ANYONE who thought that a change of command in the Indian army would lead to fewer threats emanating from across the border should think again.
Taking a cue from his bellicose predecessor, India’s new army chief Lt Gen M.M. Naravane has said that conducting pre-emptive strikes across the LoC remained an option for India.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office has given the right response: “There should be no doubt about Pakistan’s resolve and readiness to thwart any aggressive Indian move inside its territory of AJ&K. No one should forget Pakistan’s befitting response to India’s Balakot misadventure.”
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD
The previous army chief Bipin Rawat, now elevated to the post of chief of defence staff, had made a habit of issuing threatening statements against Pakistan that smacked of political posturing more than anything substantive. Much of this belligerence had led India into the Balakot misadventure with disastrous results both militarily and politically. Clearly, New Delhi has learnt no lessons.
The Foreign Office has done well to remind the new Indian army chief that the last time India attempted “pre-emptive strikes” it lost two aircraft and one pilot.
It also lost face.
The pilot was returned in good faith by Pakistan. This good faith has not been reciprocated.
On the contrary, India has been growling persistently without any tangible reason except to play to the domestic gallery.
This is dangerous.
Pakistan has demonstrated that it will not allow India to cross red lines, and if India does so, there shall be reciprocity. Pakistan has also displayed that it has the capability and will to defend its territory.
The new Indian army chief might want to get a full briefing on the Balakot misadventure before issuing any more provocative and irresponsible statements.
Pakistan on its part needs to be on full alert.
India is trapped in violent domestic convulsions that are creating dangerous fault lines within its society. The right-wing government of Narendra Modi is struggling to contain the fallout of its anti-Muslim policies. It may be tempted to embark on yet another misadventure across the LoC to divert attention from its domestic troubles.
Pakistan may therefore want to reiterate its well-established red lines and also communicate forcefully to New Delhi and the international community that no Indian strike anywhere on Pakistani territory will go unanswered. This may also be an appropriate time to disabuse India of the notion that it has found some space under the nuclear overhang after Balakot. No such space exists anywhere except in the minds of India’s military planners.
Pakistan may need to step up its diplomatic game to bring key international capitals into the loop about India’s aggressive manoeuvres and rhetoric that have no place in bilateral relations between two neighbours.
Conflict suits no one, least of all two countries armed with nuclear weapons. India should dial down this posturing without delay.