Back from the Brink

Spearhead Analysis – 25.02.2019

Since the Pulwama tragic attack, and PM Modi’s immediate knee jerk reaction of blaming Pakistan, much has happened. The media on both sides has gone to war and have honed up their skills of graphically depicting what the two countries could do to each other and how. Their antics would be entertaining, but they are not, because even thinking of nuclear war as a possibility is a very serious matter. The masses of people on both sides, the large numbers mired in poverty and the majority of them young with hopes of a bright future should be the most important factor for restraint– but this has hardly figured in the unrestrained discourse post-Pulwama. The economy and the socio-economic scene it influences should be the main consideration for Pakistan and India in their bilateral relationship.

By now it is clear that the attacker was an Indian from Kashmir, that the vehicle he used was of Indian origin as was the explosive in the vehicle. His parents live in Kashmir and it has been confirmed that he was at some point beaten and humiliated by India security forces in IOK. There are others like him and there will be more in the future if Indian policy remains unchanged. Right now the crackdown in IOK indicates that a policy change is unlikely—at least in the short term. The greatest tribute that can be paid to those who died at Pulwama is a spell of introspection to understand the depth of alienation among the Kashmiris and the new direction violence can take with the return of IEDs and desperate youth driven to suicide attacks. Much is being said about the looming Indian elections and PM Modi’s compulsion to carry out a ‘macho’ act against Pakistan to win over the radical Hindu vote. Surely, as a seasoned politician, PM Modi should consider rising above the hackneyed revenge formula to make Pulwama a take-off point for peace and reconciliation in the sub-continent– but he will have to do this against the rising tide of those screaming for war. The legacy he will create is far more important.

Powerful and rational voices in India have called for restraint and rethinking of Indian policies. A. S. Dulat a former RAW chief and Chidambharam a former finance minister and Lalu Ramdas a former Navy chief have all weighed in as have some journalists. There are similar voices on the Pakistan side. Most significantly PM Imran Khan has reached out to his counterpart to ‘give peace a chance’. He has even agreed to discuss terrorism—a long standing Indian demand for talks between the two countries. Pakistan has taken the first steps towards dismantling structures linked to militant organizations as part of Pakistan’s National Action Plan. That these decisions were taken in a meeting of the NSC with the military leadership fully on board should be significant for those who think the military in Pakistan ‘calls the shots’ on the policy towards India. It certainly provides input as do most military establishments but it is PM Imran Khan who is firmly in the driving seat.

As pointed out by PM Imran Khan Pakistan would have to be mad to sponsor or even inspire an act like Pulwama at this point in time. The Afghan talks are making headway. The US President has spoken about the seriousness of the situation. Pakistan’s economy is on the road to recovery and CPEC is attracting global investors. Who would want to jeopardize this unfolding future? Only those who see themselves being sidelined in this future and who thrive in a conflict situation. Surely this should be reason enough for India to take up PM Imran Khan’s offer and agree to unconditional dialogue—by claiming success of its coercive policy towards Pakistan. And Pakistan need not dispute this claim in the larger interest of peace and a stepping back from the brink of disaster.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to an individual)