As we had reported earlier, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be released tomorrow without any preconditions “as a peace gesture”. The decision comes after India had made it clear that there was no scope for any negotiations for his released and it fully expected him to be returned immediately safe and sound. In fact, India had also asserted that it won’t be demanding consular access because our demand is of unconditional release.
While many would buy into the ‘peace gesture’ propaganda, it ought to be remembered that Pakistan was bound by international conventions to return Wing Commander Abhinandan safely. Also, even yesterday, after violating Indian airspace and attempting to attack Indian military installations in an obvious escalation, Imran Khan had proposed talks between the two countries. Even earlier today, Pakistan attempted to intrude upon Indian airspace before being chased away by Indian jets.
Thus, Abhinandan’s release ought to be seen as a glimpse of a ‘New India’, as envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, rather than ‘Naya Pakistan’ as proposed by his Pakistani counterpart. Unlike an infamous incident in the past, on this occasion, India did not bow, bend or break. India stood strong and reminded Pakistan that it was bound by international conventions to return him safely.
Consider the events of the past couple of days. India attacked terrorist camps within Pakistani territory, not just in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir in response to the Pulwama terror attack. Conducting airstrikes inside the territory of a nuclear armed country is itself unprecedented. Consequently, India received widespread international support for its actions while Pakistan was deserted even by their ‘all-weather friend’ China which directed them to exercise restraint.
On the backdrop for our airstrikes within Pakistani territory, it responded by attempting to attack Indian military installations. In the skirmish that ensued, Wing Commander Abhinandan shot down an F16, the best jet in Pakistan’s airforce, while riding a vintage Mig himself. Pakistan eventually manages to take him into custody but how do events unfold from there on? It has decided to release him unconditionally.
There has been a tectonic shift in the manner in which India is expected to deal with Pakistani terrorists henceforth. Of course, Pakistan could very well try more misadventures but the cost for them has skyrocketed as airstrikes in response to terrorism is no longer out of the equation.
Pakistan must also contend with the fact that Indian nuclear-capable aircraft Mirage 2000, which was used for the airstrikes in terrorist camps, were mere minutes away from Islamabad and there was very little they could do to thwart them. Thus, there has been an entire paradigm shift within the past couple of days itself.
The path ahead for Indo-Pak relations is very clear. ‘New India’ will not remain silent if Pakistan continues to nurture terrorists on their soil. Effectively, India has called out Pakistan’s nuclear bluff.
Regardless of what transpires henceforth, the big picture reflects a significant dent in Pakistan’s proxy war efforts. India entered their territory, helped their assets meet their god and suffered no consequences for its actions. ‘New India’ has started its journey on a strong foot.