Pakistan-India relations are on the height of hostility following militant attack on Brigade headquarters in Uri area, Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) with reported killing of 18 Indian soldiers and destruction of a frontline base close to Line of Control (LOC). India has accused Pakistan behind these terrorist attacks. However, Pakistan Foreign Office has rejected these allegations against Pakistan and Pakistan's Director General Military Operations (DGMO) has called them as 'unfolded and premature'. Pakistan has asked India to provide evidence and actionable intelligence for the attacks before accusing Pakistan. Pakistan Army Chief Raheel Sharif in a corps commander conference on September 19 has declared that his country was "fully prepared to respond to the entire spectrum of direct and indirect threats from India." It has been reported that the overall military alert levels are high and contingency planning is in place in Pakistan but according to sources in Islamabad, no special or extra-ordinary deployments have been made on the eastern border yet except the usual operational forward line deployment on the eastern front of the LOC.
However, in the overall hostile environment, the prospects for Pakistan-India war are unlikely because of many reasons; firstly nuclear weapons are the most effective deterrent to prevent both countries from war. As Pakistan has 'First Use' policy so even a modest military action against Pakistan would be responded with a nuclear strike. Secondly, according to research concluded by South Asia security analysts, George Perkovich and Toby Dalton, India has limited military capabilities to indulge into joint air and land operations and requires improvement in the intelligence capacities. Thus, waging a war against Pakistan with inadequate resources, doctrinal weaknesses and limited capabilities is not in its favour and keeping this in mind, the Indian military has restrained to retaliate with militarily action after the Uri attack. The Indian Law Minister Ravi Shankar has stated that 'Indian response will be done with full diplomatic and strategic maturity.'
Thirdly, India has no substantial evidence to confirm Pakistan's involvement in the attack. Fourthly, Modi's international reputation which has already been criticized because of his Hindutva ideology, extremism and Human Rights violations in Indian Held Kashmir would be much deteriorated after any move against Pakistan. It would be a dent to India's aspirations to become United Nations Security Council (UNSC) member as it would decline its global profile. Fifthly, Modi's ambitious economic vision and economic and social reform agendas would be sharply affected incase of Pakistan-India war. Sixthly, the tense situation may likely to influence Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) poll results in the upcoming provincial elections in the state of Utter Pradesh (UP) in India and seventhly, any threat to the development of CPEC or attempt to jeopardize the region's economic growth and stability would prove harmful for Indo-China bilateral relations. Lastly, the international pressure from major states like US, UK etc. that have urged Pakistan and India to resolve their differences diplomatically and through peaceful dialogue would compel both Pakistan and India to avoid any military action in near future.
In the light of the prevailing crisis, India may get engage in covert activities inside Pakistan particularly in Balochistan, try to isolate Pakistan while flogging its terrorism card and propaganda against Pakistan or step up its atrocities in IHK as a reaction to Uri attack but the overall possibility of war between Pakistan and India seems very low. India has also acted cowardly by withdrawing from SAARC Conference, which was expected to be held in November 2016 at Islamabad. At the same time, India is threatening Pakistan on the water front as well. Declaring cross border firing as surgical strikes by India are another propaganda by India to aggravate the situation. Despite, all these factors the chances of a full-fledge war are quite bleak. Pakistan-India war is not possible in near time soon.
The mounting tension would have a negative impact on the economies of both the countries as well. The foreign investment and local investment would halt in the prevailing situation and particularly for Pakistan, it would affect the development of CPEC project. As India has bigger economy, so it would also be affected but the situation may worsen if trading partners cut off their economic interactions with Pakistan or refrain from signing economic agreements to put international pressure for resolution of crisis. Similarly, Pakistan has appealed to UN to take serious notice of the aggressive statements of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his public speech, in which he has announced that India will mount global campaign to isolate Pakistan internationally. Such kind of Indian rhetoric against Pakistan and harsh statements would only widen the gap and increase trust deficit between the two countries. Therefore, both the countries should make joint efforts for improvement of their bilateral relations and resolve the crisis through peace and diplomatic means that is in the mutual interest of both the states and also important for regional peace and harmony.
Aymen Ijaz (Islamabad)
The writer works at IPRI.