Indo-Pakistan tensions rise with Indian elections round the corner | Daily News

Indo-Pakistan tensions rise with Indian elections round the corner

The India-Pakistan Wagah Border flag ceremony.
The India-Pakistan Wagah Border flag ceremony.

As the two most powerful countries in South Asia are embroiled in a direct confrontation, the regions fears of instability reflected in Sri Lanka’s expression of concerns on the recent developments following the terrorist attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Pulwama, India and Indian retaliations. Sri Lanka has urged India and Pakistan to act in a manner that ensures the security, peace and stability of the entire region.

If the current ‘tit for tat’ attacks by the Indian Air Force and Pakistan Air Force escalate, there is a danger of another limited war between the two arch rivals that fought two wars in the past. The magnitude of the danger can be calculated from the defence strength of the two countries. In 2018, India's defence budget stood at $58 bn, five times larger than Pakistan's defence budget. Indian Army boasts of 12 1akh active troops, while Pakistan has about 6 lakh personnel in its army. Both countries have capacity to use missiles with nuclear heads.

Sri Lanka, in its appeal to the two countries stated that as a country that has suffered from the scourge of terrorism for nearly three decades, Sri Lanka unequivocally condemns this terrorist attack in Pulwama and stands firmly by the fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

Sri Lanka strongly supports peace and stability in the South Asia region and all endeavours towards the diffusion of tensions, including the resolution of bilateral problems through dialogue and building confidence.

Meanwhile it was reported that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held two high-level security meetings and evaluated the situation with three service chiefs and reviewed the situation emerging out of aerial engagement with Pakistan.

PM Modi was briefed about the latest security situation in Jammu and Kashmir and along the Line of Control (LoC). He had held a meeting of top security officials earlier in the day at the Prime Minister’s Office and reviewed the security situation following violation of Indian airspace by Pakistani fighter jets in Jammu and Kashmir.

Kashmir issue

India lost one MiG-27 Bison in the “aerial engagement” with Pakistan Air Force and reportedly, Indian Air Force shot down an F-16 jet. Indian pilot, who bailed out of MIG-27 was arrested by Pakistan.

India and Pakistan became independent nations in 1947 and they fought a major battle as free nations to decide the future of Kashmir immediately. While India and Pakistan were bifurcated mostly on religious lines and Muslim majority part of Sind, Punjab, Baluchistan, North West Frontier region became West Pakistan and Muslim majority East Bengal became East Pakistan in 1947. Kashmir, although a Muslim majority territory, joined India because the then ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh opted to join India. This led to tension between the two countries and Pakistan annexed a bulk of Kashmir, which they named Azad Kashmir. The two parts of Kashmir are divided by Line of Control with supervision by United Nations Peace Keeping Mission. Incidentally, several Sri Lankan army units also served in UNPK Mission and one was commanded by Brigadier Tissa Weeratunga, who was later promoted as Major General and appointed Army Commander in 1980s.

In late 1965, the second Indo-Pakistan war broke out and President Alexei Kosygin of Soviet Union invited Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shasthri and Pakistan President Ayub Khan for peace talks. Finally the two countries signed the Tashkent Declaration on January 10, 1966 to end the war. Although there were protests against the Tashkent pact in India, it diminished immediately, because Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shasthri died of a heart attack on January 11 in Moscow.

The new found Indo-Pakistan peace lasted only five years and in 1971, another war between the two countries resulted in Pakistan losing its East Pakistan. The dominant West Pakistan refused to appoint Shaikh Mujibur Rehaman as Prime Minister although his Awami League won the majority of seats in the joint Parliament of East and West Pakistan. When Mujubur Rehman was arrested in the West Pakistan, riots broke out in East Pakistan and the military imposed martial law. Shaikh Mujibur Rehmans supporters went underground and launched an armed freedom struggle under the banner Mukthi Bahini. In December 1971, Indian forces entered East Pakistan to support the Mukthi Bahini freedom fighters and a full scale war broke out between India and Pakistan. Within two months war ended when beleaguered West Pakistan army of 90,000 soldiers finally surrendered to Indian forces. With international pressure mounting, West Pakistan released Shaikh Mujibur Rehman from prison and he flew direct to Delhi to thank Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for helping East Pakistan to gain independence, and went to Dhaka to become the first Prime Minister of independent Bangladesh.

Indo-Pakistan rivalry

Many analysts thought when Pakistan lost its eastern half, the Indo-Pakistan rivalry would end. New Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was invited to India for talks by Indira Gandhi and the talks resulted in the signing of Simla Agreement between the two countries to end hostilities. The period of peace did not last and Pakistan military ousted Bhutto from power and finally hanged him for an alleged murder conspiracy.

Although in most part of the Indo-Pakistan border, a shaky peace prevailed, the tension in Kashmir continued unabated. The vicious cycle of militant attacks and ruthless retaliations by the Indian Forces, resulted in antagonizing a vast segment of Kashmir population that sees the Indian Forces as an occupying army.

However, the current war mongering is not expected to continue long as Pakistan has lost its close friendship with United States in recent years. When India attacked East Pakistan in 1971, President Richard Nixon dispatched US war ships including 7th Fleet aircraft carriers to Indian Ocean to warn India. But Indira Gandhi did not bow down because she had the support of the democratic world that recognized Shaikh Mujibur Rehman as the lawfully elected Prime Minister.

The US seems to openly back India now. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has described India's tough action in bombing a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) base in Pakistan as “counter-terrorism actions” and emphasized the “close security partnership” between US and India.

In a statement Pompeo said: “Following Indian counter-terrorism actions on February 26, I spoke with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to emphasize our close security partnership and shared goal”.

With only the backing of China, Pakistan cannot afford to start another war with India. However, India is likely to continue attacks on few selected targets to project Prime Minister Modi as a strong leader, mainly because the next general elections, which will decide who will rule India for next five years, is just two months away.



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