Pakistan has been indulging in a proxy war against India for the past 30 years, as many have pointed out. From time to time, we have had several rounds of a composite dialogue on Terrorism and Kashmir with Pakistan. But even during talks, Pakistan has continued to do nothing bout those who stage terrorist attacks against India.
The brutal attack at Pulwama was thus India’s breaking point. For too long, India suffered with cross-border terrorism without making those responsible pay a heavy price for their actions. When the Pulwama massacre happened, it triggered immense outrage across the country, directed not just against Pakistan, but also against the political class for the complete inefficiency over the years to deal firmly with dangerous elements in our neighbouring country.
Substantively, militarily and diplomatically India made significant gains in this entire episode. Post the Balakot air strike, India didn’t indulge in any dialogue with Pakistan, even after the latter took Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in their custody. India sought ‘non-negotiable’ and ‘unconditional’ release of Varthaman and kept the pressure on Pakistan to return the officer safely and early, respecting the Geneva Convention.
India was successful in proving the point that we went in with the aim to rein in the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and hence only attacked the terror camps. But Pakistan in return retalliated by attacking our IAF fighter jets.
Firstly: Pakistan’s nuclear bluff has been called off.
Balakot constitutes the first time a nuclear power (India) carried out an airstrike inside another nuclear-armed State (Pakistan). Hence, it has burst those speculations about the inevitability of tit-for-tat action that might rapidly trigger a serious nuclear escalation risk in such situations.
Secondly: Taking a fighter aircraft to Balakot is the new benchmark that has now been set.
Successive governments will have to at least do this much in the face of a terror attack. The fact that a dozen Indian warplanes penetrated Pakistani air defences to strike targets as deep as a training camp located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and return safely is a warning to the terror masters in Pakistan that other main targets could also be hit in future.
We cannot talk and retaliate at the same time to terror activities that emerge from Pakistan. Hence, I believe no formal talks can be allowed till the time Pakistan (as Nikki Hayley, US Ambassador to the UN says) continues to harbor terror on its soil to bleed India.
There is great international pressure on Pakistan from everywhere to crackdown on terror activities operating from its soil. No country can stand with a nation that doesn’t condemn terrorism. India has a much greater economic and military strength than Pakistan, owing to which the latter obviously doesn’t want any military escalation.
India will not lose its strategic advantage achieved through the Balakot air strike. Therefore, I don’t believe there should be any ‘thank you’ gesture towards Pakistan for returning Abhinandan Varthaman, or agreeing to talks. That would be utterly naïve. It is entirely justifiable for India to maintain its tough, resolute stand and also keep up its sustained pressure on Pakistan to act on terrorism.
India has to negotiate from its position of strength. India cannot go back to ‘dossier diplomacy’ with Pakistan. India needs to keep up the pressure otherwise we will be losing the significant gains made in the past few days. Of course, I am not advocating for war, but a full-spectrum firm deterrence is an absolute requirement to meet our nation’s interests.