Modi’s ‘Conventional’ Brinkmanship Met ‘Unconventional’ Response From Pakistan: Experts

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Pakistan simultaneously demonstrated resolve and capability along with restraint in its calculated use of force, said Defense analyst Syed Muhammad Ali; “Dynamics of Kashmir is in nobody’s control, it is on auto-pilot now,” said former Gen. Malik; In the present situation it remains to be seen whether the U.S. is part of the problem or the solution, or both.

PKONWEB Report (Islamabad) –The latest India-Pakistan standoff is now under de-escalation efforts despite PM Modi’s vow to take “morale-boosting steps”. “It is necessary to ensure that nothing is done to dent the morale of the security forces,” PM Modi told one crore BJP workers in 15,000 locations via video conference on February 28.

Pakistan had responded to India’s incursion across Kashmir Line of Control with resolve, capability and restraint: 2 aircraft were shot down and a pilot was captured–later released and handed over to the warring neighbor as gesture of goodwill and call for peace.

But apparently low morale across the border remains a “fix it” paperweight on Delhi’s table. With weeks left for the election in which Modi is striving for a second stint, he failed to deliver on his “mili-poli” (military-political) game. “Our Captured, Wounded Hearts” wrote renowned Indian opinionmaker Arundhati Roy. “By deploying the IAF, Narendra Modi has ensured that Kashmir is conclusively internationalized.”

Therefore, militarily, the crisis may remain on the front-burner until national election in India is over.

A senior defense official told PKonweb on condition of anonymity that “the biggest force multiplier was the clarity and synergy among our political and military leadership. Within military domain, Pakistan’s battle-hardened Armed Forces have been following a very focused and pragmatic developmental strategy, acquiring critical military capabilities in a very cost effective manner”.

According to the official, “the military skills have been honed in last 10 years war on terror, resulting in a classic textbook air action, seamlessly articulated politically.” “Such synergy was unheard of in the history of Pakistan,” he added.

Related Article: The ‘New Equalizer’ In Military Balance Between India and Pakistan

That Indian Prime Minister had underestimated Pakistan’s resolve to deny India any space for surgical or limited strikes was pointed out by several former senior Pakistani diplomats and military officers on Friday–they said de-escalation was not possible only through unilateral steps.

They were speaking at a roundtable on ‘Escalation Management and Control between India and Pakistan’ organized by Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI), an Islamabad-based think tank. The speakers included former Defense Secretary Lt. Gen (Retd) Asif Yasin Malik, Advisor to Strategic Plans Division Amb. Zamir Akram, former Defense Minister Lt. Gen (Retd) Naeem Lodhi, Amb. Ali Sarwar Naqvi and former Director General ACDA, Strategic Plans Division Khalid Banuri.

The speakers argued that PM Modi is looking for a public face-saving before de-escalating the ongoing crisis with Pakistan. They, however, cautioned that there could be more Indian attempts aimed at settling score with Pakistan’s military forces. This could further escalate tensions between the two nuclear armed neighbors.

Lt. Gen Asif Yasin Malik said a climb down from the escalatory ladder will be costly for PM Modi. Return of the Indian pilot is useful for building international image, but he opined that the gesture will not affect Indian calculations regarding escalating or de-escalating tensions.

Speaking about Indian-held Kashmir, Gen Malik said that over sixty percent of the Kashmiri population was below the age of thirty-five years, which explains why the youth are more unwilling to accept Indian tyranny and occupation. “Dynamics of Kashmir is in nobody’s control, it is on auto-pilot now.”

The crisis erupted after a Kashmiri boy attacked Indian occupying forces in Indian-held Kashmir. However, unfortunately it is being used by the Indian leadership to divert world attention from Kashmir issue and bolstering BJP’s re-election prospects, the general said.

The former Defense Secretary, while speaking about the current escalation, said that a state has to plan for both escalation and de-escalation and poor planning for any of the two scenarios can lead to war.

Amb. Zamir Akram stressed the need for escalation management and control to ensure that nuclear deterrence is maintained. He emphasized that de-escalation is only possible once both adversaries have a common interest in de-escalation and unilateral measures aimed at de-escalation will not work. He identified rationality, signaling, transparency and credibility as key factors influencing crisis management.

Credibility of deterrence is essential for de-escalation, he stated. In previous crises, he recalled, Pakistan and India exercised self-imposed restraint even when they had not tested the nuclear weapons. Now that both neighbors are nuclear powers, the situation demands much more care, caution and responsibility from both states, as well as a greater role of international community to timely defuse the situation.

It was stated that credibility of the crisis manager is critical for both sides. Helping India and Pakistan timely de-escalate the ongoing tensions is a test of the U.S. credibility as a crisis manager. During the 1990 crisis Robert Gates helped diffuse the South Asian crisis. However, in the present situation it remains to be seen whether the U.S. is part of the problem or the solution, or both.

In response to a question about next possible steps towards de-escalation, the speakers said that restrictions on the individuals demanded by India and meeting some of the requirements of demarche shared by New Delhi could allow Indian political leadership to save face before its voters and de-escalate.

Former Defense Minister Lt. Gen (Retd) Naeem Lodhi warned about Indian military attempting more mischief in future. He, therefore, advised continued vigilance.

Mr. Khalid Banuri said that the current crisis was a test of diplomacy. Pakistani diplomats must internationally highlight the Indian violation of the UN Charter, instigating an unprovoked international armed conflict and grave violations of the UN resolutions.

Defense analyst Syed Muhammad Ali said that Pakistan had simultaneously demonstrated resolve and capability along with restraint in its calculated use of force. Pakistan Air Force could have caused much greater surprise but restrained itself because it only aimed at dissuading India from any future misadventure.

Another Pakistani defense official based in the Middle East told PKonweb on condition of anonymity that they  expect the noise to continue till elections are held in India. “We are expecting it, and can defend, as was demonstrated, but India must talk of peace not war.”

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