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Restraint or Riposte?

by Newsweek Pakistan
Sajjad Hussain—AFP

Sajjad Hussain—AFP

Pakistani politicians are divided on how to respond to Indian aggression along the Line of Control.

On Friday, Nov. 25, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan would not respond “in kind” to Indian aggression but vowed to defend its “borders, waters and space” against any attacks by the neighboring country. But the National Assembly where he said this had others who favored war to “teach India a lesson.” Defense Minister Khawaja Asif was predictably belligerent: “We will kill three Indian soldiers for every Pakistani soldier they kill.”

Aziz has made dialogue with India conditional to a discussion on Kashmir, as if contrary to such dialogues in the past Pakistan might actually soften India on the issue. On the other hand, old India-administered Kashmir leader Farooq Abdullah recently shouted to New Delhi: “You would have to finally talk to Pakistan.” Indian vulnerability lies in ongoing agitation in the Valley. Pakistan’s vulnerability lies in the loss of dividend from its revisionism vis-à-vis India.

In recent weeks, India has upped the ante on the Line of Control (LoC). Pakistan has lost international support on Kashmir because of the perceived cross-border terrorism emanating from its territory. On that “given,” India is escalating in the east to disengage Pakistan from the west where India is allegedly using terrorists to attack soft targets inside Pakistan. Weakened internally by increasingly autonomous foreign-funded seminaries, the state of Pakistan is subject to infighting, bringing the elected government under pressure because “it is friendly to Modi.”

Ex-foreign secretary of India Shivshankar Menon in his latest book Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy discusses the 2008 post-Mumbai attack situation where India decided in favor of “restraint” rather than “riposte” in the face of many in government who favored bombing Muridke near Lahore and raising the nuclear red alert.

Realism demands that India and Pakistan cool the LoC and engage in normalization of relations once again rather than discussing Kashmir which will only yield yet another deadlock and another period of tensions.

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