Pulwama, where was the world order?

Author Name: AVM Sohail Malik (Retd)      03 Sep 2019    

WITH deescalation gradually creeping in after a perilous week in the subcontinent, it’s time to reflect on the world reaction to Pulwama, which almost bought two nuclear neighbours on the verge of an allout war. Out of the many miscalculations, the factor which perhaps has directly or indirectly played the most prominent role in the current escalation is the apathy of the world in general towards the established international norms.
It is ironic that opinions, generally based on misplaced perceptions and not facts, determine the world order. Ideally, the world order should be based on universal laws of equality, justice and fairness, where the same yardsticks are applied without any distinction. But we are not living in an ideal world. Unfortunately, with a gradual decline in values, interstate relations are now governed only by national priorities and not by ethics and morality. Fairness, equality and justice, have no place in international relations, and different states are treated under separate rules, not necessarily in consonance with the international laws.
As has been the handling of Pulwama incident, where the world, especially the countries responsible for maintaining the world order have behaved indifferently, disregarding ground realities. Immediately after the Pulwama incident, with no credible evidence, the world was deceived into laying blame on Jaishe Mohammad. It is surprising, how a four-minute doctored video can be used to influence world opinion. Paying no heed to the offers by the Pakistani PM, India started to raise the anti Pakistan rhetoric. In parallel, India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale held meetings with representatives of various countries to build diplomatic support. While Russia, the UK, France and few other countries condemned the attack, the United States took on Pakistan saying that the attack only strengthened the resolve to bolster counter terrorism cooperation and coordination between the US and India. Emboldened by the US stance, India through its media signalled a clear intension to target the alleged terrorist hideouts in Pakistan.
The world knowing fully well the consequences of such an action against a nuclear state, opted to stay quiet. Though it was clear even then, that Pulwama incident was an upshot of the indigenous freedom movement in Kashmir, sparked by the atrocities being committed by the Indian forces. The world community did not make any effort to dissuade India from escalating the situation by adopting unlawful means, knowing well that India did not present any credible evidence of its claim. Encouraged by this quizzical silence, Air strikes were conducted against Pakistan, terming it a “non military pre emptive action,” a strange euphemism to make the flagrant transgression palatable. With the world a silent spectator, Pakistan retaliated in kind. What followed in the next 48 hours is a classic textbook version of escalation leading to possible nuclear exchange.
By failing to condemn the Indian aggression, or even persuading India not to adopt a military course of action, the international community, especially the world powers, have played in the Indian hands and have set a precedent fraught with frightening consequences. Firstly, it almost legitimized the illegitimate act of Indian violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity. Secondly, knowing well that attacking a nuclear country could have dire consequences, it neither prevented nor condemned it. Thirdly, it fell for the Indian design to raise Pakistan’s conventional threshold and make space for a limited conflict under a nuclear overhang; a proposition with dreadful implications, which would result in the breaking of the current equilibrium.
Pakistan in its reaction, demonstrated its will, resolve and capability to safeguard its territorial integrity and its grit to respond to aggression of any kind. At the same time, it also sent a clear message to the world that it is not in favour of escalating the situation and looked for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Pakistan’s reaction has surprised the world, especially India which assumed that it would easily subdue Pakistan and would face no retaliation. Pakistan’s proportionate response also put to rest the notion that in any future scenario, limited operation across the border would be tolerated by Pakistan. Pakistan’s action has thus restored the status quo in the region. Over the aggravating situation created by world powers’ own inaction, the world has suddenly wokenup, and a discrete diplomatic activity has started to defuse the current crisis; an effort which should have been done much earlier. The episode also highlights the growing inequality and injustice in the current world order where allies tend to focus more on alliance than on righteousness and impartiality. Would the world have reacted similarly if the countries involved had been the Koreas or two European belligerents?
If Pakistan has today experienced a violation of its territorial integrity, the world should be ready to witness a spread of this illegal behaviour. If serious escalation in the ongoing conflict between Pakistan and India is to be averted, the world must condemn India for its territorial transgression. Even a tacit assent to the audacious Indian action can embolden it and aggravate the posturing between the two nuclear states, with dire implications on the future international order. It must also be ready to handle violations of the “right to integrity or inviolability of states” on a larger scale. Should all countries in the world expect the same on one pretext or the other? While Pakistan is quite capable of defending its frontiers, there is much more at stake, and a caution for the world to heed.

 

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