In the wake of the Prime Minister’s measured yet strong response to India after the Pulwama attack, Pakistan’s military, through their spokesperson Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, has delivered their own response – and it too is exactly what was needed in these circumstances.
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While the almost hour-long press conference touched on many subjects, what is immediately obvious from the start is the maturity of and restraint exercised by the DG ISPR compared to the wild hysterics that seem to be ruling the roost across the border. Communal tensions and warmongering feed off sabre-rattling bluster, and in a party of two only one member has to take the bait to start an uncontrollable escalation. It is quite commendable to see that despite being showered with threats of total annihilation, economic ruin and diplomatic isolation, Pakistan continues to believe in the path of peace. Not only is this the ethically correct stance to take, it is also one that leads to de-escalation and perhaps a lasting solution to the issue of Kashmir.
However, as Imran Khan reminded India in his address, a peaceful outlook does not mean the country is weak or unprepared for attack. It was also necessary to ward of ill-advised adventurism borne of homegrown political pressure that might spark off a larger conflict. While the Prime Minister was adamant and explicit in his address, the DG ISPR went into operational detail to assure India that military engagements would not favour them. In a nutshell: “we have studied you for 70 years, watched you, prepared our capability for you. Our response will also be for you.”
This should come as no surprise to India; the equilibrium between economic and military prowess may be numerically skewed in favour of India, but the balance of powers still makes successful military offensives impossible – for either side. All of this, without taking nuclear capabilities into account.
While Indian TV anchors maybe daydreaming of war, Indian policymakers must realize these self-evident truths. They must take active steps to dissuade this runaway jingoism and bring normalcy back to a country on edge. This war hysteria is harming India more than it is Pakistan. With its ugly history of communal and ethnic violence, India must not play with the fire of communal politics for short-term gain, lest it engulf the country.
It is hoped that Indian policymakers and politicians pay heed to reason, and perhaps undertake that ever so difficult task – introspection.