With his reckless “pre-emptive” airstrike on Balakot in Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inadvertently undone what previous Indian governments almost miraculously, succeeded in doing for decades. Since 1947 the Indian Government has bristled at any suggestion that the conflict in Kashmir could be resolved by international arbitration, insisting that it is an “internal matter.” By goading Pakistan into a counter-strike, and so making India and Pakistan the only two nuclear powers in history to have bombed each other, Modi has internationalised the Kashmir dispute. He has demonstrated to the world that Kashmir is potentially the most dangerous place on earth, the flash-point for nuclear war. Every person, country, and organisation that worries about the prospect of nuclear war has the right to intervene and do everything in its power to prevent it. Here are selected Analysis, Opinion and Updates on India-Pakistan War 2019.
- Pak-India tensions, nuclear threat alarm world community : Peace in South Asia is the most important mutual priority for US and Pakistan, says Gen Votel….[……..]
- Threat of nuclear war can’t be ruled out until Kashmir issue is solved: NYT : Solution to Kashmir conflict must come from within, says New York Times editorial… [ …….]
- LESSONS FROM THE BRINK: By Ejaz Haider: The two military rounds played between Pakistan and India on February 26/27 in the wake of New Delhi’s aggression against Islamabad, after the February 14 Pulwama attack, have important lessons for deterrence as well as the question of whether limited war options are possible between a nuclear dyad. Keep reading .. […… ]
- The Kashmir challenge: Armed struggle and resistance against illegal military occupation and repression are not terror……[……..]
India-Pakistan tensions: Who won the war of perceptions?
The military escalation between India and Pakistan appears to be winding down for now. On Friday, Islamabad handed over Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, whose plane the Pakistan Air Force had shot down two days earlier.
New Delhi declared it is committed to “maintaining peace and stability in the region”, suggesting it is not planning any more air attacks deep in Pakistan’s territory.
Meanwhile, crossfire on the Line of Control (LoC), which divides Indian- from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, has also decreased.
However, this might be a temporary lull, as the situation remains tense with India still reeling after the February 14 suicide bombing in Pulwama claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), a UN-designated terrorist group.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces a difficult general election next month, has taken this opportunity to reinforce his strongman image and to prove he can deter Pakistan from “fomenting terrorism” in India.
The February 26 air raids against a suspected JeM camp by the Indian Air Force (IAF) marked the first time Indian fighter jets crossed deep into Pakistan since the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. Riding on a wave of public anger, Modi sent a message to Pakistan that India had abandoned its unstated policy of “strategic restraint” and adopted what analysts call the “new normal” – that it would retaliate for any terror attack perceived to be linked to Pakistan.
Going by Pakistan’s sustained efforts to de-escalate the crisis, including several conciliatory statements by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Indian air raids clearly shook Islamabad’s decision-makers. Yet, all through the crisis, clumsy Indian information management diluted the message Modi sought to send. By contrast, Pakistan’s media managers successfully controlled messaging, allowing Islamabad to appear responsible and wedded to peace.
This was apparent from the morning of the Indian attacks. Instead of the announcement coming from New Delhi, the Pakistani military’s media wing – the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) directorate – announced on social media a failed Indian attempt to bomb Pakistani targets, supported by photographs of what appeared to be explosion craters in an otherwise empty forest glade.
By the time New Delhi announced that its combat aircraft had struck a JeM camp deep inside Pakistan, public attention was no longer on the IAF’s considerable military feat of having overcome Pakistani air defences to reach a target 80km across the LoC. Instead, people were questioning whether Indian bombs had completely missed their targets and whether 300 terrorists had actually been killed, as Indian officials had whispered to the media in Delhi.
Without wasting time, the ISPR facilitated local as well as international media access to an area that was purportedly the IAF’s target. Very soon, credible global media organisations like Reuters, the New York Times and Al Jazeera put out reports supporting Pakistan’s contention that there were no signs of any casualties in the so-called terrorist camp.
Lost in the claims and counter-claims was the primary Indian message: that it was demonstrating its ability and intent to hit militant groups in Pakistan, by crossing not just the LoC in Kashmir, but also the international border into Pakistan. By failing to put out any evidence that the IAF actually struck the camps it targeted, New Delhi failed to prove its capability, even if it had successfully demonstrated a new resolve.
Pakistan’s success in controlling the message was visible again the next day when the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) staged a retaliatory incursion into India. The IAF quickly drove out the Pakistani fighter aircraft, but one of its MiG-21 fighters was shot down across the LoC and Pakistani troops captured its pilot. All through the day, the ISPR put forward claims that two to three Indian aircraft had been shot down and, by afternoon, the captured Indian pilot was paraded on Pakistani television channels, declaring that he was being treated well.
Prime Minister Khan made a video appeal for peace, urging India to join Pakistan in de-escalating the crisis. That evening, far too late, New Delhi put out a statement admitting the loss of one aircraft while claiming the IAF had shot down a Pakistani F-16. But the day clearly belonged to Pakistan.
On day three, international mediation, especially by the United States, led to a deal for the release of the IAF pilot in exchange for New Delhi’s commitment to restraint and a de-escalation of the crisis. Here, again, Pakistan grabbed the credit with Khan dramatically announcing that Pakistan would release the pilot the next day, again playing the statesman by urging peace with India.
Hours later, in a wooden press conference in New Delhi, senior Indian military officers grudgingly welcomed the pilot’s release. Pakistan’s public relations victory was complete the next day when, on primetime television news, every Indian and Pakistani news channel broadcast live the pilot being handed back to India.
Forgotten by now is the strategic message against cross-border terrorism that India sought to send to Pakistan. Across India, this is now a purely domestic political issue as Modi, already campaigning across India, talks up the air attacks as a demonstration of his strong leadership. In a public speech, he has referenced the pilot’s release in an unsophisticated pun to threaten Pakistan with more to come: “This was just a pilot project. We were just practising. Now we will carry out the real thing.”
Ultimately, New Delhi will measure the success or failure of these air attacks by whether they induce Islamabad to take visible and verifiable steps to rein in militant groups like the JeM and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which India accuses Pakistan of nurturing as “sub-conventional assets”.
Pakistan has already signalled it would not crack down, with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi telling international media that the Pakistani government needs to see more “evidence” that JeM indeed carried out the attack.
At the same time, there is growing international concern that Pakistan’s failure to control militant groups operating from its territory could create another major crisis with India, even a full-blown armed exchange that tests the nuclear threshold.
On Wednesday, the US, UK and France proposed that the UN Security Council blacklist Azhar Masood, the JeM chief. For the past three years, New Delhi’s efforts to get the UN to designate Masood as a global terrorist have been blocked by China, on “technical grounds”.
So far, Beijing has not heeded New Delhi’s appeal to drop its objection. But that could change, given China’s ongoing security operations in Xinjiang province, which borders Pakistan.
Although Pakistan won the perception war in the recent crisis, it is losing ground internationally to a rising India. On Friday, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj addressed the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting in Abu Dhabi as a guest of honour. The OIC invited Swaraj over the objections of Pakistan, which downgraded its own participation in the meeting in protest.
Fifty years earlier, Pakistani objections had resulted in India being disinvited from the OIC’s inaugural summit. But things have moved on.
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Our Captured, Wounded Hearts: Arundhati Roy On Balakot, Kashmir And India
On February 14 2019, a convoy of 2,500 paramilitary soldiers was attacked in Pulwama (Kashmir) by Adil Ahmad Dar, a 20-year-old Kashmiri suicide-bomber who, it has been declared, belonged to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad. The attack that killed at least 40 menwas yet another hideous chapter in the unfolding tragedy of Kashmir. Since 1990, more than seventy thousand people have been killed in the conflict, thousands have “disappeared”, tens of thousands have been tortured and hundreds of young people maimed and blinded by pellet guns. The death toll over the last twelve months has been the highest since 2009. Associated Press reports that almost 570 people have lost their lives, 260 of them militants, 160 civilians and 150 Indian armed personnel who died in the line of duty.
Depending on the lens through which this conflict is viewed, the rebel combatants are called “terrorists”, “militants”, “freedom fighters” or “mujahids”. Most Kashmiris call them ‘mujahids’ and when they are killed, hundreds of thousands of people—whether they agree with their methods or not—turn out for their funerals, to mourn for them and bid them farewell. Indeed, most of the civilians who were killed this past year, are those who put their bodies in the way of harm to allow militants cornered by soldiers to escape.
In this long-drawn-out, blood-drenched saga, the Pulwama bombing is the deadliest, most gruesome attack of all. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of young men in the Kashmir Valley like Adil Ahmed Dar who have been born into war, who have seen such horror that they have become inured to fear and are willing to sacrifice their lives for freedom. Any day there could be another attack, worse, or less-worse than the Pulwama attack. Is the Government of India willing to allow the actions of these young men to control the fate of this country and the whole subcontinent? By reacting in the empty, theatrical way that he did, this is exactly what Narendra Modi has done. He has actually bestowed upon them the power to direct our future. The young Pulwama bomber could not have asked for more.
Indians who valorise their own struggle for Independence from British Rule and virtually worship those who led it are for the most part strangely opaque to Kashmiris who are fighting for the same thing. The armed struggle in Kashmir against what people think of as “Indian Rule” is almost thirty years old. That Pakistan has (at one time officially and now mostly through non-government actors) supported the struggle with arms, men and logistics is hardly a secret. Nor is it a secret that no militant can operate in the war-zone that is Kashmir if they did not have the overt support of local people. Who in their right mind could imagine that this hellishly complicated, hellishly cruel war would be solved or even mitigated in any way by a one-off, hastily executed, theatrical “surgical-strike,” which turns out to have been not-so-surgical after all? A similar “strike” that took place after the 2016 attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri achieved little more than inspiring a Bollywood action film. The Balakot strikes in turn seem to have been inspired by the film. And now the media reports that Bollywood producers are already lining up to copyright “Balakot” as the name of their next film project. On the whole, it has to be said, this absurd waltz looks and smells more “pre-election” than “pre-emptive.”
For the Prime Minister of this country to press its formidable Airforce into performing dangerous theatrics is deeply disrespectful. And what an irony it is, that while this irresponsible nuclear brinkmanship is being played out in our subcontinent, the mighty United States of America is in talks with the Taliban forces whom it has not managed to defeat or dislodge even after 17 years of straight-out war.
The spiraling conflict in the subcontinent is certainly as deadly as it appears to be. But is it as straightforward?
Kashmir is the most densely militarized zone in the world, with an estimated half a million Indian soldiers posted there. In addition to the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing and the National Intelligence Agency, the uniformed forces – the Army, the Border Security Force, the Central Reserve Police Force (and of course the Jammu and Kashmir Police) each does its own intelligence gathering. People live in terror of informers, double agents and triple agents who could be anybody from old school friends to family members. Under these circumstances, an attack on the scale of what happened in Pulwama is more than just shocking. As one pithy Twitter commentator put it, (she was referring to the increasingly popular Hindu vigilante practice in North India, of tracking down and lynching Muslims accused of killing cows), how is it that the BJP “can trace 3 kg of beef but cannot trace 350 kg of RDX”?
After the attack, the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir called it the result of “an intelligence failure”. A few intrepid media portals reported the fact that the Jammu and Kashmir Police had indeed raised an urgent alert about a possible attack. Nobody in the media seems overly worried about why the warning was ignored, and where, in the chain of command, the breach took place.
Tragic as it was, the Pulwama attack came as a perfect political opportunity for Narendra Modi to do what he does best—grandstand. Many of us who had predicted months ago that a BJP that was losing its political footing would call down a fireball from the skies just before elections, watched with horror as our prediction came true. And we watched the Ruling Party adroitly parley the Pulwama tragedy into petty, political advantage.
In the immediate aftermath of the Pulwama Attack, as enraged mobs attacked Kashmiris who worked and studied in mainland India, Modi kept dead quiet and reacted only after the Supreme Court said it was the Government’s duty to protect them. But after the air strikes he was quick to appear on TV to take credit, sounding for all the world as though he had personally flown the planes and dropped the bombs. Immediately India’s roughly four hundred 24/7 news channels, most of them unapologetically partisan, set about amplifying this performance with their own personal “inputs”. Using old videos and fake facts, their screaming anchors masquerading as frontline commandos, orchestrated an orgy of crazed, triumphalist nationalism, in which they claimed the air strikes had destroyed a Jaish-e-Mohammad “terror factory” and killed more than three hundred “terrorists”. The next morning, even the most sober national newspapers followed suit with ridiculous, embarrassing headlines. The Indian Express said: ‘India Strikes Terror, Deep in Pakistan’. Meanwhile Reuters, which sent a journalist to the site in Pakistan where the bombs had actually fallen, reported only damage to trees and rocks and injuries sustained by one villager. Associated Press reported something similar. The New York Times said “Analysts and diplomats in New Delhi said the targets of the Indian airstrikes were unclear, as any terrorist groups operating along the border would have cleared out in recent days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India vowed retaliation over the Kashmir attack.”
The mainstream Indian media did not carry the Reuters report. So, for the bulk of India’s voting people who don’t read the New York Times, their Prime Minister—with his famous 56” chest—had dismantled terrorism forever.
For the moment at least, it looked as though Modi had completely out-maneuvered his political opponents, who were reduced to tweeting in praise of India’s brave pilots. Meanwhile he and his men were out electioneering. Doubters and dissenters were terrorized by Hindutva trolls, charged with being anti-national, or just debilitated by the fear of the on-call lynch mob that seems to lurk at every street corner in North India.
But things can change in a day. The sheen of false victory faded quickly after Pakistan struck back, shot down a fighter plane and captured a pilot of the Indian Air Force—Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. Once again, the BJP’s see-sawing electoral prospects have begun to look distinctly less rosy.
Leaving aside the business of electoral politics and the question of who will win the next elections, Modi’s actions are unforgiveable. He has jeopardized the lives of more than a billion people and brought the war in Kashmir to the doorsteps of ordinary Indians. The madness on television, fed to people like an IV drip morning, noon and night, asks people to lay aside their woes, their joblessness, their hunger, the closing down of their small businesses, the looming threat of eviction from their homes, their demands that there be an enquiry into the mysterious deaths of judges, as well as into what looks like the biggest, most corrupt Defense deal in the history of India, their worries that if they are Muslim, Dalit or Christian they could be attacked or killed—and instead vote, in the name of national pride, for the very people that have brought about this devastation.
This government has wounded India’s soul so very deeply. It will take years for us to heal. For that process to even begin, we must vote to remove these dangerous, spectacle-hungry charlatans from office.
We cannot afford to have a Prime Minister who, on a whim has broken the back of the economy of a country of a billion people by declaring overnight, without consulting anybody that 80 percent of a country’s currency is no longer legal tender. Who in history has ever, done this? We cannot have a Prime Minister of a nuclear power who continues to shoot for a movie about himself in a National Park while a huge crisis befalls the country and then airily declares that he has left the decision of what to do next to the “Sena”— the Army. Which democratically elected leader in history, has ever done this?
Modi has to go. The quarrelsome, divided, unstable Coalition government that might come in his place is not a problem. It is the very essence of democracy. It will be far more intelligent and far less foolhardy.
There remains the matter of the captured Wing Commander. Whatever anybody’s opinion of him, and whatever Pakistan’s role has been in the Kashmir conflict, Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan has acted with dignity and rectitude throughout this crisis. The Indian Government was right to demand that Varthaman be accorded all the rights that the Geneva Convention accords a Prisoner of War. It was right to demand that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) be given access to him while he was in Pakistan’s custody. Today Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced that, as a gesture of good will, the Wing Commander will be released.
Perhaps India can offer the same courtesy to its political prisoners in Kashmir and the rest of the country: protection of their rights under the Geneva Convention, and access to the ICRC?
The war that we are in the middle of, is not a war between India and Pakistan. It is a war that is being fought in Kashmir which expanded into the beginnings of yet another war between India and Pakistan. Kashmir is the real theatre of unspeakable violence and moral corrosion that can spin us into violence and nuclear war at any moment. To prevent that from happening, the conflict in Kashmir has to be addressed and resolved. That can only be done if Kashmiris are given a chance to freely and fearlessly tell the world what they are fighting for and what they really want.
Dear World, find a way.
“Our Captured, Wounded Hearts: Arundhati Roy On Balakot, Kashmir And India” by deploying the IAF, Narendra Modi has ensured that Kashmir is conclusively internationalised…
Delhi in Disneyland
By Fahd Hussain
In a span of one week, India dropped its payload, its military reputation and its moral standing. What a week for Narendra Modi and his plans to dominate the escalatory and electoral ladders. Now both are in disarray.
Many lessons should be drawn from the events unfolding after the Pulwama attack. Since we are still in the thick of the crisis — with the Line of Control (LoC) red hot — key takeaways of the post-Pulwama situation may best wait. But some things cannot, and should not, wait for the guns to fall silent.
Remember the picture of the captured Indian pilot with a bloody nose? While the pilot’s nose may have already healed, India’s nose will not heal so soon. Here’s why:
India has built around itself an aura of a global power whose time has come. For at least the last two decades it has been inflating itself as military-economic-cultural juggernaut that is gaining in size and strength with each passing year. While it may be true that India has made significant strides in all three areas, Indians made one unwitting mistake — they took their eye off the in-swinging ball. In the exuberance of sudden global attention, the Indian storytellers of the political-media combine veered from fact into fiction. Most did not detect this gradual transformation of the India story from what it was to what they wished it were. There were voters and viewers to be won and nothing wins them over more effectively than a well-told story.
And so over the years, India began to genuinely believe that it was the Elevated One, the Designated One, perhaps even the Chosen One. The future, Indians said with earnest glee, was India’s. And the future was already here. In this future-draped present, many Indians believed, Pakistan was a fly that could be swatted when it buzzed too loudly in India’s ear.
Delusions of grandeur were an organic by-product of this manufactured belief. The world began to see Indians weaving these delusionary strands into their social DNA and emitting them through their thoughts, attitudes and demeanour. Many Indians sprayed an air of misplaced superiority on themselves like cheap perfume and strutted around like peacocks. But superiority against whom? China? America? Russia? Even delusions have limits. Pakistan therefore became the natural comparison. By trashing Pakistan, bad-mouthing Pakistan, threatening Pakistan, many Indians perhaps subconsciously tried to validate their deeply-ingrained delusions.
So we saw India’s politicians and media people obsessing about Pakistan. To them Pakistan was a carpet under which they could hide their own dirt, and perhaps their insecurities too. This peculiar obsession with Pakistan birthed a weird cycle of national hysteria in India: political discourse fuelled media’s poisonous rhetoric which in turn nourished popular Bollywood trash which then fed back into political bashing that provided sustenance to media’s prime-time obsession with Pakistan….And the cycle went on and on increasing in velocity and intensity with each passing day.
India thought it was chasing Pakistan; in reality it was chasing its tail.
As these delusions ballooned, so did their manifestations through words and actions. Behind the hissing of Indian anchors and the sneering of Indian columnists you could detect that hostility to Pakistan had changed to an air of superiority that had transformed into thinly-disguised arrogance articulated via sweet seething contempt. This contempt was borne with something deeper than cricketing rivalry or Kashmir or even the original wound they suffered in 1947 — no, this was visceral stuff.
Not surprising then that every time in recent years when a conflagration happened, Indian politicians and commentators would threaten to “teach Pakistan a lesson”. Such a threat insinuated that India could, if it wanted to, sort Pakistan out, but wasn’t doing so because it could “tolerate” Pakistan. The assumption was that it was India’s restraint — not its inability — that was holding it back from swatting Pakistan like a fly. Delusions had taken on a life of their own, and were paying rich dividends both in terms of votes and ratings.
All in India would have lived happily ever after in this bubble had they not decided to act upon it. Bubbles burst easily, you know.
The cyclone of Politician-Media-Bollywood fuelled anti-Pakistan delusional hysteria peaked the day Indian aircraft violated our air space and dropped their payload on a Balakot hillside. The next 24 hours saw India experiencing genuine nirvana — the kind in which you go into a hypnotic paradise and wonder why the world is so beautiful, colourful and serene. Indians laughed and cried and hugged themselves while jumping up and down. They loved life and every single payload it had to offer. They were superior. They were powerful. It was all true. What Modi said, what media said, it was all true, true, true…
And then, bam!
High in the air above the LoC on February 28, the bubble of India’s huge delusion burst in a gigantic ball of fire and crashed on the ground along with the debris of a billion people’s aspiration of grandeur. The bloody nose was not Abhinandan’s alone.
And suddenly, just like that, the hypnosis of a nation began to recede. People rubbed their eyes in Delhi, Mumbai, Haryana, Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore and peered hard into the real world outside the bubble. And there they saw the ugly reality: There was no seminary in Balakot, there was no target hit, there were no 300 casualties, there was no Pakistani F16 downed, there was no revenge taken and there was no punishment meted. They rubbed their eyes more and saw the contours of the harsh truth staring back at them with cold, empty eyes: India did not have military superiority to ‘sort out’ Pakistan, India did not have operational strength to violate Pakistani territory without paying a price, India did not have the ‘story’ to justify victory of any sort and India did not have the regional or global muscle that it could flex at the expense of Pakistan.
The felling of two Indian planes and the capture of one pilot was not enough damage to overturn decades of delusions; but it was enough to puncture the bubble. Modi tried to kill Pakistan’s deterrence, he ended up killing India’s dream.
It’s a different world out there beyond the bubble; a world where the bleeding wound of Kashmir is more visible than ever before; where the policy of trying to ‘punish’ Pakistan is under greater criticism; where loud- mouthed anchor and their studio clowns in Noida are eating crow — and their pride — in dry mouthfuls; where media intellectuals out to de-clutter things are finding it impossible to de-clutter the emotional baggage of their own professional dishonesty, where Indian generals and air marshals are stammering like bumbling idiots; where the lies peddled repeatedly over the years by governments and the media are coming undone in the hills above Balakot and where millions of sane Indians may soon be asking themselves: all those dreams and delusions of grandeur — were they all lies, lies, lies…?
And you thought India had just lost two planes?