Will India Punish Pakistan For Pulwama Attacks Before 2019 Indian Elections?

Indian PM Narendra Modi stated after the Pulwama attacks that he has given free hand to the Indian Army to retaliate against enemies and terrorists. PM Imran Khan, in his address to the nation, stated that Pakistan will not think twice before retaliating against any Indian aggression. With all the threats and rhetoric from New Delhi, how will PM Modi respond, especially as Indian elections are around the corner?

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For now, Pakistan is using back channels diplomacy through some allies and friendly nations to ease tensions with India, as the threat of a possible conflict between India and Pakistan looks evident.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is carrying a ‘special message’ from Prime Minister Imran Khan for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to Pakistan’s Express Tribune.

According to Tribune, MBS would convey Modi on behalf of  Imran Khan that Pakistan was ready to extend all possible assistance in the investigations into the Pulwama attack. MBS also favours dialogue between Pakistan and India to defuse the escalating situation, believes that any conflict between the two neighbours would be detrimental for regional peace. “And he would convey the same to the Indian leadership,” said a diplomatic source.

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PM Imran Khan is also keen to open ‘backdoor diplomacy’ with India in order to discuss the Pulwama attack and how the two countries can cooperate with each other. Officials here said Pakistan did not want any escalation in tensions and was ready to hold talks with India even on the issue of terrorism.

Although the international media mostly highlighted Imran’s statement on retaliating to India’s possible action against Pakistan, the actual message he wanted to convey was that of ‘reconciliation and not confrontation,’ said a senior official, who requested anonymity.

The underline message, according to the official, from the prime minister was that India can trust his government. New Delhi, however, rejected the prime minister’s ‘olive branch’ and accused Pakistan of being the ‘nerve centre of terrorism.’

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With the situation heading towards a possible standoff, it is believed that certain countries are also now quietly engaged both with Islamabad and New Delhi to prevent any escalation in tensions. Washington and other western nations have been in touch with both governments for this purpose, according to sources.

The US is particularly concerned that any escalation in tensions could undermine the ongoing efforts to find a political solution to the 17-year long war in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan feared the same when in an interview he warned that ongoing standoff between Pakistan and India would endanger the Afghan peace process.

Experts state that New Delhi has no option but to respond, but the scale of response may be limited as India would not be keen to ignite a war with Pakistan. Indian operations in the Kashmir valley will certainly intensify and the hiding militants in the valley will be chased with full might.

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