Pulwama attack and India’s way forward
Pakistan must rein in its terror outfits – India must continue its diplomatic offensive
Fortunately, the Balakot flare-up has not escalated, thanks to swift and intense international diplomacy. Deft diplomacy by India effectively explained to the international community why India mounted the aerial attack on the suspected hideouts in Pakistani soil. Coupled with this, India got an invite from the OIC as a ‘honoured guest’, much to the chagrin of Pakistan. Sushama Swaraj spoke on the need for fighting terror jointly, while a miffed Pakistan stayed away. With rare alacrity, the United States, Britain, and France moved the UNSC to declare the JeM founder Masood Azhar a global terrorist. This time, China might find it very embarrassing to block the move, as it has done thrice in the past.
Pakistan prudently didn’t talk threateningly about deploying its tactical nuclear warheads that it so often mentions to scare India. After Balakot, Pakistan did respond by staging an aerial onslaught on India. This should give it some degree of comfort, and assure it that resorting to nuclear weapons is not always necessary to meet threats from India.
Despite being in a very important summit meeting with his North Korean counterpart, President Trump found time to announce that India and Pakistan tensions were going to ebb fast. Within hours of this, the Pakistan prime minister, Imran Khan graciously declared that the captured Indian pilot, Wg. Commander Abhinandan would be released. His speech in the Pakistan National Assembly was conciliatory in tone.
Now, it has become imperative for India to assess the strategic impact of the aerial bombing on Balakot, and if Pakistan will be deterred in any way in future by India’s new-found readiness to undertake punitive strikes after terror attacks. It would be naïve to hope that JeM’s offensive ability to hurt India has been dented in any way after Balakot bombing. JeM’s possible sleeper cells within Jammu and Kashmir must come under sharper scrutiny now. The intelligence failures that allowed the Pulwama massacre must be probed incisively.
Pakistan has asked for proof of JeM’s and its leader, Masood Azhar’s alleged hand in the Pulwama attack, but it is clear that there is no sincerity in seeking such dossier from India. In the past, after the 2001 attack on Parliament, 2008 Mumbai attack, and 2016 Pathankot attack, Pakistan was given proof of the involvement of terror outfits perpetrating these attacks, but Pakistan’s efforts to curb the masterminds were perfunctory, at best.
In a recent interview to global media, the Pakistani Foreign minister virtually absolved JeM of any complicity in the attack. He even went to claim that Masood Azhar is ill.
The mobilization of international diplomacy against Pakistani terror can’t be repeated often. India should ensure that at no point, the global community allows Pakistan to get away with such attacks with mild censures. The message that India’s strategic sovereignty is sacrosanct has to be driven home to among the global community.
Lastly, the verifiable outcome of such punitive armed action such as the one on Balakot needs to be transparently laid out before the public, so that TV Channels and Social Media on both sides of the border don’t get into a farcical, ultra-nationalistic frenzy.