"Those who celebrate war will never fight one. Those who fight a war will never celebrate one," reminded an army man's wife recently in our WhatsApp group when a few members were aggressively talking about war, and a 'decisive victory' for India against Pakistan.
So, the picture is like this.
Jaish-e-Mohammad-engineered terror training and smuggling of RDX led to a Kashmiri fidayeen undertake a suicide attack, which led to over 40 CRPF jawans being killed in Pulwama. It is an act of terror for sure, and also a failure of Indian intelligence with regards to training, ammunition and action thereafter.
India withdrew MFN (most favoured nation) status, and then carried out an air strike targeting Jaish camps with unknown casualty figures and conflicting claims from various quarters about the exact spot, impact, damage and casualties.
Pakistan conducted a counter-attack, no casualties reported, but an Indian Wing Commander caught in Pakistani soil when India was countering it. Obviously, an Indian aircraft has been shot down. India has claimed Pak F16 also was shot down though Pakistan contested it.
Now, in the two nations, a large number of media and people, in general, have started a media and WhatsApp war, calling for heads of the others. A Pakistani TV anchor even claimed that Prophet Mohammad predicted this war! Some Indian anchors, in all military fatigue, while turning newsrooms into war-rooms, are yelling at the top of their voice, calling for revenge. One even asked for annihilation of Pakistan from the map of the world!
There are political ramifications too. Why not, as it is an election season in India!
So, BJP President Amit Shah calls upon the people to vote for BJP, as Modi is the only leader who can take revenge of Pulwama massacre. PM Modi himself addressed an election meet with visuals of Pulwama massacre in the background. This is blatant misuse of bravery and supreme sacrifice of the soldiers to gain political mileage.
Some 21 opposition parties met to condemn the use of the massacre for political benefits, and they have their own narrative about the entire issue—though a bit confused on what should India do now next.
Three different studies by US think-tanks over the last four years have put forth reports of various scenarios of war between India and Pakistan. They have unanimously noted that a full-scale Indo-Pak war leading to the use of nuclear power will be extremely brutal in its impact, leading to loss of life of up to 21 million people from both the nations together. It can completely ruin the ozone layer in South Asia, can cause extreme climatic changes, calling for frozen times, famines, and many more. So, a full-scale war is beyond question, and should not be even considered an option.
In another scenario, of limited war – where India goes on hitting 'terror camps' within Pakistan, Pakistan goes on giving rebuttals in some capacity, and both keep engaging each other across the border – is also not a viable solution, going ahead. This will keep tensions boiling on both the sides, solving no problem, killing people with or without uniform in dozens, destroying property, creating a mess for civilian population on both sides of the Line of Control, and making a stable solution move further away.
Also watch: War Can Cause Only Destruction
India has made its intentions clear: that it can transgress air space of Pakistan to hit terror camps if need be, and that is the strongest message and action since 1971. Pakistan has kept its ego intact by resorting to retaliation, hitting without killing, and getting a Wing Commander virtually as a prisoner of war.
Now, do they need prove any more points? Proving points will be in whose benefits and losses? Surely, not in the interest of uniformed people fighting on ground on both the sides, and civilians caught up in crossfire.
The issue is to fight terrorism, and not fight each other, as rightly admitted by the Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj.
Interesting to note that China has chided Pakistan on terror bases, US has criticised Pulwama massacre terror act, France has moved UN to declare Jaish a terrorist outfit and Azhar Masood a global terrorist, and Saudi Arabia is not singing the Pakistani tune, contrary to expectations. Iran was already critical of Pakistan on terrorism. The global diplomatic environment is strong for India to exploit to its advantage. And rightfully so.
Also, Pakistan, as noted by its PM, Imran Khan, is itself a victim of terrorism. Several hundred children of army men were killed in cold blood in their school by terrorists some time earlier. Pakistan cannot handle the cost of any major escalation of a war. Hence, as expected, under Pakistan army pressures, the civilian government of Pakistan might have first flexed muscles, but now has called for a dialogue, probe into terror attack in Pulwama, and discussions to end terrorism, noting that Pakistan has lost many already to terrorism.
This itself should be the starting point just now.
The world opinion being sympathetic to the Indian cause now, we must up the antenna, and call for comprehensive dialogues even if it is with international observers. We must have Pulwama massacre probed, and terror links established decisively. We must drive our point home that peace dividend for both the nations is much higher than war-mongering or proxy war by Pakistan that has continued for far too long a time now.
Radicalisation of Kashmiri youths needs to be fought with positive campaign of gains of being in India, and there are many for that. Several experts have noted that the anger of a section of the Kashmiri youth is not necessarily due to religion. It is primarily due to indignity of life under siege, lack of development, lack of hope in life and work, and lack of acceptance in the larger context of India at times. Just over the last ten days, innocent Kashmiri youths, studying in various parts of India, with faith in Indian nationhood, have been beaten up and thousands have returned to the valley.
So, a positive campaign of hope and dignity needs to also start in the valley, accompanied by genuine economic development. Their voice be allowed, elections be done to elect their government, and acceptance and its display be done proactively across India for the Kashmiri youth coming to study or work elsewhere in India.
Peace is not one of the ways, it is the only way. And for peace, Pakistan has to decidedly come upfront against terror camps on its soil, and we strongly move away from war-mongering in election times – being done in the hope that people focus only on Pakistan and forget every other problem that the nation is facing.
The author is a media academic and columnist, and the views expressed are his own.
Also read: India at Crossroads: War or Dialogue?