Indian residents raise their thumbs in front of the national flag as they participate in a demonstration to support Indian armed forces in Chennai, Feb. 26, following an Indian Air Force (IAF) strike launched on a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) camp at Balakot. (Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images)
India is running out of patience as the crescendo against terror and violence due to the asymmetrical war, of inflicting a thousand cuts, being waged by Pakistan in the post 1971 era, after it suffered four humiliating defeats at the hands of India, reaches a new high, pushing South Asian geopolitics to the point of grave danger, writes Priyanka Bhardwaj.
Adding to the loss of approximately 70,000 Indian civilians and security men are the lives of 41 more defense troops in the Valentine’s Day Pulwama carnage that was owned up by the Pakistan-based Masood Azhar-led terror group, Jaish-e-Muhammad.
In a befitting counter operation, typical of the proactive approach of the National Democratic Alliance headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Indian Air Force conducted successful aerial strikes deep inside Pakistani territory, calling off the nuclear bluff of its army generals for once, and bombing a terrorist safe haven in Balakot in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) that probably snuffed out not less than 300 Jehadi terrorists.
Caught napping, Pakistan tried a face-saver and what followed was an aerial dog fight over the frontier with both sides losing a plane each.
Thereafter, the saga shall be etched in history of air warfare – the safe return of the Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman who entered the annals of distinguished air warriors of the world by destroying a Pakistani F 16 fighter, procured from the U.S. for use in counter-intelligence operations only, with Vympel R-73 air-to-air missile shot off from his ageing MIG-21 Bison before himself being shot off, parachute-landing on enemy territory, and surviving the deadly thrashings of locals before being captured by the Pakistan Army.
Even whilst India triumphed in rallying international pressure from all quarters on Islamabad to return back its brave heart, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, Islamabad did not deviate from its past mischievous behavioral pattern of delaying the hand over, video-shooting statements under duress from the apprehended pilot to suit its tailor-made narrative, and indulging in an unabated provocative firing along all sectors of the Line of Control targeting both civilians and military installations on the Indian side.
As it appears that facts that New Delhi did not shy from breaching red lines that had not been crossed since the Indo-Bangladesh war of 1971 with the help of its defense apparatus and the precision of its strikes, evidently unnerved the Pakistani establishment that it shut down its entire air space, further accelerating its economic despair as its current account deficit stands at an abysmal $17.9 billion for 2017-’18 according to The Express Tribune, and it depends on the merciful aid of $6 billion from Saudi Arabia, China funded projects, and pleads for the 13th International Monetary Fund loan tranche, while pursuing the UAE and Malaysia for economic help after the U.S. stopped its monetary assistance.
Yet, the Pakistan military is not loath to end it vicious sustenance of cross border and international terrorists, using them as its proxy players in all three neighborhoods – Iran and Afghanistan besides India, and the world at large – Britain, USA, as well as Bangladesh.
Amongst these jihadi groups are 22 UN designated terror outfits, all enjoying the support and funding from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) aided by the Pakistan Army, aggravating peace and stability and directly impacting the efforts of global super powers, particularly that of the President Donald Trump to conclude a sound deal with Afghanistan’s Pakistan-created Taliban.
It cannot be forgotten that the master mind and operator of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden, was also tracked by the U.S. in Abbottabad, deep inside Pakistan, even as the country had been declared an ally of the U.S. in the “War Against Terror.”
What the Pulwama episode has brought to the fore is the positive shift of the international community in responding to terrorism, despite Pakistan’s closeness to Saudi Arabia and China, and its importance to the U.S. in Afghanistan, and all major Western (UK, France, Germany, New Zealand) and Islamic countries (UAE, Saudi Arabia) came out to strongly support India during the Pulwama terror attacks, pressurizing Pakistan to dismantle terror groups operating on its soil and to hand over the air warrior, without condemning New Delhi for its first air incursions of Pakistani territory even when its cautioned both sides to exercise restraint.
Interestingly, Western strategic influence prevailed in the absence of Chinese obstructionism which otherwise is aimed at distracting its South Asian competitor from its western borders, Indian Ocean and economic focus due to an eternal tussle with a covertly offensive Pakistan.
That Beijing gave in to Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj’s overtures can be seen in the light that it would not like to see New Delhi leaning too close to Washington, yet it fell short of allowing Masood Azhar being declared a world terrorist.
As each day brings new developments to the fore and the Indian opposition riles the ruling party to provide proofs of strikes, Indian authorities cannot afford to slip back to its earlier avatar of a “soft state.”
New Delhi’s ability to align global support in its favor may emanate from its economic stride, its history of peaceful and mature stance even at the face of immense provocations, and new diplomatic bonds, but it must remember that this position of leverage is not everlasting, and that Pakistan too remains significant to the global powers that would stand to lose from this region plunging into extreme uncertainty.
Whilst India cannot wait for Pakistan’s civilian apparatus to wrest control from its triad of military-ISI-terror network, it can exercise various conventional and sub-conventional contingency plans, to hit at the fountainhead of terrorism which is the ISI and its Army Generals.
Only a swift activation of a concrete long term policy that aims to isolate Pakistan politically, socially and economically would serve the purpose of drying up of funds to Pakistan that gets routed to nefarious terror designs, and this proactive approach would entail cutting all trade ties, meting out punitive measures to firms with interests in Pakistan, shutting down the Indian consulate in the rogue country, suspending the over generous Indus Water Treaty, and adequately equipping internal armed in sensitive areas.
Tempers are already running high in Indian civilian population that wants its government to reasonably answer to blatant Pakistan sponsored terror attacks on the unity, diversity, peace, life, and property of India and once, and to put an end to all end it at the earliest date.