Indian armed forces’) choosing, left little doubt in the public mind about a direct Indo-Pak armed confrontation in the offing.

No action in a poll season could be devoid of politics and that is true of impending May 2019 Lok Sabha elections also. More the political parties, both of ruling and opposition are expected to keep security matters out of politics, the more indulgent they find themselves and so has been the case now.

Pulwama, since forgotten for the time being for its causes and failures, and IAF raid on terror camps across the IB and LoC have gradually been snowballing into a slanging match between the ruling dispensation and the opposition. No doubt that such a situation was avoidable and should be avoided in the bigger national interest. But the fact that the two sides have much bigger political stakes directly connected to coming general elections, it is unlikely that a political truce would be visible in weeks to come.

There has never been a doubt that Pakistan had been training terrorists in various training camps along the Indo-Pak border and at places deep inside the Pakistan territory. This has been a serious topic of debate for the last three decades whether India should destroy these camps by launching a direct action or not. This was one option available to Modi government which was smarting under the criticism of “gross security and intelligence failure” resulting in Pulwama terror attack. As the debate was raging both within the government and in public domain about the possibility of an Indo-Pak conflict, full scale or limited, and that the government has almost no other option but to avenge Pulwama attack, the secret plan to press Indian Air Force into service to strike at terror camps across the border was pressed into action.  In the aftermath of Pulwama terror hit, the government needed to develop a new narrative before BJP approached the people for votes.

The IAF chose three targets days after the Pulwama terror attack that included an air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) camp in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. “In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of 26th Feb, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action are supposed to have been eliminated,” Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said.

A squadron of 12 IAF Mirage 2000 assisted by Sukhois carried out air raids at three places including two in PoK on early February 26 morning. The task was cut out and the idea was to deliver a strong message to Pakistan; to desist from aiding and abetting terrorism or face action. Expectedly Pakistan retaliated the next day with its F-16 aircrafts crossing the LoC in what was perceived to hit at the Indian defence establishments and provide a face saver to Imran Khan Government in the face of heavy criticism it has been facing. However, the IAF quickly responded and engaged the raiding Pakistani fighter planes in a dog fight and managed to chase them away. In the process the IAF claimed to have destroyed one Pak F-16 aircraft in the process losing one IAF fighter jet.

While the F-16 crashed in the Pak territory with its pilot managing to eject somewhere in his country’s terrain, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, son of Air Marshal (retired) Simhakutty Varthaman a decorated IAF commander, who was flying a Mig 21 while chasing away the raiding Pakistani jets ejected and fell in Pakistan or PoK territory. However the same is not yet clear, whether he was captured by the authorities there before he could target the Paki F 16 as reports suggest or did he eject before this all. The latest about wing. Commander Abhinandan is that he shall be returned to Indian authorities on 1st March.

There are still claims and counter claims about the extent of damage the raiding IAF jets heaped on terror camps in Pakistan with initial reports suggesting that 250 to 300 terrorists including some top leaders of the JeM were killed in these raids with the terror training camps suffering extensive damage. The Pakistani authorities claimed to have hit at Indian targets causing damage.

Three Pakistani fighter jets entered into Indian air space at 9:58 AM on Wednesday, February 27 and reportedly targeted key military installations in Rajouri and Naushera in Jammu and Kashmir. Clearly it was in retaliation to India’s pre-dawn counter-terror strike a day earlier deep inside Pakistan, official sources said. Though three Pakistani jets violated Indian air space, the package of the aircraft deployed by Pakistan Air Force for the operation was “significantly large” as it comprised a fleet of JF-17 and F-16 combat aircraft, the sources said.

The Pakistani jets targeted the Indian Army bases in Krishna Ghati and Nangi Tekri and an ammunition point in Narian. However, the bombs dropped by the Pakistani jets fell in un-inhabited areas. Minutes after Pakistani jets violated the Indian air space, the IAF’s Combat Air Patrol (CAP), comprising MiG-21 and other jets engaged with the enemy aircraft, successfully thwarting their attempts to bomb a number of key military installations in Naushera and Rajouri, they said.

In the ensuing engagement, a MiG-21 Bison of the IAF shot down a Pakistani jet, firing an R-73 air-to-air missile before being hit. It was not clear whether the IAF jet was fired from a Pakistani jet or was brought down by a missile attack by ground-based air defence, the sources said. They said the jet Pakistan lost was an F-16 aircraft. Pakistan has denied losing any jet.

Later, it was confirmed by government sources that an IAF pilot has been captured by Pakistan during the fierce engagement.  Sources said all Indian personnel, except one pilot, returned to their bases after the engagement ended at around 10:45 AM adding : “Two parachutes were sighted ,one was of the Indian pilot of the MIG-21 Bison and other was of the Pakistani pilot of the downed jet.

Badly bruised by the IAF hits at terror training camps that once again exposed Pakistan’s complicity in nursing terrorism and using it against India as part of the proxy war, Islamabad went on an overdrive in showcasing capture of Wing Commander Abhinandan as a major victory and in the process bypassed all international norms and conventions more so the Geneva convention that sets strong guidelines for Prisoners of War.

Video clips of the Wing Commander being captured, thrashed and abused by his captors including men in uniform were made viral on social media evoking strong objections from the government of India and specially the IAF authorities. It did not cause any surprise as Pakistan is known to have behaved in this fashion even in the past on many occasions and its track record on this count is very well known to the international community.

The question arises if India and Pakistan are prepared for a long haul to engage each other in a decisive battle given the fact that both are in possession of nuclear arsenal. The answer is that a war is in no one’s interest nor is it a solution to any problem. Ultimately, the aftermath of any war is dialogue and negotiations.

The politico-electoral scenario with an eye on Lok Sabha elections is gradually unfolding. It would be of great interest not only domestically but also on the international front to see as to whether the connotations of latest Indo-Pak conflict are used for electoral purposes particularly by Team Modi to portray it as success of its muscular policy backed by aggression.

In order to call Pakistan’s bluff even in the weeks to come when the country would be in the midst of elections, it should be left entirely to the armed forces to plan and execute moves as a follow up to air strikes on terrorist training camps in Pakistan and PoK, if the need arises.

It is absolutely undesirable and against the national interest if either Prime Minister Modi or the BJP as the ruling party uses the security related actions for electoral purposes by claiming it to be there achievement rather than that of the armed forces. The onus would lie on the ruling dispensation in not making it a poll issue as by doing so it would open the flood gates for opposition parties to do the same. Always the ruling party or the government has limited or no elbow space whereas opposition has the liberty to question the government but certainly with some self-imposed restrictions.

The “nation first” dictum of the ruling BJP should come into full play when they set their electoral agenda. The nation’s interest would be better served if they desist from either unnecessarily raise security related issues in the election campaign or use the glorious achievements and great sacrifices of the armed forces to woo the voters. The armed forces need to be insulated from any kind of politicisation for which the political parties of all colours have a great responsibility to shoulder more so whichever party is ruling the country.