In Christian theology Perdition is a state of eternal damnation which, an unrepentant sinner is placed in. “The road to Perdition” is the name of a movie, starring Tom Hanks with Paul Newman and Jude Law in supporting roles. If the title was not sufficiently catchy, the cast convinced me to watch it.

It turned out to be a disappointing movie though, as expected, there was a pun to perdition. It was the name of a hamlet where Hanks, an unrepentant murderer decided to hide in but was found by Law, another killer, and met his maker, after losing his family.

Are we, Pakistan and India finally on the road to perdition? Time will tell but, it certainly seems a likely possibility.

From the time the attack in Pulwama in Indian Kashmir occurred and, as has become routine, the Indians accused Pakistan for the death of forty personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force, what has followed seemed inevitable.

To Pakistan’s credit, the leadership made every attempt to defuse the situation. PM Khan personally expressed regret for the loss of Indian soldiers and assured India that he would act if “actionable evidence” was provided. To our discredit, however, is the fact that JeM did immediately claim responsibility. Even though, Dar, the perpetrator of the attack belonged to Indian Kashmir, he was a known associate of JeM. That being so, perhaps, the government could have brought in the JeM leaders for questioning, after JeM acknowledged responsibility for it.

There are however, mitigating circumstances for failing to do so. Not only was Dar an Indian Kashmiri, he was a “Freedom Fighter”, a legitimate status under the UN Charter and, since he exclusively targeted and killed only security forces in uniform, his, is an act of war, not of war crimes or anything culpable. Hence, even if leaders of JeM were brought in after JeM took responsibility, it would merely be a token act and unlikely to assuage the Indian anger.

India decided to act unilaterally. From the moment IAF crossed the LOC and threw down the gauntlet, what followed was inevitable, Pakistan, being the weaker of the two protagonists was compelled to retaliate. I pen these thoughts with no intent of apportioning blame or claiming relative success, or averring our version as truthful. Leaders of both countries have lied in the past. Regretfully, our previous leaders have been caught in lying rather brazenly. So, if our contentions are met with disbelief, our past is, at least partially, responsible for our sufferings.

This, however, is an era wherein technology can, at least verify some facts. In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, US provided photographic evidence in the UN, by a U-2 aircraft of the presence of Russian bases in Cuba, which resulted in building sufficient international pressure for Russia to relent; which saved the world from a possible Armageddon. Enough evidence can be garnished from the satellite imagery of today to verify the truth about the attacks. But, on the face of matters, Pakistan certainly seems to have done better so far. For India to de-escalate at this stage would require a much larger heart and far greater wisdom than Indian leadership has demonstrated.

War, however, is no game. And “having done relatively better” shifts us from being the weaker protagonist to being at par. “The theory of escalation” is fairly simple. If the Indian challenge, whether successful or not, compelled our reaction, our relative success now compels India. And, if this time India, feels compelled to retaliate, it will be when it can ensure success. If India succeeds, we will feel compelled again. If it doesn’t succeed, India will be far more compelled to up the ante and thence, from all-out war to nuclear exchanges, become self –compelling mini-steps.

PM Khan spoke well the other day. But, perhaps more is required and this time, and from us, the relatively more successful of the two. Something that could help Modi “save face” at this critical juncture. Perhaps a Birthday visit by Khan to Modi, or the proposal of a meeting between spy chiefs at a neutral venue. Some gesture made in visible humility that might help Modi to tone down. At present, it behooves us.

War is staring us in the face. In wars, nobody is the victor. Everyone loses. The only question is who loses more. Pakistan might well lose more but, it will bleed India. If the Indian military is larger in size and better equipped; every Pakistani soldier, irrespective if rank, is a battle-hardened veteran of years of war. This war may not be fought in the half-measures that characterize our previous experiences.

Furthermore, if war comes, like 1965, every Pakistani will fight. I know that all the Hindutva Brigades will rise to fight for Modi but, whether there will be some who will question Modi for bringing war to them or not, is something a knowledgeable, not the hyper Indians might answer.

Time for all international institutions to stand up and be counted. You need to come in as guarantors of peace, like Eisenhower did, when the Suez crisis occurred, and he managed to put enough pressure on the British and the French to prevent them from declaring war on Egypt. Ike, where are you? Awaken the UNGA again, please. 

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