India may try to cover its embarrassment

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Talking to the media on Sunday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had something distressing to reveal about Indian intentions. “The possibility of a war between the two counties sill persists,” he said, “and the Pulwama-like incident could happen again in Indian-held Kashmir to justify the military action against Pakistan.” He even mentioned a timeframe when it could happen: April 16-20. The opposition PPP though tried to play down the significance of his comments, terming them an attempt to divert public attention from other important issues. There are good reasons to take the minister’s words seriously.

He referred to Indian media reports about a recent meeting of that country’s cabinet committee on defence, attended among others by the three services chiefs, pointing out that Prime Minister Modi told the three military leaders they had his permission to act against Pakistan. And that they responded by saying they had already selected targets, which are military in nature and are not necessarily restricted to Azad Jammu and Kashmir, but can go beyond AJK. Qureshi rightly averred, “New military action against Pakistan is being announced by India.” Considering this exchange was made public it can be ignored, perhaps, as an attempt by the Modi government to play to the gallery at election time. Second and more importantly, Qureshi said Pakistan has reliable intelligence that India is hatching a new plan of aggression, for which it could stage a Pulwama-like incident in occupied Kashmir to raise diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. It is worth noting that two days earlier, the Foreign Secretary had given a briefing, based on reliable intelligence, to ambassadors of the P-5 countries, apprising them of Pakistan’s concerns so India could be restrained from starting a fresh conflict. The fact that the Foreign Office organised a briefing session for the representatives of the P-5 countries, all major powers with their own independent sources to verify the information provided them, shows Pakistan’s concerns are not without a basis.

It is easy to see why New Delhi wants to climb up the escalation ladder. It has faced deep embarrassment for failure to prove the success of its actions it took in the aftermath of the Pulwama incident. Its claim that the Indian Air Force took out a militant training camp in Balakot killing more than 300 militants has been rubbished by many analysts and politicians even inside India. And a few days ago, a report in the US-based Foreign Policy magazine confirmed Pakistan’s stance that India did not shoot down its F-16 aircraft in a February 27 dogfight. What is known is that an Indian jet fighter was downed in AJK and the pilot captured, though he was returned two days later as a “peace gesture.” All this has been quite damaging for the Modi government, and may be urging it to embark on another adventure. It is hoped the international community will do all that is necessary to prevent the outbreak of a fresh conflict between the two nuclear-armed nations that could lead to unthinkable consequences for them and harmful fallout for the wider world as well.

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