A Gen Asif Yasin Malik Sb, Amb Zamir Akram Sb Worthy guests
Welcome to Islamabad Policy Institute. I would specially like to thank you for sparing your valuable time on such a short notice.
As you have seen tensions between India and Pakistan have spiked in recent days. An attack on Indian paramilitary forces by local Kahsmiri has led to a crisis between the two nuclear armed neighbours. New Delhi promptly blamed Jaish-e-Muhammad for planning the attack and called on international community to put pressure on Pakistan.
Pakistan took time to react. But, its response was quite mature and composed. Prime Minister Imran Khan in a televised address to the nation offered India investigation if it shares credible intelligence, and at the same time warned India that if it resorted to military action, Pakistan will definitely respond.
Inevitable happened on February 26, when Indian air force jets violated Pakistani air space, dropped their payload near Balakot, a town in KP province (roughly 25 km from Line of Control). India, meanwhile, claimed that it had hit a ‘non-military’ target i.e. a training camp of JeM and killed 300 militants. New Delhi’s version of events didn’t hold up to scrutiny by national and international media.
In Pakistan public called for retaliation. Government announced that Pakistan will react at a time and place of its own choosing. Next morning PAF conducted strike in Indian occupied Kashmir from a stand-off range. In response India scrambled its jets. In turn of events, Pakistan shot down an Indian plane and its pilot was taken captive.
In essence, what began as an attack on occupying Indian forces in Held Kashmir has culminated into a full-blown crisis between nuclear rivals. In the process air power has been used by both sides to demonstrate their capabilities and resolve to take action. Since 1971, this is the first instance of both sides using air power. In Kargil conflict, Indian air force was not authorized to cross the Line of Control. A redline has been breached. Does this indicate salience of air combat in future Pakistan-India crises?
The thresholds of conflict in the nuclear environment have been tinkered with to establish new normal. As both sides stare at a conventional stalemate in a nuclear environment, what will be consequences of use of airpower in future? More crucially, where are two rivals headed after this tit for tat round? Will action-reaction cycle continue or escalation will be managed? There are worries that in the process a miscalculation can result with unintended consequences. Hopefully, both sides will step back from the brink, leading to lessening of tensions.
The international effort to defuse the situation, which we saw over past couple of days is commendable and I quite optimistic that it will help lower the temperatures.
I’m looking forward to enlightened discussion on these aspects of the escalation that we are seeing.