India and Pakistan have now entered into a direct military action after the Pulwama attack. However, Indian military actions are limited to target Pakistan-based terror camps instead targeting Pakistan army establishments or civilians, which in case, is opposite with Pakistan.
The Pulwama attack, which is responsible for killing 40 Indian paramilitary forces, is the seed of turmoil between the two countries, as Jaish-e Mohammed, a Pakistan-based terrorist organisation who claimed full responsibility of the suicide terror attack. The same organisation had been responsible for the 2001 Indian Parliament Attack along with Lashkar E- Taiba, another organisation operating from the Pakistan soil. A massive unrest after the Pulwama attack prevailed within the Indian people, who were filled with anger and anguish, waiting for the Indian Government to take action against such a cowardly attack.
On 26th February 2019, the Indian Air Force carried out an operation across the LoC at Balakot, dropping 1000kg of explosives targeting the terror camps of Jaish-e Mohammad and avenging the souls of the killed Indian troops.
Following the attack made by the Indian Air Force, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs released a statement appreciating the action and mentioned about the true intentions of the IAF. The statement included highly classified information which talked about more plans that the Jaish-e Mohammad were planning to conduct. India struck the biggest training camp in Balakot, where fidayeen jihadis were being trained for more suicide terror attacks on the Indian soil. After the 2001 Indian Parliament attack, the UN had ‘proscribed’ JeM and urged Pakistan to work immediately for the eradication of any terror-based activities on its soil.
Although no casualty numbers disclosed by Indian officials, Pakistan on its part condemned India’s action as rightly indicated by the words of Major General Asif Ghafoor, Pakistan Armed Forces. In a press release of the Inter-Services Public Relations, the media wing of the Pakistan Armed Forces, Ghafoor mentioned “India wanted our attention and now they have it. Pakistan will surprise and it will come differently”. Pakistan Armed Forces have blamed the IAF for targeting ‘civilian loaded’ areas, but Vijay Gokhale, Indian Foreign Secretary confirmed that large training facilities of the JeM had been targeted and were successfully removed. The Indian Government sees the action carried out by Indian Air Force as pre-emptive and a necessary step in curbing terrorism, as a step to eradicate the possible threat it poses to not only to India but the entire world order.
However, interpretations on part of Pakistan somewhere went wrong, as they saw India’s action to be a threat for their own civilians and carried out an airstrike on 27th February, 2019, targeting Indian military establishments. One of the aircrafts fell on the Indian side of Kashmir and the other on Pakistan, during a retaliatory move by Indian Air Force, whereby the ground troops captured the pilot.
The official twitter page of the Pakistani Government later released a video of the captured Wing Commander, Abhinandan Vartham. Major General Asif Ghafoor spoke in a press release that Pakistan doesn’t wish to involve any civilians, and that this airstrike was not a retaliation but an act of self-defence. Indian intelligence officials also mentioned of three Pakistani jets entering the Indian airspace, however, they were forced back. Flights connecting the Middle East and Pakistan are cancelled with a similar line of action in India, where major airports in the cities Leh, Srinagar, Chandigarh and Amritsar were shut down, which now has been resumed.
The massive uproar between the two neighbouring countries have attracted global attention. Last week the FATF had urged Pakistan to remove and wipe out all elements engaged with terrorism. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo made a press release from Hanoi urging the two countries not to escalate further military action and reminding Pakistan again for its immediate action on the agenda. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj currently attending the Russia-India-China Meet in Wuzhen, China brought up the Phulwama issue and a decision for the proper implantation of the United Nation’s Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism to be taken. India has been receiving foreign support post Phulwama attack, starting with Iran who sympathised along the same line, as it was also targeted by another Pakistan based terror organisation killing Iranian paramilitary forces. After FATF’s continued decision of ‘grey-listing’ Pakistan, the country had promised to wipe out all elements of terrorism on its soil, asking for an extended time till October 2019. The United States, China, New Zealand and Russia have earlier requested the countries for no retaliation involving direct military action, but design a course plan involving dialogue.
The airstrike carried by the Indian Air Force was to wage a war against terrorist organizations operating in Pakistan and not the country itself. Tensions have elevated to a level, which was evident at the times of the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs in their official press statement reminded Pakistan about its 2004 commitment to act against terrorism, but having failed miserably India has taken the steps necessary for it. Moreover, with the new government under the Prime Ministership of Imran Khan, the country must take up necessary course of action, as even global actors are now urging the country to take at least a few steps. The tale of Pakistan and terrorism has a long history, as issues of terror financing and religious propaganda prevail till date. Money laundering is also one of the pivotal issues that the country has to look into.
Last year, Pakistan had requested for IMF bailout, as the economy is almost on the verge of a bankruptcy. If investments were to come in and trade were to prosper, so that the lives of the Pakistani people can improve, without taking a strong and effective take on terrorism the country will not only fail to flourish regionally but also globally. The Pakistani stock market has already been affected after the airstrike was conducted by both the countries. The stock market went down by 3.6 percent.
At a time when countries join hands in dealing with state issues, Pakistan somewhere must understand that India is not the enemy that has to be dealt with, but the terror organisations operating on its soil for a long time. Strengthening relations with border countries, including India will stabilize the South East Asian region opening new ventures for investment and trade. The war is against terrorism and not a particular country, therefore at a time of crisis as right now, such misconceptions be avoided and both the countries much plan out their course to take a mutual action on it.
*Arijita Sinha Roy is a Research Associate at The Kootneeti- A New Delhi based Foreign Policy publication on International Relations & Diplomacy. She wrote this originally for Eurasia Review