India-Pakistan tensions: Balakot strike and Abhinandan's release are watershed moments, here's why

  • It is critical to debunk the myth that Abhinandan’s release was a peace gesture by Pakistan

  • Indian PM does not want to waste his talking talking to a puppet controlled by ISI

  • This will also serve as an eye-opener for the superpower nation shielding JeM

When the Pulwama attack occurred on 14 February, it brought back an acute sense of collective indignation which one felt on rare earlier occasions such as the 26/11 attacks. However, unlike on previous occasions, the restlessness notwithstanding, most people knew that our response this time would be different. We would no longer play ball to the wily Pakistani leadership which has mastered the art of talking peace during the day and encouraging terror during the night.

 India-Pakistan tensions: Balakot strike and Abhinandans release are watershed moments, heres why

IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was released by Pakistan authorities at Wagah border. PTI

Hence, after a whetted prelude which included cancellation of Most Favoured Nation status to Pak, increasing custom duty on imported goods by 200 percent, diplomatic onslaught, warnings over the Indus Water Treaty, besides direct warnings by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, in his speeches, the unprecedented finally happened in the wee hours of 26 February. The Indian Air Force (IAF )intruded deep into Pakistan to bomb one of Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest training camps at Balakot.

What followed was a rogue retaliation by Pakistan on the morning of 27 Februrary, which resulted in Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman being taken captive. The night of 27 February was indeed a chaotic and depressing one for India, what with Pakistan releasing a video of Abhinandan. This video instantly led to a renewed clamour for ‘peace’ by India’s disgruntled liberals. In fact, the behavior of a section of Imran Khan enamoured Indians was so embarrassing that Pakistan seemed to have gained an advantage in the situation.

India’s previous government would have succumbed under this pressure, as the case used to be. But then Modi is made of sterner stuff, a fact Pakistan was late to realiSe. Not only did Modi chose not to de-escalate, the Indian establishment made it clear to Pakistan that releasing Abhinandan immediately was not a choice but a compulsion for them. A host of friendly countries only chipped in, putting insurmountable pressure on Pakistan. The result was pleasantly unexpected: a rogue State, known for its thuggery was, for the first time, forced to release a Prisoner Of War in less than 48 hours and without any damage to him.

It is critical to debunk the myth that Abhinandan’s release was a peace gesture by Pakistan. It was rather a desperate damage control act, given Pakistan’s fragile fiscal health and the collateral perils of escalating tensions with India at this stage.

It is important to note here that till the noon of 28 February, a cheeky Pakistan establishment continued to play truant-telling India that they will decide in the next two days on whether to give the POW status to the captive wing commander. By early evening however, the terror State had been shocked into retreat mode by India’s unexpected firmness. When Imran finally declared Abhinandan would be released as a ‘peace gesture’, India had registered its most resounding win against Pakistan in several decades.

So how did this Pakistan’s absolute turnaround come about in a matter of hours? Contrary to what the obsequious Indian peaceniks would have us believe, Pakistan indeed didn’t have an option this time. Why would a country which only the previous day had violated our airspace with 23 F16s and tried attacking our military bases, suddenly beg for ‘peace”? What contributed to Pakistan being choked was an unprecedented resolve shown by India. India’s message to the world was loud and clear : Yes, India wants peace but will no longer be blackmailed into it. India will never again be apologetic about avenging herself. India will no longer run to the super-power nations and complain against Pakistan. Rather, the world would now have to watch India tame Pakistan’s rogue propensities.

What does the future hold?

Strange as it is, the last four days has also seen repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan and heavy shelling across the border. In fact, around the same time that Wing Commander Abhinandan was being handed over, heaving shelling by Pakistan resulted in the death of two children.

In this situation, India rightly does not want to have any truck with Pakistan. The Indian prime minister does not want to waste his time talking to a puppet prime minister controlled by the Inter-Services Intelligence. For India to be ready for any meaningful engagement with Pakistan, Pakistan will have to take visible action against JeM terrorists. While this tough, non-nonsense stand is extremely heartening, ideally it should have been taken post 26/11.

What also works heavily in India’s favour today is our deft foreign policy. The best manifestation of our diplomatic success was seen on Friday when the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Countries sided with truth and India . In the process, they ostracised Pakistan — their member — and shunned terror unequivocally. This is the power of today’s India. Sadly, a powerful India discomforts Pakistan, as much as it does certain Indian opportunists, who now have a new fantasy: a peace loving terror State!

For India, this is truly a watershed moment. With its new resolve and clout, India is expected to assume a crucial role and responsibility in the fight against global terror. This will also serve as eye-opener for the superpower nation which had until recently been shielding JeM.

The author is a BJP leader from Mumbai

Updated Date: Mar 02, 2019 19:35:28 IST