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28 Feb, 2019 05:31

We don't want war, but we may have no choice, say voices on both sides of India-Pakistan row

We don't want war, but we may have no choice, say voices on both sides of India-Pakistan row

With tension reignited by the flare-up in Kashmir, increased odds of a full-out war between nuclear powers India and Pakistan got the rest of the world watching. RT spoke to both Indian and Pakistani experts about what comes next.

Also on rt.com Pakistan-India showdown: What you’re not being told

New Delhi and Islamabad have long been at loggerheads over the disputed Kashmir, having fought three wars over the territory. The smoldering conflict escalated on Tuesday, when the Indian military launched an airstrike, claiming it bombed out terrorist camps on a Pakistani-controlled area of Kashmir to avenge an earlier suicide blast that had killed 42 paramilitary troopers. Islamabad then announced that it downed two Indian aircraft and captured one pilot. On Wednesday, India in turn claimed that it shot down a Pakistani fighter jet and lost one of its own aircraft while repelling an attack.

RT spoke to Rajiv Sikri,  Former Secretary of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, and Yasir Masood, Pakistani political analyst, about the underlying causes of the conflict and what to expect as it unfolds.

The issue of 'terrorist camps'

The exchange of fire started with India carrying out an airstrike at a remote valley in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, claiming it killed "a very large number" of fighters with the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist group that had assumed responsibility for the suicide bombing.

Sikri called the attack "a preemptive action" based on intelligence gathered by the Indian military. He said India wasn't aiming to foment the conflict with Pakistan, since the strike did not target either military or civilian infrastructure.

READ MORE: Domestic posturing or true escalation? Analyst fears new Kashmir incident prelude to global conflict

"Countering terror is an international obligation of all states," Sikri said. He argued Islamabad is to blame for the flare-up, as it targeted Indian servicemen in response. He accused the Pakistani government of being reluctant to uproot the terrorist group and said India should be allowed to do it on its own.

One thing is clear India will reserve the right to take action against terrorist camps and activities that Pakistan is encouraging

Masood, on the other hand, doubted the Indian army's claims about the dozens of terrorist casualties, telling RT it was a far-fetched pretext for incursion.

"We do not have these kinds of militant camps in this valley or elsewhere in Pakistan. As for Indian claims that they've killed 300 people, there is nothing of that sort. I can assure you that I've seen this valley myself."

According to the Pakistani expert, the only things the airstrike hit were "around ten trees."

Waiting for international community to step in

The overwhelming message from the international community to the parties so far has been to exercise restraint and not to let the skirmish spiral into all-out war. The analysts told RT that both Islamabad and New Delhi want to see the international community step up and rein in the other side.

"International influence and the international community, they need to come up and bring this message to India loud and clear that it is at the moment creating more tension," Masood said, calling on "diplomatic elites" to step in.

Doors are open for diplomacy

Sikri echoed the call, but urged the international community to apply more pressure on Pakistan instead.  According to the former Indian diplomat, Islamabad "is playing a dangerous game by not taking any action against terrorist camps." Such pressure might include economic and diplomatic measures, he said.

China, Russia and Turkey have expressed their concerns over the crisis and called on the parties to show restraint. The European Union has also urged both countries "to exercise utmost restraint," with the block's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warning on Wednesday that the spat might lead "to serious and dangerous consequences for the wider region."

Also on rt.com ‘No Indian movie will be released’: Pakistan bans Bollywood films & ads after air raid

Neither side wants war, but neither will back down

A  major showdown between the two states risks bringing the world on the brink of a destructive nuclear war, a dire perspective even if limited to the densely populated South Asia. Understandably, both sides want each other to show restraint, – but neither is willing to make the first move.

"Pakistan doesn't have a desire for war, but when it is imposed there is no choice left for the Muslims," Masood said, arguing that it is India's call to diffuse the tensions.

Sikri said that India, which is a far superior power militarily, does not want war either, but said that he believes Islamabad should take the first step to resolving the dispute – in the form of the "immediate return" of the captured Indian pilot.

"India's response has been restrained but if provocations continue I think it may become difficult," Sikri admitted, noting that while he hopes that "cooler heads will prevail" the situation can as well "go out of hand."

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