Jan Achakzai |
After the humiliation at war narrative battle and perception matrix, India suffered a huge diplomatic blow at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) when China refused to designate Maulana Masood Azhar as a terrorist without providing any proof. However, the real feat for Pakistan though is how it handed over a bloody nose to Delhi for its incursion across the LOC in more than one ways.
Indeed, diplomatically India has sour bites; in strategic terms, it faced world scrutiny for its poor capability; perception-wise Pakistan marched on India to capture the moral high ground of a pacifist than warmongering nation with a decisive foreign policy—signaling to the rest of the world it is not a pushover by a bully neighbor.
Indian stance on “mediation”, its narrative of “autonomy” and its mantra of “isolating Pakistan”, did the opposite effects; the world intervened after Balakot incursion, pressurized India as an aggressor to back down, and by-default focused on root cause—IOKashmir— the very idea Delhi loathed to contemplate. It was all possible after Pakistan’s diplomatic offensive:
Islamabad also put the OIC on the back foot for inviting Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj as “guest of honor” by partially boycotting the FM ministerial meeting.
- President Trump broke the first news of de-escalation saying that the good news is coming in from the region to Indian foreign policy elite’s chagrin.
- Then the Crown Prince of UAE, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan tweeted saying he spoke to Indian and Pakistani leaders to calm things down. PM Modi was compelled to speak twice to the Crown Prince Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan again, after the Balakot incursion.
- He also received the Saudi Foreign Minister Al Jubeir– after his (Al Jubeir’s) visit to Islamabad that was supposed to deliver a special message of the Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman– who was very active after LOC violation by India, urging Delhi and Islamabad to deescalate.
- However, Pakistan’s warmth of relations was on the display somewhere else: the Russian government refused to endorse India’s stance on the LOC incursion. Moscow offered to intervene to mediate for what it called to “deescalate” keeping in view Indian sensitivity with the word “mediation”, it appeared to be clearly siding with Islamabad. Some Indian watchers went even on to the extent of highlighting India’s disappointment with Moscow. “India is upset that despite buying Russian arms in huge numbers, Moscow did not back India against Pakistan on Balakot strike”, said Pravin Sawheny— an Indian Scholar and the Author of “Dragon on our doorstep”. He added, “Russia’s closeness to Pakistan is its strategic need. Make no mistake, Shanghai Cooperation Organization with Russia, China, and Pakistan as key members is poised to challenge and win against the so-called QUAD and the fuzzy Indo-Pacific concept”. He urged Delhi to amend its foreign policy: “India needs to review its foreign policy fast”. The Russian neutrality on Balakot incident must have set alarm bells ringing in Delhi.
- The Chinese Vice President visiting Islamabad blamed India for not playing ball with Pakistan: he said India’s refusal to join BRI, to join hands with Islamabad and Beijing against terrorism, and meeting halfway Pakistan on Kashmir to alleviate poverty and undertake development, shows India does not want to resolve conflict with its small neighbor. China also offered to develop Kashmir-a suggestion which has irked some Indians if Beijing is carving for itself a new role on Kashmir. Islamabad, on the other hand, welcomed every gesture of Beijing for mediation between the two hostile neighbors.
Read more: Pakistan boycotts OIC: House lauds decision
In a nutshell, Pakistan mounted diplomatic surge convinced the Americans to rein in India if it was exiting Afghanistan with grace. Islamabad also put the OIC on the back foot for inviting Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj as “guest of honor” by partially boycotting the FM ministerial meeting. Then the actual diplomatic feat was the statement of OIC endorsing Pakistan’s right to self-defense. It also called a spade a spade by declaring India as the aggressor in case of Pakistan and oppressor in reference to Kashmir tragedy.
The “K” word (Kashmir) once again came up in the media and diplomatic parlance as the root cause of the dispute between Pakistan and India: from New York Times to China’s Global Times’s implicit nudging was aimed at resolving the root cause rather than the symptoms.
Economically India faced a cut off from the rest of the world. De-facto no-fly zone made readjustment for the flight routes, cost millions of dollars to the aviation industry and huge revenue losses to India.
India’s calculations failed: instead of hiding its dismal poor human rights record in Kashmir, it inadvertently walked into the trap of drawing spotlight on its failed Kashmir and Pakistan policy. The huge backlash from pro-Indian Kashmir leaders, riots and attacks on ordinary Kashmiris and Muslims across India once again underscored the implications of extremist Ideology of “Hindvata” on foreign policy, harmony in India and peace in the region at large.
Imran Khan emerged as a Statesman
Imran Khan cast himself as a statesman by pleading for peace and highlighting the bellicosity of India to the world. His calm demeanor and appeals for sanity won him brownies. Other world leaders were all praise for his goodwill gesture: freeing Indian pilot.
Perception of Warfare
There was another war going on the Television and social media which Pakistan won. First, was the arrest of an Indian pilot. The army jawans rescued him from the mob, treated him well and with respect, avoided putting any humiliating videos on the social media, and handed him over with dignity to Delhi sending a message of being a civilized country while being in a state of war.
Read more: Voices inside India blame Modi for Pulwama
Second, through diplomatic engagement and media warfare, it reached out to important leaders and opinion makers of the world to mold opinion in Pakistan’s favor. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s interviews with CNN, BBC, and other outlets were part of the Psy-ops to draw attention to Islamabad’s narrative on Indian obduracy. Then the leading newspapers and media houses from NewYork Times, Washington Post, Financial Times and to Al Jazeera were all disputing Indian claims post-capture of Indian pilot that India had shot down any Pakistani plane.
Third, Pakistan Army systematically deconstructed the Indian narrative of alleged losses in Balakot raid: ISPR offered local and international media to take journalists to verify the facts and took them around the area of the incident. Indian pilot eulogizing Pakistan Army’s humane treatment was also case in point. And last but not the least, it exposed the satellite imagery of India on Balakot madrasa/schools as of three years old google image convincing the world of falsehood of India’s narrative. This is why Pakistan has come out pretty good on the perception matrix.
Strategically Pakistan stepped up the escalation ladder by violating the LOC in a broad daylight, signaling intent, will, and capability to pay India with interests-a fact Islamabad officially acknowledged while India did not officially say to have breached into LOC across Pakistan. The message was clear: (in layman terms) “you cross the LOC we cross twice, you fire one mortar we fire two; you fire one missile, two will be in the air”. So India was forced to back down.
Indian Stock Exchange also had a run on its blue chips costing billions of dollars evaporating in the air. Any hit by Pakistan on India’s mainland may have caused a rush of millions of expatriates, tourists, and capital, out of the country.
All data communication picked up suggested Pakistan put full spectrum mode even deploying the Ghori 3 missiles with the capability to carry payloads. According to American spy satellite analysts, Pakistan had mobilized Shaheen-3 TELs into “Deployed” configuration.
Through incursion, Delhi did not succeed to strategically alter the security calculus of Pakistan as Islamabad’s red lines are the same; no deterrence India created, as such Balakot incursion was as futile as the last fake surgical strikes. Pakistan’s strategy is the same which India has to live with providing all legitimate support to Kashmiris’ struggle for the right of self-determination envisaged by the UN resolutions; and secondly, Delhi will continue to face the proved capability of Pakistan to retaliate if attacked again.
Economic Perils for India
Economically India faced a cut off from the rest of the world. De-facto no-fly zone made readjustment for the flight routes, cost millions of dollars to the aviation industry and huge revenue losses to India. Of 7 percent growth rate with trillions of worth import and export, Delhi had to slow down all shipments through ports due to a real threat from Pakistani Air Force in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea waters.
Indian Stock Exchange also had a run on its blue chips costing billions of dollars evaporating in the air. Any hit by Pakistan on India’s mainland may have caused a rush of millions of expatriates, tourists, and capital, out of the country. Anyway, India will be thinking very hard every time it ponders to use conventional moves against Pakistan under any pretext as it is going to be Delhi as the ultimate loser.
Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, a politician from Baluchistan, and ex-advisor to the Baluchistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated with BBC World Service. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.