By: Eryk Schumacher
On Saturday (March 2) Pakistani government released a captured Indian pilot, who was shot down in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir during Indian airstrikes, in what was claimed to be a “goodwill message.” The wing commander was welcomed with cheering crowds, as he was transported across the Indian border.
What has led to these events, that have, again, brought the Indian subcontinent on the brink of a nuclear war?
On the 14th of February, the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has perpetrated an attack in the disputed region of Kashmir, located in the Northern Indian Peninsula. As the result, 40 Indian troops were killed, in the deadliest attack on the Indian military since 1990s and an escalation began on the highly contended border.
India accused Pakistan of sponsoring the terrorists groups in the Indian Part of Kashmir, and of being responsible for the death of the Indian troops. As the result, both sides began scrambling their forces in the region.
India has also made several incursions into the Pakistani controlled section of Kashmir, sending their air force to bomb targets that are allegedly under terrorist jurisdiction. Indian officials called the attack a ‘preemptive strike’ against JeM and other terrorist groups.
After the attack, Pakistan claimed that it shot down two of the Indian fighter jets sent into the Pakistani air space, while India reported that only one of their planes was lost. Pakistan also claimed that they have captured the pilot of one of the jets, and published a video of him, in which he said that he is being treated well. India called the video a “vulgar display”, and demanded the immediate and safe return of the pilot.
Soon after the video was released, the Pakistani Prime minister Imran Khan has made an address to the nation where he stated that he is willing to negotiate with Indian officials, and that due to the fact that both nations are nuclear powers, “they cannot afford miscalculation”. Albeit he also stated that he will not stand down if Indian air strikes on Pakistan’s territory will continue.
While the release of the captured pilot gives hope for the de-escalation of the conflict, it has been later reported that the tensions on the Kashmir border have further exacerbated, as the Pakistani and Indian militaries exchanged an artillery barrage that killed seven troops. Pakistan’s authorities also reported that several civilians have been killed in the Pakistani Administered part of Kashmir. Pakistani government officials also claimed that Indian troops have “indiscriminately targeted border villagers”.
This is not the first time in history when Pakistan and India clashed over Kashmir, which is a region that was contested by both countries ever since they gained independence in 1947. Although today both countries are in possession of a nuclear arsenal, which caused the world to look with anxiety at the recent events in Kashmir.