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De-escalation is a must for peace in the region

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Shahjhan Mustafa

The Pulwama attack completely transformed the political atmosphere of entire South Asia. Almost 40 Indian security forces personnel’s got killed when a suicide bomber attacked a military convoy near Lethpora of Pulwama district on 14th February of this year. The Pakistan based militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed the responsibility of the heinous attack. Voices from all across the country, as also from other parts of the world, were demanding stern action against Pakistan based militant organisations as condemnations poured in from all sides. A visibly concerned Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, promised strict action if India provided ‘actionable’ evidence.

It was the first attack of its kind in valley since the inception of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir given the sheer quantity of the explosives as well as the causalities. India reacted quickly and withdrew ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) status accorded to Pakistan. The state administration withdrew security cover from Hurriyat leaders and arrested religious and Hurriyat leaders claiming that such elements propagated ‘pro-Pakistan’ narrative in Valley.

Voices within India, especially the media houses, echoed to avenge Pulwama attack and dismantle Jihadi ecosystem inside Pakistan. On 25th of February India launched air strikes against militants in Pakistan and said that the strikes targeted a training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammad group in Balakot, north-east Pakistan following which Pakistan said that it will respond to the strikes at a time of its choosing besides rejecting the claim that Indian strikes had killed any terrorists or dismantled any camps. On 27th of February Pakistan shot down two Indian Military Aircrafts over Pakistani air space and arrested one Indian pilot.

From “withdrawal of MFN status” to “Balakot Air Strikes” all went on to create a war-like situation between these two nuclear armed nations. Many political analysts while, opposing war, claimed that the situations were being drafted in view of the coming elections in India.  After losing many state elections the operation was a tactic for garnering votes. However, the retaliation by Pakistan Air force and arrest of Indian pilot completely transformed the scenario putting India in a tight spot. Pakistan Prime Minister Khan, quite diplomatically, announced that “we have an Indian pilot. As a peace gesture we will release him”. Mr. Imran Khan also said adding that “I tried to call Narendra Modi. I wanted to make it clear that we do not want any kind of escalation”.

The arrest of Indian pilot and later sending him back to India is seen as a diplomatic win for Imran Khan and it was hailed all across the world. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed Imran Khan for such a brawny decision though India claims that the release of the Wing Commander was a result of Pakistan’s bowing down before the Indian might.

It would be naive to believe that the government of India doesn’t know the repercussions of a war especially when both India and Pakistan posses nuclear arms that can destroy not just these two countries but half of the world.

Many experts believe that the failure of the promises of economic development, good governance, construction of Ram temple and New-India had led the government to look for options for political advantages and nothing but arousing ultra-nationalism and acute hatred for Pakistan was seen as the key. Economic instability after demonetisation, unable to provide the promised job quota, farmers protests, destabilised situation in Kashmir, problems in north-eastern states, polarization between different ethnic groups have completely overshadowed whatever good the current political leadership might have done.

Imran Khan’s unceasing call for peace should not be miscomprehend as weakness. It is in the interests of both the nations that they must come on dialogue table to sort out all issues including Kashmir and Terrorism. Pakistan is in a challenging atmosphere and Imran Khan led government is working hard on its “New Pakistan” agenda. Poverty, illiteracy, injustice and corruption are the key challenges Pakistan is dealing with besides terrorism.

Both the nations are facing similar challenges which include corruption, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and environmental degradation and both must use their resources to eradicate and fight these common challenges for larger prosperity.

One cannot ignore the reality that it is Kashmir and Kashmiri people who are at the centre of tensions when escalations between India and Pakistan go up. Peace process should be started to solve all important issues including the Kashmir conflict. Taking action against the militant outfits is valid demand from Indian side but India must understand that it is not possible to resolve everything by military means. Pakistan must understand that mere statements will not harvest anything but they must take initiatives to neutralize the militant mindset through dialogue or any other possible means and for that matter solution of Kashmir issue is imperative.

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