Pakistan launched a “high-mark” drill on Thursday in efforts to foil any possible nuclear attack coming from India.
All commercial flights were suspended for a number of hours on Thursday as Pakistani fighter jets took to the skies, fuelling speculation that a military showdown between the two countries may be about to occur.
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“The display of military readiness, which included a late-night jet flyover Thursday above this capital city (Islamabad), has come amid an unusually tense showdown with India,” the report added.
The blatant muscle flexing with Pakistani Mirage and F-16 fighter jets, closure of airspace over parts of Pakistan, and cancellation of at least 10 domestic flights spooked small investors on Wednesday. However, safety assurances by the military calmed Pakistani investors and the Karachi benchmark-100 index bounced back to 0.91 percent on Thursday.
Pakistani officials have described the air defense exercise, code-named “High Mark” as routine. However, security officials speaking on conditions of anonymity told the US media that the exercises were more than routine and part of a strategy to foil any possible Indian attack.
The Pakistani war games are ill timed. They come on the back of rising tensions after the Uri assault and a war of words in the UN General assembly in New York. It plays into the overcharged situation. As it is, Indian naval officials had issued a high alert on Thursday for coastal areas after some school children claimed to have seen four men moving “suspiciously” near a naval facility in Uran.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave a speech at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday which was incendiary and strident in tone. “We just heard a speech full of threat bluster and rising immaturity and complete disregard of facts,” India’s Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar said, without mincing any words.
Akbar blasted Pakistan’s feigned desire for talks; “Pakistan wants dialogue while holding a gun in its hand. Talks and guns don’t go together.”
“We haven’t seen the first mile. Where is the question of the extra mile?” Akbar said in response to Sharif’s hypocricy that Pakistan has “gone the extra mile and repeatedly offered dialogue.”
Countries like the United States and Britain have unequivocally condemned the Uri terrorist attack but, unlike past years, haven’t underlined their condemnation with appeals for a return to dialogue. The US has seen so much double-dealing by Pakistan in Afghanistan that it is now far more sympathetic to the Indian position, said Myra MacDonald.
After years of catering to its war on terror ally Pakistan, the US is batting for India providing greater security assistance to Afghanistan. Diplomats from Afghanistan, India, and the United States met in New York on the margins of the UN general assembly to discuss ways of side-stepping Pakistan’s selective blockade of landlocked Afghanistan.
“The meeting provided a forum for the US Government and the Government of India to explore ways to coordinate and align their assistance with the priorities of the Afghan government. They agreed that the dialogue helps advance shared values and goals,” said the US state department after the trilateral meeting.
Pakistan continues to be a fly in the ointment. According to reports, Islamabad has refused to allow Indian wheat supplies and other humanitarian aid overland to Afghanistan. Pakistan’s pettiness in blocking humanitarian aid from India has naturally angered Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan is landlocked but thinks openly, Pakistan has access to the sea and thinks like a landlocked country,” Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said last week in a talk at Delhi’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, reported The Times of India.
“Why are we concerned that a country (Pakistan) can block two great nations (India and Afghanistan) from trading? With the Chabahar Port, (Pakistan’s) monopoly will end,” scoffed Ghani.
Washington broadly supports India signing a deal with Tehran for a transport corridor opening up a new route to Afghanistan via the Iranian port of Chabahar, as it outflanks the $46 billion China-Pakistan economic corridor project with Gwadar as its focal point.
Pakistan’s interests are completely different from those of India in Afghanistan. Islamabad wants the return of some variant of the Taliban so that they can again use Afghanistan as a launching pad for jihadi attacks against India, especially in Kashmir.
When the India-hating Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until December 2001, Pakistani militant groups based out of Afghanistan launched frequent cross-border attacks on Kashmir. India was in all kinds of trouble when Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Mujahideen terrorists hijacked an Indian Airlines flight on 24 December 1999 and took it to Kandahar airport in southern Afghanistan. The eight day hijack drama ended only after India freed three high-profile Kashmiri separatist prisoners.
For the last 15 years, India has refrained from aggressive responses to Pakistan sponsored terrorism, which included the 2008 Mumbai attacks. With 18 soldiers now dead in Uri, Prime Minister Narendra Modi should toughen India’s stance against Pakistan and its sponsorship of militancy in the Kashmir valley.
“Through every attack from across the border the government has flipped and flopped. Until India builds a coherence in its own strategy, it will continue to face such challenges from Pakistan,” wrote Suhasini Haidar in The Hindu.