When one paints an ideal, one does not need to limit one’s imagination.
- Ellen Key
Last week, India and Pakistan were in the throes of the most serious military standoff between them since 2002. After years of absorbing terror attacks conceived by non-state groups based on Pakistani soil, India decided enough was enough, after February 14 vehicle-borne improvised explosive device killed over 40 paramilitary personnel. Through the Indian Air Force’s precision strikes on Jaish-e-Mohammed’s (JeM) terror camps deep inside Pakistan last week, India has already sent an emphatic message that it won’t anymore tolerate Pakistan’s continued support to terror groups. New Delhi is adamant about a categorical assurance from Islamabad on taking action against terror outfits specially JeM and Hafiz Sayeed’s Lakshar-e-Toiba (LeT). JeM chief Masood Azhar’s presence in Pakistan has been an open secret for the past almost two decades. So, there is nothing startling about Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s ‘admission’ to that effect. Pakistan now needs proof to take action against Masood Azhar. Immediately after Pulwama massacre, the ISI-backed JeM had promptly claimed its responsibility. The question is : Is it not enough for Islamabad to act against that organisation. Pakistan now finds itself in a precarious position after the US, the UK and France moved a fresh resolution in the UN Security Council to designate Azhar as a global terrorist. So, New Delhi must be ready to show both flexibility and a determined focus on Pakistan’s action against terror groups, including the Jaish-e-Mohammad.
The week-long conflict between two neighbouring countries has witnessed emergence of a new ‘war hero’ — Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. He is the first combat pilot in the Indian Air Force (IAF) to shoot down an F-16. He flew the first MiG-21 to achieve this feat. The Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, reportedly, parachuted out over enemy territory, jumped into a pond and then destroyed documents by eating them after his plane crashed in Pakistan territory on Wednesday. The whole nation celebrated the return of the Wing Commander to India on Friday after two days in Pakistani custody. He also may have helped defuse one of the worst crises between the two nuclear armed neighbours in decades. As far as Pakistan is concerned, its Prime Minister Imran Khan’s announcement about the safe release of Abhinandan was a step in the right direction in restoring sanctity in bilateral ties with India. For India, it was a major diplomatic victory, being able to create enough pressure to bring back their pilot unharmed from Pakistan’s captivity. If Pakistan has demonstrated sense in releasing the captured IAF pilot, it needs to be appreciated as a peaceful gesture rather than a comedown.
After the thaw, New Delhi needs to be reassured on its terror concerns for the relationship to move to the next level. Islamabad needs to deny sanctuary to all terrorist groups that operate from its soil and handover Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed to India. Pakistan is talking peace and India can respond positively. But the pressure on Pakistan should continue for its visible action against terrorism.