Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan today flatly denied any role of his country in the Pulwama killings and asked India to provide 'actionable evidence' of his country's hand in the suicide blast. In the same video speech, Imran Khan has warned that his country would retaliate if India attacked. He said, 'If India attacks, Pakistan will not think of retaliating, it will retaliate'.
Sabre-rattling notwithstanding, Imran Khan should know, India has never waged a war against Pakistan in the past, whether in 1948, or 1965, or 1971 or during the Kargil conflict. In all these four instances, it was Pakistan which first attacked India. This time, with the Pulwama killings, Pakistan has once again provoked India, and Prime Minister Modi has been left with no other option but to strike back.
It was Modi who took the peace initiative in inviting the then PM Nawaz Sharif to attend his oath-taking ceremony. He tried to extend a hand of friendship to Pakistan on every occasion. After he visited Lahore to attend Nawaz Sharif's birthday celebration, Pathankot air base was attacked. When he had talks with Nawaz Sharif, the terror attack in Uri happened. Clearly, there are many hawks in the Pakistani establishment who do not want peace with India, and Imran Khan should identify and sideline such hawks.
The situation has now come to a pass where Prime Minister Modi has clearly said that the time for dialogue is over and it is now time for action. It is with this in mind, he has said that the armed forces have been given a free hand to plan and execute any such plan.
Since the Pulwama killings, the question that is being asked at bus stops, inside Metro, at street corners and in the drawing rooms of the elite is: Will India take a major punitive strike against Pakistan?
Instead of replying to this, I would prefer to rephrase the question: Is there any option other than a strike left for Modi? The answer is a big NO. The only option left before a grieving nation is: We have to teach Pakistan a lesson. Prime Minister Modi cannot afford not to take action. And if he can't take on Pakistan, no one else can.
Modi has clearly read the public mind. He told a rally in Bihar that his "heart is burning" like the hearts of the common people. He has also said, the blood of every Indian is "boiling". Today Modi said, the time for talks is over and action is the need of the hour.
The problem is, Modi does not have much time left in hand to carry out a strike against Pakistan. Elections are knocking at the door. Modi cannot afford to go to the people seeking their votes with the scars of Pulwama killings still fresh. As an astute politician, Modi would rather go for elections after he has taught Pakistan a proper lesson.
Normally, any war is neither declared nor fought by giving prior notice to the enemy. But in the present situation, the option of a war is no more secret. Not only the enemy (Pakistan), but the whole world is aware that Indian armed forces are going to strike at Pakistan soon. And this time, the action may be targeted not only at militant camps inside Pak Occupied Kashmir. It's Pakistan, which is on the radar of our army.
The second challenge that I foresee is from China. Both China and Pakistan claim they are "all-weather friends". China has been opposing a resolution at the UN Security Council to declare Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a terrorist. We will have to ensure that China now falls in line and backs India's demand for collective action against terrorism.
The third challenge is the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear-armed country and we must have the ability to counter the enemy effectively.
In the Indian establishment presently, there are three strands of thought; one, PM Modi can't afford to go for general elections without striking back at Pakistan. two, a limited action seems to be the current option available, and three, there is a strong lobby that is demanding that India must reoccupy Pak Occupied Kashmir and abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution, since the will of the Indian people is in favour a pro-active stand on Kashmir issue, that has brought untold miseries on the common people for several generations.