Spearhead Issue Brief – 18.03.2019
Summary: Mature and responsible political leadership on both sides prevented the Pulwama crisis from descending into an uncontrollable escalation sequence. Kashmir and India’s repressive policy remain the major drivers of instability in the region and the root cause of violence by a desperate people seeking freedom from the Indian yoke. The US and the world must push India to accept Pakistan’s offer of unconditional dialogue on all issues including terrorism and Kashmir.The lessons from the crisis triggered by the Pulwama attack in IOK must not be ignored.
The storm triggered after the Pulwama suicide bombing in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) by a Kashmiri youth has subsided for now. This happened after India having made a unilateral determination blaming Pakistan for the attack retaliated by an air strike inside Pakistan at Balakot on what it called a Jais e Muhammad (JeM) ‘training facilty’—-according to India the bomber of Pulwama belonged to JeM. By now it is clear that either intentionally or because of prompt Pakistani response the designated target was not struck and the bombs were dropped in a forested area. Indian claims of having inflicted damage and caused casualties remain unsubstantiated with its own Air Force declining to give any figures. The response by Indian fighter aircraft to Pakistan’s retaliatory stand -off air and ground reaction to Balakot led to two Indian aircraft being shot down and an Indian pilot captured by Pakistan. Again Indian claims of having downed a Pakistani F-16 remain unsubstantiated. The important take away from these events is not the details of claims and counter claims but rather the fact that India retaliated with its air assets inside Pakistan for an IOK related incident in IOK territory and that air engagement took place between two nuclear weapon states. This crisis has highlighted the powder-keg status of IOK, India’s disastrous policies in Kashmir and the danger that these spell for peace in South Asia.