War is one of the constants of history, and has not diminished with civilization or democracy. In the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war — Will Durant.
What we witnessed last week was nothing but an aerial dogfight, the first by the South Asian rivals in nearly five decades. The brief skirmish ended up with two IAF jets shot down by Pakistan and a pilot behind the enemy lines (at the land of Pakistan) for a brief time. The rare aerial engagement that alarmingly raised the stakes in the perilous standoff came a day after intrusion of Indian jets into Pakistan’s Balakot.
Right after the showdown, DG ISPR Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan didn’t want hostilities with India. “Today’s action was in self defence; we don’t claim any victory. We look towards peace.” he further added.
Following the ratcheting up tensions, the sharp escalation between two subcontinental neighbors appears to be winding down, at least for now. However, this might be a temporary lull, as the electoral politics in India turns out to be topsy-turvy.
Now what’s next? Has a perpetual hush descended over the sub-continent? Or this stillness is an omen of ferocious storm? Have we entered into de-escalation times? Pakistan’s FM Qureshi thanked the US Sec of State Mike Pompeo for his private diplomacy to avert war. He also hailed China, Russia and Saudi Arabia for diffusing the situation. The question is: can we safely predict that war is over?
Ironically the chain of events depicts that the prevailing silence is not as auspicious as we think. Yes, no doubt, Pakistan gave peace another chance to cease hostilities. Pakistan showed immense magnanimity by handing over the pilot to give Indian authorities a colossal face-saving opportunity. But again, magnanimity in politics, said Edmund Burke, is not seldom the truest wisdom, and a great empire (read India) and little minds (read Modi) go ill together.
In a public speech, Modi referenced the pilot’s release in a callow pun to bully Pakistan with more to come: “This was just a pilot project. We were just practicing. Now we will carry out the real thing.” Pakistan’s government also claimed that India was about to unleash the “dangerous attack” upon Karachi and Bahawalpur with Israeli backing from its airbase in Rajasthan. Timely intelligence made Pakistan to shun that precarious plan—both states were on “brink of no return”.
The story doesn’t end here. An Indian submarine breached Pakistan’s territorial maritime waters only to be forcefully back on its way by dint of Pakistani Navy’s warning. Not confirmed yet, though it’s also in the air that another Indian nuclear submarine armed with ballistic missiles once again tried to enter into Pakistan’s seafaring zone but in vain on account of ultra-vigil of naval forces. Time and again, unprovoked Indian firing targeting civilian population across the LoC has become order of the day.
For India is on the eve of its general elections, BJP’s politics strives for the art of trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies. Hindutva centric BJP’s strategy hinges upon the murderous madness of genocide—one people (Hindus), one land (Hindustan), one truth (Hindutva) and the end of difference (genocide of minorities). In PM Modi’s electioneering, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, one can bet it was planned that way. For instance, Pulwama is a case—a pretext to trigger farcical Surgical Strike II in order to augment so-called electoral gains.
Modi’s aim is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary, one like terrorism emanated only from Pakistan. In one fell swoop, he has branded the entire opposition as “anti-armed forces and pro-Pakistan”. Modi is trying to portray himself as the country’s one true patriot.
But the survival of Modi is an anti-thesis to secular India. He and his Hindutva factions want to abolish the secular constitution by declaring India a Hindu state. Farooq Abdullah rightly acknowledges the Quaid’s stance of two-nation theory in the present-day partisan scenario. A new two nation Hindutva doctrine is on the gloomy horizon in which India only belongs to Hindus and other communities like Muslims, Christians, Sikhs et al are Maleechas—untouchables. In order to attain this vicious aim, Modi wants two-thirds majority. Its only escalation that can help him in bagging 22 seats in Karnataka, as one BJP leader claimed.
There is another country that fits in Modi’s equation. That is none but Israel. Zafar Hilali’s shocking revelation, don’t able to gauge veracity of his claim at the time, about capturing of Israeli pilot implies Israel is an accomplice with India. But the question is: why Israel is so much anxious to harm Pakistan?
In his Sapiens: A brief history of humankind, Yuval Noah Harari by elaborating an imagined order throws light upon mythology. Myths, it transpired, are stronger than anyone could have imagined. On the advent of Agricultural Revolution, people, for the creation of crowded cities and mighty empires, invented stories about great gods, motherlands and joint stock companies to enable the great cooperation. In modern times, the Greater Israel is also a religious myth which is an imagined Israeli order of entire Middle East. The only hurdle, as per fanatic Zionists, is Pakistan in the presence of which the dream of the Greater Israel can’t be realized. If Pakistan is militarily engaged by India, Israel might be roamed free in the Middle East. Hence a “great cooperation” of Indo-Israel is indispensable for an aforementioned imagined order.
Now in the prevailing circumstances can we safely conjecture for peace? The DG ISPR in his recent interview to CNN rightly said: “It’s up to New Delhi whether it wants to move towards de-escalation or continue pursuing a war-mongering agenda. The ball is in India’s court—the situation will get worse should they decide to escalate tensions.”
But again, who said this: Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrel. Who in India is painting himself as a sole patriot to win the electoral gamble? Some conflicts (one like Kashmir) are too fundamental to be resolved by negotiation; and during the prolonged negotiations (if history may be our guide) subversion would go on. The time we live in, maybe, is the winter of the world peppered with an unstable peace. Presently both India and Pakistan are in a strategic pause. To how long this pause might be held, depends solely upon India’s next move.