Millennium Post

Escalated tensions

A Kashmir resident, typically one nearer LoC, might have an apprehension that India and Pakistan may go to war again. And, for a local, overnight artillery fire by both sides, referred to as shelling, alongside a broad daylight dogfight between their Air Forces, such apprehension can certainly not be an exaggeration. Living in a war zone, or even a shadow war zone is a constantly devastating experience. Kashmir has been ravaged by years of sporadic insurgency, though not continuous but incessant in nature. The current situation also points towards the escalated tension along LoC which poses a grave threat to civilians on both sides. While top diplomats of both countries strategise in closed rooms, and their soldiers conduct covert operations, it is the civilians who face imminent danger. Besides the indoctrination that these terror outfits have been up to, the general disquiet present in the youth of Kashmir today is a testimony to the aggravated situation of Kashmir's social fabric. And, it continues, with the internal problems currently stagnant, or maybe not, with the advent of cross-border tension surmounting on the troubled Valley. Tuesday's air strike at JeM camp in Balakot put India's retaliatory stance forward for Pakistan to note that India will not stay put after Pulwama. The 12-day gap was a strategic one, credible intelligence facilitated the Balakot strike. While India boldly retaliated to the terror strike it endured on February 14 in Pulwama, it was evident how the strike, though conducted in PoK, was aimed at terrorists, and not civilians or for that matter, even Pakistan military. It was a "Non-Military pre-emptive" engagement as described by Vijay Gokhale, India's Foreign Secretary. "Non-Military" was a crucial input, as was "pre-emptive". Right from the Pulwama attack that left 40 CRPF soldiers dead, India has ardently advocated against Pakistan's laxity in dealing with terror outfits on its soil, especially since JeM claimed responsibility of the attack. India's diplomatic stance at the United Nations Security Council was all about bringing nations to pronounce JeM chief Masood Azhar as a 'UN-designated terrorist'. And, withdrawing the Most Favoured Nation status, slapping a 200 per cent tariff was all part of India's silent (non-offensive) approach on the issue which bled India and united it to condemn the notorious neighbour for brewing such terror outfits on its soil. Therefore, India did not outrightly ask its army to engage. Yes, the news of Modi giving the army free hand to decide time and place of retaliation did it rounds and assured people that India will not bow down to terror strikes. Modi walked the extra mile by saying that India is in safe hands once the pre-dawn Balakot strike was successful. While the elated Indians revelled, Pakistan strategised a retaliation. Wednesday was all about demonstration of its strength for Pakistan Air Force, as they claimed. The Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson said that it was not retaliation but a demonstration of their capability for self-defence. Their broad daylight engagement against India's pre-dawn one sure adds to their statement. But Pakistan is agitated because India attacked its territory. It has asked India to pursue dialogue after it shot down India's MiG-21 Bison and captured its pilot(s); on the pretext that IAF violated its airspace. Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor produced photographs of weapons and identity documents which he said were carried by the Indian pilot(s). While the Geneva convention will be brought into consideration to deal with the captive IAF pilot(s), the greater argument arises from Pakistan's offer to jointly investigate Pulwama, for which it had earlier asked for actionable evidence. Pakistan refuses to admit hosting terror outfits and persistently brings up the peacemaker face asking for dialogue as if India has invariably denied having one. The global powers have asked for India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and avoid escalation at any cost considering the kind of weapons that the neighbouring countries possess – enough to obliterate entire Pakistan and a significant part of India. Pakistan PM Imran Khan's repeated attempt for dialogue is acknowledged but becomes inferior to their repeated attempts to ask for 'actionable evidence'. While the diplomats delve into deep strategy, saying things they want and acknowledging selective facts from any incident, Kashmir remains unsettled, as always. Those who were desperate for retaliation, and who celebrated Balakot strike – terming it as surgical strike 2.0 – must be questioned on how they feel of the civilians dying in their quest for revenge or about the captured IAF pilot(s). And, as far as the internal affairs are considered, Pulwama stands implicitly politicised for now pandemonium vis a vis Rafale or unemployment, or for that matter all the grave problems have subsided in the wake of the country uniting against terrorism; effectively changing the theme of the upcoming elections to counter-terrorism and handling Pakistan.

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