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  Opinion   Edit  28 Feb 2019  Let Pak know it holds no bargaining chip

Let Pak know it holds no bargaining chip

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Mar 1, 2019, 12:00 am IST
Updated : Mar 1, 2019, 12:00 am IST

Pakistan is currently on the brink of the economic precipice.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman
 Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman

There can be little doubt that the intense diplomatic pressure that India succeeded in building has forced Pakistan’s hand, leading Prime Minister Imran Khan to announce in his Parliament that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the Indian fighter pilot who had fallen in Pakistan's hand on Wednesday, will be sent back to India on Friday. Mr. Khan played his announcement as a "peace gesture". There are two issues to be considered here. The first is the Geneva convention concerning prisoners of war. Under its protocols, Islamabad had no option but to release the pilot sooner or later and treat him “humanely” and with dignity while they held him.

However, in the past, the Pakistan military has dispensed with such niceties, as the case of Wing Commander Ahuja — who was brutally killed in Pakistani custody — showed. But at the present juncture, such adventurism would not pay. And here comes in the second consideration.

 

Pakistan is currently on the brink of the economic precipice. As such, it could not disregard the counsel of its historical economic patron, Saudi Arabia, or of the UAE and the US, and probably also China, its “all-weather friend” — to pull back. Each of them is vital to Pakistan's economic health.

In geo-economic terms, the US and the key West Asian states are on the same page, and the US has described the Indian airstrike at the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp at Balakote last Tuesday as a "counter-terrorist" action. This meant that any recalcitrance on Islamabad's part could attract bad notice from the Financial Action Task Force, the international body that tracks terrorist financing, and this would lead to the drying up of funds from leading multilateral lenders.

 

The major nations probably anticipated further military squeeze by India if Pakistan did not comply immediately on the demand of the release of the pilot, and this does not augur well when two nuclear-armed nations  This is the backdrop to the Pakistan PM's announcement to release our pilot.

Mr. Khan evidently hopes to use this as a scaffolding for the resumption of stalled dialogue between the two countries. India can afford to keep diplomatic channels open if only to convey to Islamabad that this country expects the start of clear action against the infrastructure of terrorism, which cannot be dismantled in a matter of days or weeks, so entrenched is the panoply of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan's civil life.

 

India can underline that it did not permit Pakistan to use the captivity of our pilot as a bargaining chip because its focus was elimination of use of terrorism against this country. To Pakistan and the world community, India would do well to reiterate that it has no wish to escalate the situation or expand the use of military resources into a state of war even if it is resolved to hit at Pakistan-based terrorist assets as retaliation.

Tags: imran khan, abhinandan varthaman