Small Wars Journal

India and Pakistan May Not Go to War. But the Crisis is Escalating.

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 12:30am

India and Pakistan May Not Go to War. But the Crisis is Escalating. By Ishaan Tharoor – Washington Post

If you followed certain Indian media outlets in the early hours of Tuesday, you probably heard that Indian Air Force jets swooped into Pakistani airspace and carried out devastating strikes on militant camps, killing roughly 300 fighters. If you were watching in Pakistan, you saw news of a cowardly incursion in which Indian warplanes dropped their payloads over uninhabited countryside and then scurried home, harming nothing save for an empty stretch of forest.


“The strike took place near the town of Balakot, just inside the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and not in the disputed Kashmir region,” my colleagues reported. “Initial reports from local police officials and residents who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed that a strike took place in a mountainous area a few miles outside town, but they said they saw no signs of mass casualties.”


Despite the dueling accounts, one thing was certain: For the first time in almost half a century, Indian aircraft ventured beyond the Line of Control separating the two countries to hit targets on Pakistani soil. The act marked a potentially grave escalation of tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors. In a statement, the Pakistani government said on Tuesday that it would “respond at the time and place of its choosing.”


By the evening, there were reports that mortar fire had been exchanged between Indian and Pakistani troops across the disputed boundary line in Kashmir. And on Wednesday, a fuller response came: Pakistan said it had shot down two Indian aircraft over its territory. Though initial accounts were conflicting, India confirmed that one of its planes was shot down by Pakistani planes and said a pilot is missing. The Pakistani military soon circulated video of a captured Indian pilot in their custody.


“Our action was only intended to convey that if you can come into our country, we can do the same,” said Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, warning of the risks of further escalation. “With the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford a miscalculation?”…

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