Pakistan summoned the Indian deputy high commissioner yet once again on Nov 22 to protest “unprovoked firing” that has killed dozens in the last few months. It hardly mattered it seems because the next day, the ISPR claimed more Indian firing killed three soldiers and seven civilians, including young captain Taimoor Ali.
India seems to be ratcheting up the pressure as Kashmiris endure incessant repression and a curfew for the fifth month, and guns continue to roar from across the Line of Control (LoC).
Pakistan’s outgoing Army Chief General Raheel Sharif has been quite outspoken in condemning this “madness” but the civilian leadership has opted for muted responses such as summoning the Indian diplomats for demarches and protests.
The army, we are told, has been responding “befittingly” to the hostilities from across the LoC yet its actions sofar indicate a conscious decision i.e. neither to initiate any aggressive act on its own nor allow aggression go unmet. Despite the escalation in the situation along the LoC, the army doesn’t seem to be alarmed, exuding a certain unusual degree of confidence. This stems from multiple reasons as far as Rawalpindi is concerned.
The Pakistani leadership has refused to give up advocacy for hapless Kashmiris but it has not panicked or indulged in any action that might be construed as a declaration of war by the Indians. A big reason for Pakistan’s restrained conduct, probably is the nuclear tactical weapons it has developed in the last couple of years.
This weapon has simply blunted the Indian cold start regime, says an army official. They know that the 60km radius capability of these weapons will make it very difficult for them to survive and retain control of a captured Pakistani territory. These weapons, it seems, represent a major deterrent even in the current circumstances and thus a tool to preclude the possibility of a full-fledged war,
Another consciously calculated consideration within the security establishment is not to open the eastern border to conflict as the western regions simmer and remain restive. The recent exercises in Bahawalpur, too, were indicative of this thinking; we deployed forces only for the exercises as well as to convey the message of “war preparedness.” All the deployments were withdrawn following the completion of these maneuvers. This Pakistani approach runs contrary to the Indian “reinforcements and forward deployments” along, and close to, the working boundary and international borders, officials say.
The third element of confidence within the Pakistani security establishment is about the collateral damage that India may suffer as a result of a conflagration. Such an escalation could possibly hit the Indian corporate interests more than those of Pakistan in case of even an imminent threat of a war.
The western world is wary of nuclear weapons and would be more worried about these weapons getting into play if push came to shove between India and Pakistan.
And any armed escalation will most likely be more detrimental to the Indian economic interests than those of Pakistan, which has hardly any foreign investment inflows. The only foreign investor for the time being is China and no amount of threats of war or terrorist violence will scare Beijing out of Pakistan.
Lastly, top officials in Islamabad and Rawalpindi argue, leading world powers are not totally insensitive to the Indian motives and neither is Pakistan “isolated” the way India attempted to project. Calculated moves by both China and Russia to get a security dialogue started with Pakistan and Iran on the future of Afghanistan is also a source of comfort for the Pakistani leaders, hence their conviction that the Indian government and the military would not go beyond provocative armed actions. And if they did, things may spin out of control of both nations.
Imtiaz Gul heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad