China Calls For Talks On Masood Listing

Reiterating its stand, China on Tuesday called for “political consultation within the framework of 1267 Committee” to resolve the issue of listing Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN.

China also underlined that “positive progress” has been made in the issue so far.

“Support issue of the listing (of Masood Azhar), which should be resolved through political consultation within the framework of 1267 Committee. We think that is also the consensus of the overwhelming majority of the members of the Council,” said Chinese foreign ministry, in a statement.

“At present, the relevant consultations are underway in the 1267 Committee. Within the framework. And positive progress has been made. Thirdly, we believe in the joint efforts of all parties. This problem can be properly solved,” it added.

The remarks come two-days after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The statement also follows Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale visit to China on April 20 to discuss the listing of Azhar, on which Beijing emerged as the sole hurdle so far.

On March 13, China, for the fourth time, had blocked a proposal by the US, the UK and France, among others, to enlist Azhar as a global terrorist before the UNSC committee.

A day after, Beijing had defended its technical block on the proposal, saying it needed “more time” as it is “conducting a comprehensive and in-depth review” on the listing request put forth by the countries.

ALSO READ: France Freezes Masood’s Assets

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang had told reporters at a regular briefing that China will continue “coordinating” with all the relevant parties to find a “lasting solution” to the issue if it is to be resolved in a “responsible and sustainable way”.

India had expressed disappointment over China’s move but vowed to continue to pursue “all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on our citizens” are brought to justice.

The United States had also said that the failure to designate Azhar as a global terrorist “runs counter” to Washington and Beijing’s goal of regional stability and peace.

A global terrorist tag under the UN’s 1267 committee would have led to a freeze on Azhar’s assets and a ban on travel and keeping weapons. (ANI)

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#PulwamaRevenge – ‘India Responded Well’

I got to know about the Pulwama terror attack through television and my first reaction was sorrow mixed with anger. I kept wondering as to for how long our Indian soldiers will just be numbers; for how long will we keep losing our military and paramilitary forces for issues that can be prevented? I am glad that many sections of the media kept asking the right questions.

Though, I am no supporter of war, yet I feel Pakistan (because it has given protection to the JeM Commander Masood Azhar) must be sent a very strong message: hamari sharafat ko hamari kamzori mat samjho (our civility should not be mistaken for our weakness).

The surgical strikes at Balakot sent a very strong message that meant, ‘we won’t take things lying down anymore’. The civilians of Pakistan must be respected, but the terrorists living on Pakistani soil must not be spared. The Balakot strike was called non-military, pre-emptive action. It was necessary, since we can’t be sitting ducks waiting for more terrorist attacks, emboldening elements of terror.

However, having said all this, I do feel the government should accept there was intelligence failure during the Pulwama attack. The state of Uttar Pradesh has lost many of its men in the attack. The government should take good care of the old parents of jawans, who have lost their lives.

Many people are saying that important issues were getting sidelined as the war cry was getting stronger. But I don’t believe it. I feel the government is trying to manage everything quite well. For instance, the authorities in Uttar Pradesh were successful in carrying out the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj, without any untoward incident during the turmoil. As for the issue of unemployment, yes the situation is not so good, but we cannot expect miracles in just five years.

This would be my first time as a voter and I am pretty excited about it. I will definitely vote for BJP, especially because I feel Narendra Modi has given a big boost to self-sufficiency/self-employment. Now youngsters are venturing beyond just thinking for themselves or operating merely for profit, they now also think about how to generate employment for others. Yes, the government needs to improve itself on many counts, but we need to give them a second chance.

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US Slams China For Blocking Azhar Listing

The United States has said that the failure to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist “runs counter” to Washington and China’s goal of regional stability and peace.  

“As UN Sanctions Committee deliberations are confidential, we don’t comment on specific matters, but we will continue working with the Sanctions Committee to ensure that the designations list is updated and accurate,” said a US Embassy spokesperson here on Thursday.

“With respect to China, the United States and China share a mutual interest in achieving regional stability and peace, and a failure to designate Azhar runs counter to this goal,” the spokesperson further said.

US’ observation comes close on the heels of China, in the United Nations Security Council, blocking the proposal of the United States, France, and the UK to put dreaded terrorist Masood Azhar on the UN terror blacklist. 

JeM, a Pakistan-based terror outfit headed by Azhar, has carried out many deadly terror attacks in India including Pulwama terror attack on February 14 in which 40 jawans of CRPF were killed. JeM also carried out the attack on Parliament in 2001, and Punjab’s Pathankot airbase in 2016. (ANI)

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China Blocks Terror Tag For Masood Azhar

China once again blocked a proposal in the UN Security Council on Wednesday to enlist Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar as an international terrorist despite his outfit carrying out the ghastly Pulwama attack.

This is the fourth time that China has used the technical hold to block the proposal, which is being pushed by other permanent members of the UNSC, particularly the US, Britain and France.

India expressed disappointment over the development but vowed to continue to pursue “all available avenues to ensure that terrorist leaders who are involved in heinous attacks on our citizens” are brought to justice.

“The ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee (1267 Sanctions Committee), upon completion of the no-objection period on 13 March 2019, was not able to come to a decision on the proposal for listing Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi under the UN Sanctions regime, on account of a member placing the proposal on hold,” said a statement issued by the External Affairs Ministry.

The statement did not identify the “member” of the UNSC which put the proposal on hold but sources said it was China.

“We are disappointed by this outcome.  This has prevented action by the international community to designate the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a proscribed and active terrorist organization which has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir on 14 February 2019,” the MEA statement said.

“We are grateful for the efforts of the Member States who moved the designation proposal and the unprecedented number of all other Security Council members as well as non-members who joined as co-sponsors,” it added.

(ANI)

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India China Relations

US Asks China Not To Block Azhar Listing

The United States has urged China to not block Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar’s listing as a global terrorist at the United Nations Security Council meeting to be held late on Wednesday over Azhar’s designation.

At the behest of Pakistan, China has previously stonewalled efforts to designate the Pakistan-based terror outfit’s chief as a global terrorist at the UNSC by putting technical holds.

Following the ghastly Pulwama terror attack carried out by the JeM, three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, the UK and France – have initiated renewed efforts to get Azhar proscribed. China, on the other hand, has not outrightly supported the move until now.

“…, I would say that the United States and China share a mutual interest in achieving regional stability and peace and that a failure to designate Azhar would run counter to this goal,” Robert Palladino, the US Department of State’s Deputy Spokesperson stated on Tuesday (local time).

“JeM is a United Nations-designated terrorist group. Azhar is the founder and the leader of JeM, and he meets the criteria for designation by the United Nations. JEM has been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks and is a threat to regional stability and peace,” Palladino said at a media briefing.

40 CRPF personnel lost their lives in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 14 when a JeM terrorist targetted their convoy.

Tensions have been high between India and Pakistan ever since, with India undertaking an anti-terror strike on a major JeM camp in Pakistan’s Balakot in the aftermath.

The international community has supported India’s fight against terror, with the United States bluntly telling Pakistan to stop providing support and a safe haven to terrorists and terror outfits following the attack.

Pakistan’s military spokesperson, Major General Asif Ghafoor, on the other hand, has denied the presence of JeM in their country – a claim which has been widely ridiculed.

“It is regrettable Pakistan continues to deny JeM involvement in Pulwama attack. Is Pakistan defending Jaish and being its spokesperson? Till today Pakistan has failed to take any credible action against Jaish. Terrorist camps in Pakistan are in the public domain…All members of UNSC are aware of JeM camps in Pakistan and the presence of Masood Azhar in the country. We request all UNSC members to designate Masood Azhar under the UNSC sanction list. We have been repeatedly demanding Pakistan to take action against terror camps in their territory and area under its control,” India had earlier said while slamming Pakistan.

(ANI)

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Balakot Attack: Time To End Bilateral Diplomacy

The decision to go up the spiral ladder by NDA 2 Government and use Indian Air Force (IAF) against terrorism is a new normal. The bold air attack in the wee hours of the morning of 26 February at Balakot, on mainland Pakistan was a non-military, preemptive strike against an established training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and was not likely to be a one off attack. India has made it clear that it may resort to such attacks if Pakistan does not rein in the terrorist organisations. It showed the resolve of the elected government in India to take action against terrorists to avert future Pulwama type attacks in Jammu and Kashmir or rest of India. The retaliatory attack by Pakistan was on expected lines and was successfully averted.

Pakistan was caught off guard and in the existing hostility matrix had not factored in an air attack on its mainland or in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Initially, in denial of any damage due to the Indian insertion, Pakistan Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) stated that Indian aircrafts had violated their air space and had been chased away by the alert Pakistan Air Force planes. Once India claimed they had destroyed a JeM camp and killed between 250-300 terrorists; Pakistani authorities took a u turn and announced that this aggression on part of India would be avenged. As a riposte, ten Pakistani aircrafts including F-16s tried to violate the Indian airspace in broad day light o. 27 February but were challenged by IAF air defence aircraft ex-Awantipur. In the ensuing dog fight one Paki F-16 was brought down by the Indians and the Pakis destroyed one MIG -21 and captured Wing Commander Abhinandan who had bailed out.

In the three days from 26 to 28 February the Indian and Pakistani media went berserk and created a war hysteria. They were ably helped by retired defence officers, bureaucrats and academic defence analysts. Both the countries were stressing on their standard narratives with India insisting that Pakistan should bring to book all terrorist organisations and United Nations should put Masood Azhar on international terrorist list like Hafiz Muhammad Saeed; while Pakistan remained in a constant denial of assisting the terrorist groups. Even the gesture of releasing Wing Commander Abhinandan by Pakistan was viewed by India with suspicion and the Indian media declared that Pakistan was brought to its knees due to pressure by the international community.

I think time has come for India to consider dumping this outdated diplomatic tool of bilateralism. Bilateralism had a relevance during the Cold War when India was not part of either US or USSR alliances but was part of the non-aligned nations group. We dealt with member nations on bilateral basis inspite of the fact to which group, NATO or Warsaw Pact; was that nation belonging to. The Panchsheel Doctrine based on five tenets of bilateralism which we tried with China in late fifties failed miserably when China attacked India in 1962. During Kargil crisis and after the Balakot incidence we have sought the intervention of USA, UN, France, UK and Germany.

It is felt in some quarters that Pakistan has been totally isolated by the international community and most Indians would like to believe it. The truth is far from it and all those nations who have exhorted Pakistan to take action against terrorists have engaged Pakistan as parts of alliances in solving the Afghanistan problem whether it is US- Afghan Government-Taliban-Pakistan or Russia-Taliban-Pakistan-China group. However, Pakistan is taking symbolic actions by arresting large number of known terrorists including brother and son of Masood Azhar and restricting the moves of other terrorist groups. How sincere are the efforts of Pakistan in roping in of all terrorist groups, only time will tell.

The situation has been diffused for the time being by timely return of our pilot by Pakistan and Indian politicians are back to work for electioneering and mud-slinging onto each other. Where do we go from here? While India will be pre occupied in elections for the next three months, Pakistan will do well in showing its genuine intent by ensuring that no major terrorist incidence takes place during this period. By carrying out aerial surgical strikes deep into hinterland of Pakistan and obtaining unconditional release of its captured pilot, India has exhibited its resolve to fight terrorism fiercely. It also reserves the right to repeat the attacks as and when felt deemed.

While India has won this round on moral grounds and pressure from international community, there are yawning gaps in the capability building of the three forces. The defence acquisitions in the pipeline have to be speeded up. Whereas, we certainly need big ticket aircraft and warships, the bureaucrats and the army brass need to lower their eyes and address the needs of the infantry man on the ground who is largely deployed in insurgency areas. The infantry does not have a state of the art rifle, Sten gun, hand grenade, water bottle and modified vehicles for specialist weapons. To effectively take out terrorist leaders and minimise own casualties, infantry needs latest version of sniper rifles. Pakistan has already acquired them and is inflicting casualties to own troops on the Line of Control (LC).

With the entire Balakot incident coming as a shot in the arm, the Modi Government is likely to return to power after the elections. Regardless of which so ever party comes to power, the new government should make an attempt to engage Pakistan in talks and also work wholeheartedly to get normalcy back in the Kashmir Valley. This has been the hottest winter in the last decade as far as insurgency and violence levels are concerned in the sub-zero temperatures. The levels of alienation have gone back to 1987 levels. We should not be in a hurry to impose an elected government on people until security forces have brought in levels of insurgency under manageable limits.

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Pak Says It Will Act Against Terror Groups

Days after Financial Action Task Force rapped Pakistan for its inaction on terror funding and money laundering, Islamabad has spun into action and decided to launch a crackdown on terrorist groups including Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).

According to the Dawn, Pakistan’s Information Minister, during an interview, said that the government had taken a firm decision that there would be a stern action against all terror groups. This, he said, was in accordance with the political consensus contained in the National Action Plan (NAP).   

However, the information minister refused to give any deadline for the operation against terror groups by saying that “the timeline was something for the security forces to decide.” The achievement of FATF’s 27 targets under a 10-point action plan has now become a top priority for the government, said sources. 

The Financial Monitoring Unit of Pakistan issued 8,707 suspicious transaction reports (STRs) in 2018, up from 5,548 STRs in 2017.

While condemning the Pulwama terror attack of February 14, the Paris-based global financial watchdog, FATF, last month in a stern warning has reprimanded Pakistan for not doing enough to curb terrorism financing and money laundering.

Soon after the FATF condemnation, Pakistan ordered re-imposition of the ban on Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF).

It is to be noted that Pakistan was put on FATF’s ‘grey list’ between 2012 and 2015 as well.

Reportedly, India had made a strong case against Pakistan’s non-compliance in curbing terror funding, in the wake of the Pulwama attack on February 14 that left about 40 CRPF personnel dead, in an attack orchestrated by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the worst in three decades.

Pakistan’s inclusion in the ‘blacklist’ would mean serious implications for the country’s debt-ridden economy. Such a move will lead to less international investment and downgrading of ratings by international banking and credit rating agencies, thereby, affecting the international image of the country.

The FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. (ANI)

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Will A Terror Tag On Masood Azhar Help India Cause?

For over a decade now India has been focused in getting Maulana Masood Azhar, the head of the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, declared a global terrorist by the United Nations Security Council. What will this achieve? What difference will it make on the ground? Will the JeM’s anti-India operations end? 

The truth is little will change. Designating a person a global terrorist will ensure that his movements are restricted. It will mean a travel ban, freezing of his assets and an embargo on the sale of weapons to him or his organisation. Earlier, Azhar had travelled extensively to Kashmir, Somalia, Britain, Afghanistan, Yemen and Kenya, to promote jihad, recruit fighters and collect money for the cause. In the last few years, however, his travel abroad has stopped. According to none other than Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Azhar is in poor health. There have been rumours that he is dead. But even if he is alive, getting him marked a global terrorist makes little difference.

Hafiz Saeed, the man India accuses as the brains behind the terror strikes in Mumbai that killed nearly 160 people, is a declared terrorist. The co-founder of Lashkar-e-Toiba and chief of Jamaat-u-Dawa has a $10 million reward on his head, yet he continues to operate from Pakistan.

New Delhi’s own logic goes against this move. India has always pointed out the anti-India terror outfits like Jem and LeT are used by the Pakistan Army and its spy agency ISI to bleed India. If that is the case, even after Azhar is declared a global terrorist, he will continue to be used by Pakistan whenever they wish to. Global terrorist does not mean he will be arrested and put away in a prison outside Pakistan. He can be in prison or under house arrest, but can still be used by the ISI whenever necessary. After all he does not go out and bomb targets, he has a network to do all that.

The UN is not monitoring his every move. So if we go by the government of India’s belief then Azhar is funded and used by the ISI and the army, freezing of assets or embargo on arms sale to his organization is meaningless as the ISI can finance operations in Kashmir or wherever else in India it wants JeM to strike.

Maulana Masood Azhar, a radical Islamic cleric, was arrested by the Indian authorities in 1994 and imprisoned. The first attempt to free him was In July 1995, when six foreigners were kidnapped in Kashmir by a group called Al Faran. One of the demands of the group was to free Azhar. He was later freed by the NDA government in 1999 as a tradeoff for freeing the passengers of a hijacked Indian airlines plane from Kathmandu. He went back to Pakistan and founded the Jaish-e-Mohammed in a year later.

Experts believe that the Jaish has close operational links with the Taliban, as the hijacked plane was flown to Kandahar at a time when the Taliban was ruling in Afghanistan. There was close coordination between the hijackers and the Taliban government. All Islamist Jihadi outfits often work with each other, as their ultimate goal is the same. The Jaish also had links with Al Qaeda, the LeT as well as anti-Shia groups in Pakistan, notably the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi as well as the Sipah-e-Sahaba. The sectarian violence against Shias is also a common theme promoted by the Sunni terror groups operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Azhar’s public appearances over the years and his addresses to large gatherings make his position on a radicalized regime clear to one and all. Getting the UNSC to support New Delhi’s move would at best be a symbolic victory. Indians will rejoice, and the government will be praised for getting China fall in line. It will be a political victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team. India’s own logic and accusations against Pakistan make the global terrorist tag for Azhar redundant.

But India is using all its diplomatic clout with the US, Russia, UK, France and China to get Masood Azhar the tag of global terrorist. New Delhi believes that the time is ripe for another attempt, considering the worldwide condemnation of the terror act in Pulwama last month. There is hope that this time around, after three failed attempts, China would change its mind. Considering India’s outrage in the aftermath of Pulwama suicide attack and the international backing New Delhi was able to garner, China may not want to go against world opinion this time.

China had made all the right noises after Pulwama. At the Russia, India and China meeting in Wuzhen, soon after the suicide attack, the three countries  issued a strong  a statement about “eradicating the breeding grounds of terrorism” in an obvious reference to Pakistan, though no country was named. Last week, France, US and UK moved a fresh proposal in the United Nations Security Council to do so. The issue will come up for discussion later this month. If China decides not to shoot down next week’s proposal at the UNSC, Masood Azhar will be declared a global terrorist.

Jaish e Mohammed, Azhar’s organization, was designated by the UN sanctions committee as a global terror outfit in October 2001. Did that affect its ability to strike India? Certainly not. Despite the sanctions, the Jaish was able to carry out the attack at India’s frontline airbase in Pathankot in 2016 and now the Pulwama suicide strike.

There is chatter in the social media from Pakistan that the Imran Khan government may also not object to the move. This could be for two reasons. First to win brownie points in the international stage. Imran Khan’s decision to free the captured Indian pilot has won him credit. The other reason could be that China has indicated that it will not veto the move. The cost to Pakistan is minimal even if he is given the tag of global terrorist. Merely domestic hardliners and jihadi supporters would be angry with the government.  

And what happens if the “very unwell” Masood Azhar dies. Well, in such case, the second line of leadership will be ready to take over. Unless the Pakistan Army changes its attitude and India works at talking to its people in Kashmir, Jaish will continue to recruit and spread terrorism in the Valley and elsewhere.

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#PulwamaRevenge – ‘Balm On Our Wounds’

Pradeep was a mediocre student. But he always aspired to join the armed forces like his elder brother, who retired last year. Pradeep joined the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in 2003 after many futile attempts. And from then, he too became a role model for other youngsters in the village, which include his two sons, who are now 12 and 17.

On the evening of February 14, we received the news about Pradeep’s martyrdom. My world came to a standstill. He reported back to work just two days before he was killed. He was here to attend his cousin’s wedding.

When Pradeep’s sons came to hear of their father’s supreme sacrifice, they refused to believe it. For two days they were in denial. But when the news sunk in all they have been talking about is avenging their father’s death.

The Indian Air Force strikes on the terror camps in Pakistan have acted as a balm to our wounds. We held a celebratory march in our locality, and families also took a pledge to send at least one youth to the armed forces for the service of the country. My grandsons celebrated too, by bursting crackers. It was a proud and emotional moment for me, when they climbed up on the roof to declare that they too will join the forces. Several other youngsters rushed to the roof to join them.

We want to thank the government for their efforts and want them to end this cross-border terrorism once and for all. My son laid his life for the country and this makes me swell with pride. My elder son plans to impart free training to the youths of our district, who dream of joining the armed forces.

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Indo-Pak Spat Will Sadly Be Milked For Political Gains

In the recent past, particularly the couple of days when tension was at its height between India and Pakistan, if you read only the media publications of those two countries you could have been a victim of schizophrenia, or of extreme bipolar disorder.

The claims and counter-claims about the airborne dogfights, the targets that were allegedly bombed, and the counter-attacks that followed, were so diametrically opposite each other that, if you were an unbiased observer, they would have left you perplexed.

India claimed that its air force had killed hundreds of terrorists believed to be behind mid-February’s suicide bombing in Kashmir in which scores of Indian security personnel died. Pakistan countered by saying its fighter planes had chased away the Indian aircraft and the only damage done was to woods and trees in a deserted area where there were no terrorist camps.

Then when Pakistan shot down an Indian aircraft and captured the pilot and tension began to escalate, the posturing of both sides changed. Pakistan took the high moral ground with its Prime Minister, Mr Imran Khan, offering to have a dialogue with India and releasing the pilot unconditionally. India, on its part, saw this as a huge victory and a cowering down by Pakistan. Meanwhile, a sort of proxy war seemed to be on in both, the social media as well as mainstream media publications, between the two countries. Nationalistic fervour was (and, perhaps, still is) at a peak, and shrill, hawkish screams abounded.

A war between two nuclear-weapon nations is least desirable, and the de-escalation of tensions after the release of the Indian pilot is welcome. Also, it is unlikely that India has, as it claims, decimated a huge terrorist camp in Pakistan. Yet, the problem remains: Kashmir continues, as it has been since Independence in 1947, to be a matter of serious dispute between the two neighbours; and Pakistan clearly is a haven for terror groups, including the dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammed, which repeatedly and regularly attacks and fans violence in the Kashmir Valley where Indian security forces have long maintained a near-military rule. If the recent face-off leads to a saner discussion between the two countries, particularly on the Kashmir issue, it could be a good beginning.

But does India want such a dialogue right now? As Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and its allies, head towards national elections, keeping the tension simmering between the two neighbours could actually help them. On 28 February while addressing a gathering of scientists in Delhi, Mr Modi remarked that that a “pilot project”, which was a “practice” just got over, and that the “real project” was yet to happen. It is easy to label Mr Modi’s comments as opportunistic in the context of the coming elections. History across the world shows that incumbent governments often benefit electorally when they demonstrate decisiveness or strength when tensions with an “enemy” state surface.

Yet, it would serve Indians well to remember the genesis of the current face-off: it began when terrorists from across the border launched a suicide attack that killed at least 40 Indian security personnel. That is the crux of the problem. The war against terrorists, who are ostensibly camped in, and perhaps encouraged by, Pakistan has to be a continuous effort that India cannot afford to relent on. But the electoral advantages that Mr Modi and his party might be able to reap from the current skirmish are real. We can expect his election campaign to keep referring to these: the threat of terrorism from Pakistani territory; the pilot (Wing Commander Abhinandan) who is now a hero in India; and a resolve to launch the not-so-cryptic “real project” that Mr Modi mentioned.

There is another disturbing aspect in the current scenario. India’s as well as Pakistan’s media, particularly the mainstream newspapers and TV news channels, have commonly fallen prey to jingoism whenever a conflict with Pakistan arises. You may want to call it healthy nationalism, perhaps. But in today’s scenario where social media plays a huge role in shaping people’s perceptions in both, India and Pakistan, this could have serious consequences. Fake news, doctored videos, and inflammatory comments, are being traded in a free-for-all manner. Many believe that these could heighten the tensions between the two nuclear weapon nations despite the de-escalation that followed the Indian pilot’s release.

The cynical viewpoint is that the ruling regime’s spin doctors could be leveraging all of this to help them in the coming elections. Signs of that, viz. Mr Modi’s and his colleagues’ recent statements, are already visible. Mr Modi came to power with an overwhelming electoral victory in 2014 but on the back of promises that now seem tall. He promised development, progress, and better days for Indians who placed their faith in him, but five years later, at the end of his term, much of those promises remain unfulfilled and the initial euphoria after he came to power turned out to be ephemeral. And, despite their bluster, the BJP and its allies have little to tom-tom about their achievements. In that context, the skirmish with Pakistan could be like a shot in the arm, providing campaigning fodder that could touch the hearts of many Indians.

On the other side too, Prime Minister Khan has been quick to grasp an opportunity to position himself as a mature statesman. His publicly stated willingness for a dialogue with India and the prompt release of the Indian pilot is likely to boost his popularity among his fellow countrymen. Last summer, his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) came to power when it won the largest number of seats in the national assembly but it didn’t manage to get a majority on its own. There were also widespread allegations about rigging by the PTI. Besides, in Pakistan, a hawkish military exerts overwhelming pressure and influence over political regimes and is commonly believed to encourage separatists and terror groups that operate in Kashmir. Yet, Mr Khan too has to resolve to fight the terrorism that breeds in his nation’s territory. A statesman-like image, which he has tried to create for himself recently, wouldn’t hurt.

Hyper-ventilating TV news anchors, and internet and social media trolls in both nations notwithstanding, the crucial need of the hour is not to fan tensions between Pakistan and India but to try and fix ways in which the long-standing dispute over Kashmir and the violent terrorism it has bred can be resolved. For that to happen the leaders of the two nations have to set aside their immediate political interests and agree to move towards non-violent and non-aggressive solutions. Will that happen? Or is it merely wishful thinking?

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