India has conclusively gained the upper hand in its move to punish Pakistan for harbouring the terrorists who killed 42 Indian security personnel at Pulwama on February 14. The world is putting pressure on Islamabad and putting it on the defensive, and Pakistan has chosen to unconditionally release the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot it had captured on Wednesday. India would reinforce its superior hand by choosing to de-escalate, even while reserving the right to take penal action in case of further aggression by Pakistan through non-State actors or otherwise.
Three significant developments mark the period since the IAF rebuffed a morning foray by Pakistani warplanes into the Indian side of the Line of Control. One, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan made the dramatic announcement that, as a peace offering, Pakistan would unconditionally release the Indian pilot held by the country as a prisoner of war. Two, there has been considerable diplomatic activity by the world’s powers to force Islamabad to take action against the terror outfits festering in Pakistan and specifically to ban the Jaish-e-Mohammed, the outfit that owned responsibility for the Pulwama outrage. Three, senior Indian armed forces personnel held a press conference to present evidence that Pakistan fired AIM 120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles, supplied by the US for Pakistan to use to combat terrorists in Afghanistan, at Indian planes. Use of armament meant for the Taliban was not the only perfidy exposed by the press conference: Pakistan targeted an ammunitions dump as well as a battalion HQ. This targeting of military assets is aggression at variance with Pakistan’s posture of peace. This means that India would be justified in keeping the option of penal measures against Pakistan open.
India has emerged from Pakistan’s nuclear blackmail, and made it clear that it is capable of and will deliver conventional punishment if necessary. Having made that point emphatically, India will press its moral case before the global community further by choosing peace at the current moment.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times.
via With upper hand, India holds the key