Any Pakistan military retaliation could escalate into war

Let me preface this by saying that what has been achieved in today’s airstrikes is something very fundamental and it’s a very major achievement.

Published: 27th February 2019 09:33 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th February 2019 10:09 AM   |  A+A-

Pakistani reporters and troops visit the site of an Indian airstrike in Jaba, near Balakot, Pakistan, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. | AP

Express News Service

Let me preface this by saying that what has been achieved in today’s airstrikes is something very fundamental and it’s a very major achievement. Because whatever restraints that we had put on ourselves of not reacting for fear of escalating it to the nuclear level, those shackles have been broken down by India conclusively. 

Pakistan will have now have to rethink its entire strategy of using non-state actors against us. So far Pakistan’s strategy was that under a nuclear overhang they could do whatever they liked and India would not dare to attack. That has been demolished totally. That’s the first point. 

Where do we go from here? Pakistan will have to react for the sake of its own prestige domestically in the country. Their dilemma is going to be that there are no terrorist camps in India. So what do they retaliate against? 

They will either have to retaliate against a military target, or against our civilian population, or an economic target. Each of these is very escalatory or a direct declaration of war. So I am not sure whether Pakistan or its Ministry of Defence would advise any of these steps or whether it is even prepared for a war. 

So what they are likely to use? An easy option for them would be to galvanise some of the terrorist sleeper modules within the country. They may try to do that so we need to be very careful and remain on watch, internally. 

But this will not be satisfactory enough for the Pakistani army or the Pakistani public itself. Because they will say that if we have to take revenge, the Pakistan army will have to do something. So it’s a difficult situation for them and it will be interesting to see how they will react. React they will, but how they do so we will have to just wait and see. 

Everyone knows that the Pakistani army needs India as an enemy to justify its own sweeping powers. Cumulatively, these steps will demolish the mystique of the Pakistani Army. It is the institution of the last resort, which is supposed the protect the Pakistani people. 

But a strike like this will dent its reputation. The people will ask why even after using 30 per cent of the country’s budget and the defence forces enjoying all the privileges, the country cannot defend itself when it comes to the crunch. 

So once the mystique of the Pakistan army gets demolished, or at least dented if not demolished, automatically you will find that the civil government will start asserting itself more. Once the civil government understands the insecurity that the Pakistan army suffers from, it may be possible that in the next 10 to 15 years or so, we might have normal relations. I won’t say good relations with Pakistan. 

That is in case the civil government in power is strengthened and doesn’t perceive India to be a threat. So now the ball is totally in Pakistan’s court. We have given a clear cut message and demolished a major terrorist training camp. So now let’s see how Pakistan reacts. But the message has gone across to them very strongly that the next time they do something like this, India will enter their house and hit them. 

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