By Khaled Ahmed
March 2, 2019
On February 27, Wing Commander Abhinandan
of the Indian Air Force (IAF) was arrested in Pakistan after his jet went down
during a mission inside Pakistan. He was shown on television praising the
Pakistan Army for treating him well, while bravely refusing to answer
questions. The officer was impressive as he spoke, his face covered with blood,
a brave son of a decorated IAF officer. Pakistan has done well to return him to
India for the sake of peace.
On February 26, according to the Indian
news agency ANI, “Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fighters destroyed multiple
terrorist camps across the Line of Control” killing hundreds of terrorists
undergoing training. This news came after the Pakistan Army spokesperson Major
General Asif Ghafoor had claimed that “Indian aircraft intruded from
Muzaffarabad sector” and dropped a payload near Balakot after “facing timely
and effective response from Pakistan Air Force”.
Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’
Welfare Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was the first to tweet on the attacks from the
Indian government’s side. This was the first time after the 1971 war that IAF
had crossed into Pakistan-controlled air space, he said. On the Pakistani side
Major-General Asif Ghafoor, Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations
(ISPR) gave information about the “Indian aircrafts’ intrusion across the LOC
in Muzaffarabad Sector” to the media.
Pictures released by the DG-ISPR appeared
in the Pakistani press showing a burnt steep mountainside with “no sign of any
damage to any property, apart from a few pine trees”. India claimed that it had
The world outside immediately focused on
the infamous camp near Mansehra where the terrorist organisation,
Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) was known to train terrorists. Mansehra became
internationally known after a Pakistan airforce officer Adnan Rashid defected
to the al Qaeda while training there. He later tried to kill former President
Musharraf, also a former army chief, who is
today on the run from an anti-terrorism court says he didn’t kill Benazir
Bhutto but some “rogue elements within the army” might have. He asserted: “I
don’t have any facts. But my assessment is accurate. I think a lady who is
known to be inclined towards the West is seen suspiciously by those elements.”
But elements within the army thought Musharraf was doing something worse:
Getting cosy with India. He survived an assassination attempt.
Even then, Pakistan and India need to talk.
Some dialogue between the two countries is on. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Member of the National Assembly, was recently in India
for the Kumbh Mela. He met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs
Minister Sushma Swaraj. The Pakistani daily Express Tribune reported him as
saying: “I have communicated a positive note to the Indian leaders and I hope
there will now be a change in their behaviour.” (See also ‘A Hindu in Pakistan’
IE, January 19).
The world is neither with India nor with
Pakistan as it asks them to stop escalating their quarrel after the Pulwama
tragedy. While not defending India over its violation of the Line of Control,
it keeps reminding Pakistan about its “covert war” outfits like JeM and
Lashkar-e-Taiba. This is something that Pakistani TV shows too have started
discussing. On February 7, for instance, Dawn TV anchor Meher Bokhari, talked
about the Paris-based Forward Action Task Force’s (FATF) stricture on Pakistan
for “not doing enough” against its “terrorists”.
India and Pakistan, though, must avoid
discussing Kashmir. This is because there is always a stalemate with India
demanding that Pakistan let up on cross-border terrorism and Pakistan insisting
on talking about all items of disagreement, “including Kashmir”. Such peace
pantomime has not worked and will not work. The two must seriously think of
“normalising”, that is, allowing “connectivity” under SAARC through free trade
and free movement of goods and traffic. India should be given a road through
Pakistan to another SAARC member, Afghanistan, and onwards to Central Asia. The
project started by Atal Bihari Vajpayee must be carried to its conclusion — to
give the people of South Asia a chance to live in peace.
Khaled Ahmed is consulting editor, Newsweek Pakistan