February 14 commemorated the second anniversary of the Pulwama attack on 46 Indian soldiers slain by a terrorist backed by Pakistan. The attack has led to the arrest and later release of Indian fighter pilots from a Pakistani prison, including the Indian surgical strikes in a terrorist training center in Balakot. Since then, every year Pakistan recalls this “kind gesture of peace” to the world and its people. The strikes in Balakot and their consequences deserve to be re-examined by analysts partly because of the festive tone of Pakistan and remember the character of our neighbor’s dishonesty and hypocrisy.
The events of February–March 2019 are a key lesson in perception and narration. On social media last week, Pakistanis cheered because they understood that they had “won” anything they thought was being fought against. India’s pilot for air force returning was considered not as something to be done, but as an act of “extreme charity,” which was designed to “humiliate” New Delhi. If they don’t suit the story about Pakistan’s grandiose activities, facts seem like a choice.
There appears to be no remembrance of, one, the huge worldwide pressure on Pakistan to cause no harm to the pilot and swiftly return him; two, the public admission that General Bajwa was ‘shaking in dread’ over the likely Indian response; three, how they lost an F-16 fighter jet; four, how they did not fulfill their ostensible objective, which was to target Indian military bases in Kashmir; and five, how Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack. The only thing I remembered was the return of the Indian soldier by the Pakistani army. Pakistan has continued to fuel strong hate and venom towards India as the seeming aggressor because of collective amnesia that is rounded up with Pakistan’s military intelligence institution and its media reporter.
Although Pakistan’s high tale of goodwill is startling, repeated, and honestly a bit fun, it is also unreasonable and rational. Pakistan refused to accept that India bombed, attacked, or did anything in Balakot as in the post-Uri attack surgery of 2016. After all, if Islamabad still denies the existence of terrorists on its land, how can it accept the killing of them in India? However, the Army thought it was important to address the violation in India of its airspace, and, in the end, they only did it because they had an Indian pilot in their hands.
The reason why it matters is that it generates a win-win perception, a perception that is important because it creates a false reality that rests at the bottom of Pakistan’s minds: we have come back to the pilot and we have done nothing wrong. The fact is that we do not make any mistakes. If India hopes that its populace will see the game the deep state plays with Pakistan, then the social media warriors and the buying-out media networks will destroy any possibility of it.
It is for these reasons that an extraordinary caution and suspicion must be taken of the current cease-fire statement. Although both parties have promised to “strict compliance with all agreements, accords and cease to take place throughout the Control Line and all other sectors,” it simply gives India a brief strategic reprieve that does not last at all. This is not a pessimistic, rather a realistic approach to the issue, as Pakistan’s position on Kashmir and India’s position on terror aided by Pakistan have not changed. Pakistan must show that it is opening up to peace, especially the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which has put it on the grey list, and the United States. The deal is just a public pledge to be good while still evil in private.
India is good at learning from the mistakes of Pakistan. While presidents in both nations have national constituencies to pitch for, the political institution’s narrative and agenda directly affect the nation’s view. Pakistan has spread the myth for years that the secular credentials of India are a hoax. Even if no foreign player, including some others, takes Pakistan seriously, there have been increasing claims of increasing breaches in Indian secular and democratic tapestry against the ruling BJP government both within the country and beyond the Western world. This shows that whatever the narration of the Indian government may be, it harms its impression, which Pakistan in its turn uses to claim, “We told you that.”
We must recall on the 2nd anniversary of the Pulwama atrocity that our opponent stands by and is determined to promoting an alternate situation in which he is the victim, the deceptive, and, somehow, the winner. Therefore, the ceasefire deal should be viewed from this point of view; welcoming, but carefully guarded and expectations low.