WASHINGTON: Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have — more or less — reached an understanding on a package for bailing out the country’s ailing economy, says Finance Minister Asad Umar.
“During the last two days, we have, more or less, reached an understanding. In the next day or two, we hope to reach a full agreement and then we will share the details with you,” the finance minister said at a Thursday night news briefing at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington.
“In the next step, the IMF will send its mission to Pakistan in the next few weeks to work out technical details. But in principle, we have reached an agreement,” he said.
• Finance minister says FATF judging Pakistan with a rigged jury • Fund officials air concerns over CPEC
The finance minister, who reached Washington on Tuesday evening, left for New York on Friday after two days of talks with the IMF and World Bank officials on the sidelines of the group’s spring meetings. The team of experts that came with him, however, remains in Washington to finalise the details of a multi-billion dollar, three-year bailout package.
Although Mr Umar did not explain the irritants that still need to be worked out, Dawn has learned the IMF is insisting on a market-oriented exchange rate while Pakistan wants to retain its current approach of a managed float.
During the talks, IMF officials shared their concerns on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and its possible impact on the IMF programme “but Pakistan assured them that there’s no overlapping between the two programmes,” an official source said.
“Some fine-tuning will be done in Islamabad and then the package will be signed,” the minister said.
Before the news briefing, the finance minister addressed the Pakistani-American community at the embassy, explaining why the country needs a bailout package.
“The more things change, the more they remain the same. This is what Pakistan is experiencing,” he said. “We’ve been going through a recurring cycle of a balance of payments crisis.”
Mr Umar said he could not recall the last time a government in Pakistan had not inherited a balance of payments crisis and sought IMF help. “The pattern has remained the same, in 1988, 1999, 2008, 2013 and 2018,” he said, acknowledging that “there is something, obviously, structurally wrong” with the economic policies followed by successive governments.
“While there may be specific decisions that contribute to this, or people who may be responsible, but there is clearly something structural at play which goes beyond personalities and decisions,” he said.
For some in the audience, it was a pleasant departure from the PTI’s usual practice of blaming everything on the PML-N government.
In a lighter vein, the finance minister told the Pakistani-American community that their country was close to setting a world record, as it was about to enter its 13th IMF programme in 30 years. ‘That’s quite an achievement.”
Mr Umar refuted rumours that he was resigning or being fired. “I am not going anywhere,” he said.
The finance minister said Pakistan was facing three main problems on the economic front — the fiscal deficit, current account deficit and savings and investment gap.
“The situation right now is that we are not taking loans to pay off past loans, but to pay off interest.”
Responding to a question about what actions the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) might take in Pakistan’s case, the minister said the next review would take place in the middle of May and the deadline for Pakistan to send a report for the review is April 15. He said Pakistan would send the report on time and then the review team would visit Pakistan in May but the actual deadline for the final decision is September.
He said Pakistan had made significant improvements since the last review, recognised by “virtually everybody we talked to. The question mark we have is: are we going to be judged by a rigged jury?”
He said he recently wrote a letter to the FATF president asking him to appoint any other member country besides India as co-chair of the Asia-Pacific Joint Group. “The finance minister of India is on record saying that they will use every means at their disposal to economically isolate Pakistan. What better way to isolate Pakistan economically than to get Pakistan on a FATF blacklist?”
The minister said with India co-chairing the proceedings, Pakistan did not expect a fair and unbiased decision from the FATF.
Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2019
Pakistan Day 2019 is being celebrated with traditional zeal and fervour across the country.
The day began with a 31-gun salute in Islamabad while provincial capitals marked the day with 21-gun salutes. The change-of-guards ceremony was held at the mausoleum of Dr Allama Iqbal in Lahore.
Pakistan Air Force troops took over guard duty at the mausoleum of Iqbal where Air Commodore Rizwan Malik was the chief guest.
The Pakistan Day military parade is being held at Parade Ground near the Shakarparian hills in Islamabad to mark the day. The parade is being attended by the civil and military leadership as well as foreign dignitaries.
Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) General Zubair, Naval Chief Admiral Zafar Mehmood Abbasi, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Minister of Defence of the Republic of Azerbaijan Colonel General Zakir Hasanov and Prime Minister Imran Khan all arrived at the parade ground.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who arrived on a three-day visit to Pakistan on Thursday, also attended the event as the guest of honour. Corps military police's Captain Khudadad Mand escorted the Malaysian premier to the stage.
Chief guest President Dr Arif Alvi was the last personality to join the assortment of civil-military leaders and foreign dignitaries on stage. He was escorted by the president's body guards: Lietenant Colonel Rab Nawaz Tiwana and Major Waqas Abbas Khan.
Once the guests had assembled on stage, a round of handshakes ensued, following which the national anthem of Pakistan was played.
After recitation of the Holy Quran, Brigadier Naseem Anwar formally requested President Alvi to observe the parade from a jeep.
Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan led a fly-past as a salute to the president. Following the Air Chief, a formation of four JF-17 Thunder fighter jets of the Pakistan Air Force demonstrated its aerial prowess. They were followed by similar formations of Mirage, F-7PG and other fighter aircraft.
Following the fly-past demonstrations, President Alvi addressed the ceremony. He congratulated the nation on the National Day and said that "March 23 is that milestone of our national history in which the Muslims of the subcontinent aimed for their liberation through Pakistan Resolution."
The president noted that Pakistan's sovereignty had been challenged in the past and "wars were imposed on us" but lauded the nation for fighting off those setbacks.
He said that "Pakistan respects all the countries' sovereignty and wishes peace" but made it clear that the "desire for peace should not be misconstrued as a sign of weakness".
The president said that it would by myopic of the Indian leadership and a mistake for them to view Pakistan in the pre-partition light. "Doing so would be very dangerous for the region's stability," he said. "Instead of wars, we should focus on education, health, hunger, employment and extremist mindset. Our real war is against unemployment and poverty."
"It's time to set Pakistan on the path towards prosperity and growth. That would be the greatest tribute for the martyrs and ghazis of the country," he added.
The president thanked the Malaysian prime minister, Azerbaijan's defence minister, the chief of Bahrain's armed forces and other foreign dignitaries for gracing the parade with their presence and participating in the Pakistan Day celebrations.
Following the president's speech, troops from Frontier Corps, Pakistan Rangers, Northern Light Infantry, and others took part in the parade. The parade also featured troops from Azerbaijan, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain and Sri Lanka.
It is pertinent to mention here that officials of the Indian High Commission (IHC) had attended the parade last year. According to diplomatic sources, they had been invited verbally to attend this year's parade as well. However, the Indian government decided to boycott the ceremony on account of Pakistan inviting Kashmir's Hurriyat leaders.
Following the soldiers, contingents of armoured and mechanised infantry held a march-past. The Al-Khalid Main Battle Tank (MBT), Al Zarrar tanks, a variety of Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) as well as howitzer guns were paraded in front of the civil-military leadership. Radar systems, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), cruise missiles and other modern weaponry equipped with latest military technology were also rolled out.
At the tail end of the parade, a Pakistan Rangers band played national songs on bagpipes while riding camels in unison.
Furthermore, the parade showcased local cultures of the four provinces. Cultural delegates and floats from Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir were featured during the ceremony.
Several formations of a variety of combat helicopters belonging to the armed forces demonstrated their capabilities before PAF fighter jets mesmerised the audience with their mid-air maneuvers.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Dr Arif Alvi, in separate messages on Pakistan Day, stressed the "need to achieve the goal of true Islamic welfare state as envisaged by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah", according to Radio Pakistan
Prime Minister Imran Khan said the government is determined to establish a society where every person can contribute towards socio-economic development to the best of his ability.
He said that on the National Day, "we should not forget Kashmiri people who have long been victims of Indian state terrorism and forced to lead a life of misery."
President Alvi said that Pakistan has overcome the challenges of extremism and terrorism but acknowledged the country was yet to make efforts for excelling on social and economic fronts.
Pakistan Day commemorates the passing of the Lahore Resolution on March 23, 1940, when the All-India Muslim League demanded a separate nation for the Muslims of the British Indian Empire.
According to Radio Pakistan, an award ceremony will also be held at the President House in the evening, where about 171 people, including civilians and foreign citizens will be awarded for achievements in various fields including science and technology, by President Arif Alvi.
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday gave a go-ahead for the creation of a dedicated security force for petroleum exploration on the pattern of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) security arrangement in order to offer lucrative incentives for enhanced production of domestic oil and gas resources.
While presiding over a meeting of the energy sector, the prime minister also approved a proposal of the Petroleum Division to shift the existing exploration and development policy from ‘approval regime’ to ‘information regime’ providing greater freedom to oil and gas companies in operations beyond discovery stage.
On top of that, the premier also agreed to allow mid-tier exploration and production firms to enter exploration sector besides reducing timelines and stages for processing and approvals for all investors to push for aggressive search and development of local hydrocarbon reserves.
This was part of a proposed new petroleum exploration and production policy under which the prime minister was informed that the costs of imported oil, gas and LNG were “prohibitively expensive and unsustainable” and the recent gas price shock that created a public outcry was just the beginning of tough times coming. Only LNG imports for the current year are estimated to consume $3-4 billion compared to significantly high domestic cost of gas production, besides oil imports of about $13-14bn.
A statement said the meeting decided to set up a special force to provide foolproof security to exploration companies in view of prevailing security environment in the country so as to comfort local and foreign investors. An official said the prime minister desired further fine-tuning of the revised policy before it could be formally launched with the approval of the Council of Common Interests in second or third quarter with aggressive marketing.
This would also mean more details on raising a special force of about 50,000 personnel to ensure unhindered exploration of oil and gas reserves in the country’s troubled areas, particularly Balochistan, where highly prospective zones have remained inaccessible so far due to challenging security situation.
Special incentives would be offered to operators of existing petroleum producing fields for enhanced production after a certain stage where companies do not find more investments conducive and give up more production – say, after 60pc production of the total reserves, leaving 40pc remaining resources unutilised.
The new policy, an official said, seeks to upgrade Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Policy, 2012 with the creation of an entirely new exploration zone for high-risk frontier regions with better returns to tap prospects of more hydrocarbon finds and production.
Under the existing policy, there are three zones for onshore, defined on the basis of risks and investment opportunities. Zone-I covers Western Balochistan, Pishin and Potohar, Zone-II comprises Kirthar, Eastern Balochistan, Punjab and Suleman basins while the Lower Indus Basin is described as Zone-III. The wellhead prices to investors are offered at the rate of $6 per mmBtu for Zone-III, $6.3 for Zone-II and $6.6 for Zone-I.
Now a new zone is being created to be called Zone-I (F), covering Kharan and Pishin in Balochistan and some border areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa along with its new tribal districts which are reported to have good potential of hydrocarbons estimated to be over 20 trillion cubic feet (TCF). The Petroleum Division has proposed on the request of exploration companies to treat this new zone at par with offshore exploration by offering them $7 per mmBtu wellhead price.
To encourage offshore exploration activities, they said, the government had exempted additional customs duty on import of offshore drilling equipment to tap unexplored hydrocarbon reserves in the country. In future, there will be clearance of vessels, drill ships and helicopters without any levy, duty or charges whatsoever including customs duty. This dispensation is extended to all companies and joint venture partners who are party to any Production Sharing Agreement with the government for offshore petroleum exploration and production activities.
The meeting was informed that some highly promising areas like Block-28, Zarghon and Kohlu remained under force majeure for decades but could change Pakistan’s energy landscape if provided full security. The matter had been discussed with the army’s southern command, the Frontier Constabulary and the provincial government and now required formal processing through PM office.
It was agreed that after the initial confirmation of a discovery, the firms should not be made to wait like at present for the approval of well development plan and instead would be free to go ahead with field development and just keep filing updates to the government for monitoring and follow-up to reduce steps of interface and approvals involved and result in the bureaucratic red tape.
A databank of working and available rigs and other equipment required for petroleum exploration would be updated so as they could be quickly mobilised where needed the most once security clearance ensured. At present, the companies were bearing about Rs14bn expenditure on security which would be facilitated to be utilised for hiring more rigs and seismic and exploration equipment after the government takes over its responsibility of providing security through the proposed special force.
Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2019
When Pakistan handed back Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman to India, the spectacle of the graciously quick return of the MiG-21 pilot, shot down and captured by Pakistan, elicited both international plaudits and misplaced triumphalism. But the spectacle also masked more important military and political factors at play.
The two military rounds played between Pakistan and India on February 26/27 in the wake of New Delhi’s aggression against Islamabad, after the February 14 Pulwama attack, have important lessons for deterrence as well as the question of whether limited war options are possible between a nuclear dyad.
India has, since long, accused Pakistan of playing the conflict game at the sub-conventional level while denying India its superior conventional capabilities by signalling the resolve to introduce nuclear weapons first and early into a conventional conflict. This line of reasoning, simplistic though it is, has been widely lapped up, not only by Indian analysts but also Western scholars.
Meanwhile, India, since the limited conflict in Kargil (1999) and then the 10-month long Twin Peaks crisis (2001-02) has been conceptualising how to punish Pakistan conventionally while remaining below the nuclear threshold.
Pakistan and India came closer to a devastating war than they have in almost 17 years. As the dark clouds of impending all-out conflict begin to dissipate, it is important for both to see what the current tensions can teach us about deterrence and preventing a repeat
Put another way, India thought — and many experts agreed — that there was a band in which India could act militarily and punitively. That, if India were to play within that band, it would make it extremely difficult for Pakistan to escalate to the nuclear level because such escalation would be considered highly disproportionate and would draw international opprobrium and consequences. The argument was that the certainty of international diplomatic and economic isolation would force Pakistan to stay its hand and not escalate to the nuclear level.
The banal equivalent of such a situation would be someone punching another person in a crowded bazaar and the victim, instead of keeping the fight to fisticuffs, chooses to draw and fire a pistol. Not only would such a person lose the sympathy of the crowd, he would also invite the full coercive and normative weight of the law.
Corollary: whoever ups the ante in a basic fight ends up as the loser.
However, while the Indian military planners were thinking about this for the past two decades, until the arrival on India’s political scene of Narendra Modi and his éminence grise, Ajit Doval, New Delhi shied away from actualising a short, sharp military option against Pakistan, focusing instead on exploiting diplomatic channels using its diplomatic heft.
According to India’s official figures, the 2001-02 standoff cost India three billion dollars with hundreds of soldiers killed without any exchange with Pakistan. The mobilisation was a political decision and as then-Indian Chief of Army Staff S Padmanabhan noted, in an interview to The Hindu, “You could certainly question why we are so dependent on our strike formations and why my holding corps don’t have the capability to do the same tasks from a cold start. This is something I have worked on while in office. Perhaps, in time, it will be our military doctrine.”
COLD START DOCTRINE
This was the beginning of India’s Cold Start doctrine that envisaged creating eight Independent Battle Groups, placed closer to the border and capable of a short, sharp, punitive action against Pakistan without the long mobilisation delays India experienced in 2001-02. Interestingly, while India for long denied that such a doctrine existed — despite having done some field exercises to validate it — the current Indian army chief, Bipin Rawat, acknowledged its existence in an interview barely three weeks after taking office on December 31, 2016.
As an explainer in The Economist put it, “Cold Start is the name given to a limited-war strategy designed to seize Pakistani territory swiftly without, in theory, risking a nuclear conflict. It has its roots in an attack on India’s parliament in 2001 … by the time its [India’s] lumbering Strike Corps were mobilised and positioned on the frontier, Pakistan had already bulked up its defences, raising both the costs of incursion and the risk that it would escalate into a nuclear conflict. Cold Start is an attempt to draw lessons from this: having nimbler, integrated units stationed closer to the border would allow India to inflict significant harm before international powers demanded a ceasefire; by pursuing narrow aims, it would also deny Pakistan a justification for triggering a nuclear strike.”
Let’s consider the underlying assumptions in all this.
The ‘theory’ assumes that:
(1) There is a band in which India can use its conventional military option;
(2) that band can be exploited;
(3) India has the conventional superiority to make it work;
(4) if it does so in response to an attack it can pin on Pakistan, it has enough diplomatic weight to have the world opinion on its side for such a strike;
(5) it can make it work through a military surprise which can gain its objectives;
(6) Pakistan, having suffered a setback, will be hard pressed to retaliate because it will have to climb up the escalation ladder, a costly proposition both for reasons of the earlier military setback as well as international diplomatic pressure;
(7) given India’s upper hand, both militarily and diplomatically, Pakistan will choose to not escalate;
(8) if, however, Pakistan did choose to escalate, India will still enjoy escalation dominance because of its superior capabilities and because it will have international diplomatic support; and
(9) India, given its diplomatic and military heft, will be able to raise the costs for Pakistan in an escalation spiral.
Result: Pakistan will weigh the consequences as a rational-choice actor and prefer to climb down.
Modi from the word go has been hyping his masculinity and informing his right-wing Hindutva vote bank that he could and would act where his Congress predecessors failed to, namely that he would teach Pakistan a lesson and create a “new normal”.
The interesting assumption in all this, and one that should not be missed is this: the first-round result. Every subsequent assumption flows from what India could achieve militarily in the opening hand.
Somehow, barring a few analysts, most literature took for granted that the first round would, of necessity, go in favour of India. And therefore, Pakistan’s cost for retaliation would increase both militarily and diplomatically. In fact, this does make sense if it can be guaranteed that India’s gambit will work. Except, the opening round success could be guaranteed only if India were applying force on an inanimate object or if its conventional capabilities were far superior to Pakistan’s.
As Clausewitz noted, “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.”
The second crucial point in unpacking these assumptions is the limited nature of the engagement. It should be clear that India’s politico-military strategy post the 2001-02 standoff looked at any punitive military action in a limited, not full-scale, mode: military action below the nuclear threshold.
Pakistan has never drawn clear red lines, managing risk through ambiguity. The only time a former — and longest-serving — Director-General Strategic Plans Division, Lt-General Khalid Kidwai, enunciated four parameters for resorting to nukes was during an interview to two visiting Italian physicists:
(1) India attacks Pakistan and conquers a large part of its territory (space threshold);
(2) India destroys a large part of Pakistan’s military forces/assets (military threshold);
(3) India strangulates Pakistan economically;
(4) India destabilises Pakistan politically or through internal subversion.
As Dr Nitin Prasad says in his book, Contemporary Pakistan: Political System, Military and Changing Scenario, Kidwai was using hypothetical scenarios, and his four thresholds — geographic, military, economic, domestic-political — were not red lines, defined and understood by the adversary or other parties, because clearly defined red lines dilute deterrence and provide room for conventional force manoeuvring.
The point about the limited nature of India’s military plans is important because, while a case can be made for India possibly overwhelming Pakistan in a drawn full-scale conventional conflict which brings in other factors, a limited thrust or strike — if there’s not a huge differential in technical and other capabilities — may not necessarily play to the stronger adversary’s advantage.
Put another way, if the presumably weaker side denies the stronger side success in the opening round, draws its own blood successfully while showing restraint, it can raise the costs for the stronger actor by upending the latter’s assumptions based on the success of the opening round.
DIMENSIONS OF DETERRENCE
This is exactly what has happened in the two rounds fought this time. One can put it thus: deterrence has held because the aggressor has to factor in the nuclear dimension and keep its military options below that threshold. The defender, having defended successfully and then drawn blood, shows restraint. Third parties get involved knowing and realising that any attempt by one or both sides at escalation dominance could spiral. [Note: Dr Moeed Yusuf has a brilliant book on third party brokering (2018), which studies US diplomacy during three crises — Kargil (1999), Twin Peaks (2001-02) and Mumbai (2008).]
But what exactly is deterrence?
It can have both the conventional and the nuclear dimensions. Essentially, deterrence is the ability to discourage an actor from undertaking an unwanted action, including an armed attack. It is, in other words, about prevention, i.e. convincingly stopping an actor from an action. The sister concept, what Thomas Schelling described as compellence, is about forcing an actor to do something in line with what the compeller (adversary) wants it to do.
By India’s reasoning, its limited military options are about deterring Pakistan to undertake actions at the sub-conventional level and to deter India from making use of its conventional strength because of the existence of nuclear weapons.
This is where the problem begins.
Deterrence is not just about threatening an adversary with punitive action. In order for it to be successful, it must shape the adversary’s perceptions, i.e., force the adversary to change its behaviour by estimating that it has options other than aggression and which are more cost-effective. Shaping perceptions of the adversary that needs to be deterred would then require the deterrer to understand the motives of the actor who has to be deterred. Without that exercise, any limited action, even if it were temporarily successful, would fail to impact a behaviour change or incentivise a state actor to do something different.
Also, deterrence by denial, the ability to deter an action by making it infeasible is a far better strategy than deterrence by punishment which, as the term implies, promises the resolve and the capability to take punitive action(s) and inflict severe punishment.
So, in the case of the rounds played, deterrence has worked at two levels.
First, the overall, umbrella deterrence that flows from the possession of nuclear weapons on both sides. This level ensures that even if one or the other side decides to undertake military action, it must keep it limited.
The second level is about conventional deterrence. If X has undertaken a military action, Y can prevent it from achieving its objective and, by successfully undertaking its own action, can force X to rethink its use of any military option. The rethink is important because, in such a play, if Y has prevented X’s action and successfully undertaken its own, X cannot simply retaliate to a reprisal. X will have to climb up the escalation ladder, i.e., it has to scale up by using an escalatory option to defend his commitment. Escalation is about a higher cost and the rethink is a function of forcing X into that cost-benefit analysis.
It is precisely for this reason that the opening round is so crucial for the aggressor, in this case India. To recap, as noted above in the list of assumptions, every subsequent assumption flows from the success of the opening round.
At this point it would be instructive to view all this from the perspective of the Modi-Doval duo. Both men believe, or at least had convinced themselves into believing, that the previous Indian governments did not make use of a conventional military option because they were weak-kneed. Modi, by referring to his 56-inch chest, from the word go has been hyping his masculinity and informing his right-wing Hindutva vote bank that he could and would act where his Congress predecessors failed to, namely that he would teach Pakistan a lesson and create a “new normal”.
In September 2016, following an attack on an army camp in Uri in Occupied Kashmir, one morning the Indian Director-General Military Operations announced to a packed press conference that India had conducted “surgical strikes” in Azad Kashmir, across the Line of Control (LoC) and destroyed “terrorist” bases. He also said that he had told his Pakistani counterpart that India did not intend to take any further action and that its action was only directed towards non-state actors.
The Indian media, as well as serious analysts, went into a tizzy. Days on end, there was nothing on Indian TV channels and newspapers other than this “great victory” against Pakistan. We were told that Pakistan had not retaliated because Pakistan Army posts and troops in the area were caught off-guard and Pakistan was playing it down because the action was an embarrassment for it. Even serious analysts began talking about a new normal.
This is what Shashank Joshi, then based at the Royal United Services Institute in London, wrote in the opening paragraph of his op-edin The Hindustan Times: “India’s ‘surgical strikes’ on Wednesday night… — barely a few kilometres across the Line of Control (LoC) — … represent one of the most important changes in India’s military posture to Pakistan in over a decade.” He did acknowledge that this hadn’t happened for the first time and the fact, as he put it, “that Pakistan will not reverse seven decades of policy without a diplomatic process” but there was headiness, nonetheless. And this is just one example. There are scores of others.
Pakistan did not retaliate because it was a fire raid where Indian troops were blocked at two points of ingress but managed to sneak in at the third, fired at some hutments and withdrew.
By hyping it, Modi locked himself further into a commitment trap. Apart from some discerning commentators in India, everyone chose to forget that such actions had been undertaken at the LoC by both sides in the past and that there was nothing ‘surgical’ about India’s fire raid.
On February 14, therefore, when a bomber mounted the deadliest attackon Indian paramilitary troops in recent times, Modi was left with no option but to act. With a tough election staring him in the face and his chest blocking a clear view of rationality, he decided to use a limited military option. Only this time it had to be more than just a raid across the LoC. He jumped a few rungs on the escalation ladder by deciding to use his air force.
The story about what happened on the morning of February 26 has now become a laugh and it has been walked back a few miles and some more by India itself, so those details are not necessary. Whatever little was left of India’s fantastic claim about hitting a “training camp” and killing “terrorists” has been finally laid to rest by a Reuters story that reviewed satellite imagery from Planet Labs Inc.
However, what is important is not whether Indian planes came into Pakistan (original claim), whether they struck in a stand-off mode (i.e. when aerial platforms are used from a safe distance, away from defensive weapons, and use precision munitions such as glide bombs to attack a distant target without actually coming upon the target and swooping down for a bombing run) or even whether they could or could not make a hit. The important and crucial point was that India had challenged Pakistan and Pakistan needed to put an end to the “new normal” talk. Pakistan chose its targets, struck to show resolve and capability and then also won the dogfight.
Later, we are told that India had thought of using missiles to hit nine targets in Pakistan. But Pakistan readied its missiles and informed India that it will hit back. That forced India to back off. If this is true — and it comes to us from a briefing by Prime Minister Imran Khan — then it seems that Modi had nursed the idea of playing a very dangerous hand, which he couldn’t because that would have meant exchange of missiles between a nuclear dyad — a development which has remarkable escalation potential. Missilery between nuclear powers is a big no. There’s no known technology in the world that can determine whether the incoming missile has a tactical or a strategic (nuclear) warhead and that can lead to response miscalculation.
The two sides are back to the ‘old normal’ — artillery and small-arms duelling across the LoC. The attempt by an Indian submarine to enter Pakistan’s territorial waters was also deftly picked up by Pakistan Navy, with the sub forced to return. It could have been sunk but Pakistan, in keeping with its policy of not escalating, chose not to make a hit.
From here on, there’s nothing more for India but to understand the imperative of positive engagement through a sustained dialogue. The framework for such engagement is already in place. There is no alternative to talking and walking that talk. But that will not happen until we see the electoral contest in India and its results.
At the same time, Pakistan must not underestimate India based on these limited rounds. While India could not coerce Pakistan militarily at this moment, if the growth differential between Pakistan and India continues to grow, the technological asymmetry will increase to the point where strategies of coercion could kick into play. That scenario could see very different results on the ground. For instance, India will possess the anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD) S-400 system by 2020. That system is not just defensive but can also be employed in a preemptive offensive role. Typically, A2/AD systems ensure that they can deny a mission to incoming hostiles (anti-access) and ensure safety of their own area against any hostile action (area denial mode). If things do not change through engagement, we could see India use the S-400 in any future round. That would be an entirely different ballgame altogether.
The writer is Executive Editor at Indus News and specialises in defence and security.
He tweets @ejazhaider
Published in Dawn, EOS, March 10th, 2019
Overseas Pakistanis investment convention and Expo on 17-Mar-2019 at Jinah Convention center Islamabad, Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Air Force (PAF) conducted strikes across Line of Control (LoC) from within Pakistani airspace, the Foreign Office said on Wednesday.
"This was not a retaliation to continued Indian belligerence. Pakistan has therefore, taken strikes at non-military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage," the FO statement read.
"Sole purpose being to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self defence. We have no intention of escalation, but are fully prepared to do so if forced into that paradigm," it added. "That is why we undertook the action with clear warning and in broad daylight."
The FO further said, "For the last few years, India has been trying to establish what they call “a new normal” a thinly veiled term for doing acts of aggression at whatever pretext they wish on a given day. If India is striking at so called terrorist backers without a shred of evidence, we also retain reciprocal rights to retaliate against elements that enjoy Indian patronage while carrying out acts of terror in Pakistan. We do not wish to go to that route and wish that India gives peace a chance and to resolve issues like a mature democratic nation."
"The jets entered into Indian air space over Nowshera sector this morning," Indian media quoted an official as saying.
Pakistani jets targeted two Indian planes, according to reports. One Indian plane was shot down and the other was engaged, the reports added.
The retaliatory act comes after Pakistan warned India of a "surprise" on Tuesday in the wake of Indian military aircraft's intrusion into Pakistani airspace.
Pakistan Military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor on Tuesday warned India that it was time to "wait for our surprise". "I said three things: You will never be able to surprise us. We have not been surprised. We were ready, we responded, we denied. I said we will retain the escalation ladder. We have that initiative in our hand," he said.
"I said that we will surprise you. Wait for that surprise. I said that our response will be different. See it for yourself. The response will come, and response will come differently," Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) warned the Indian army.
Earlier today, six citizens were martyredas Indian forces once again violated the LoC by resorting to unprovoked mortar shelling. Sources in the area said six citizens were martyred in the unprovoked shelling in Kotli village in Nakyal sector of LoC. Three of a family were among those martyred in the Indian firing. A woman was martyred in Indian unprovoked firing in Khoi Rata sector of the LoC while a citizen was critically injured in the LoC violation in Abbaspur sector.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had chaired a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) a day earlier which rejected Indian claims of targeting an alleged terrorist camp near Balakot and said that Pakistan will decide the time and place of response to the aggression.
Indian military aircraft violated the LoC as they "intruded" from the Muzaffarabad sector and were forced to return owing to the timely response of the Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said early Tuesday.
"Indian aircraft intrusion across LoC in Muzafarabad Sector within AJK was 3-4 miles. Under forced hasty withdrawal aircraft released payload which had free fall in open area. No infrastructure got hit, no casualties. Technical details and other important information to follow," Major General Ghafoor wrote on Twitter.
He also tweeted images of the "payload of hastily escaping Indian aircraft" which "fell in [the] open".
The incursion into the Pakistani air space follows a series of threats by Indian political and military leadership following the attack on an Indian Army convoy at Pulwama by a local youth, in reaction to the oppression unleashed by the occupational forces.
President Arif Alvi on Monday conferred Pakistan's highest civil award — Nishan-e-Pakistan — on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman during a ceremony held at the President House in Islamabad.
According to the citation provided at the President House, Mohammad bin Salman was honoured due to his "outstanding support for reinvigorating Pak-Saudi bilateral relationship".
"It is privilege for me to host this banquet," President Alvi said after presenting the award to the Saudi crown prince. "Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have been indispensable partners for a very long time. We have been together for centuries. Our friendship is bound in religion and culture.
"Even though there is geographical distance between us but we are very close in our hearts. The recent visit of the prime minister and your visit has cemented the friendship between us."
The president congratulated the Saudi crown prince on his "modernisation efforts" as well as measures taken to highlight Saudi Arabia's previously "hidden" tourism sites.
"Pakistan, too, is a beautiful country," the president said. "It's at the crossroads. There is a huge change. It is a golden era for Pakistan also. It is open for investment. We have fought terrorism very bravely. We are on the cusp of an era where there could be an increase in prosperity for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia."
Following the president's speech, the Saudi crown prince addressed the audience. "I was honoured to meet the president of Pakistan. I thank you for honouring me with Pakistan's highest award.
"The brotherly relationship between the kingdom and Pakistan focus on the principle of Islamic solidarity. It is a model to be emulated by other nations. Our [countries' relationship] go back 67 years that witnessed continuous development that rendered itself beneficial for both countries.
"The founding fathers for both countries established these relations on the principles of truthfulness, common understanding and mutual respect that go back to the first days of the establishment of Pakistan, post-World War 2.
"Our Pakistani brothers participated truthfully and effectively in the great development project that Saudi Arabia witnessed, especially the enlargement project of Masjid-e-Haram and Masjid-e-Nabwi. More than 2 million Pakistanis are working in Saudi Arabia and are contributing to the development of both the countries.
"I wish all the best to the president and the prime minister in the service of this country and its people."
Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, NA Speaker Asad Qaiser and various other leaders were in attendance.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Saudi crown prince said his goodbyes to the president and members of the federal cabinet before leaving for Nur Khan Airbase. As was the case when he had arrived, the prime minister personally drove the car carrying the Saudi crown prince.
Earlier, the Saudi crown prince and Prime Minister Imran Khan had arrived at the President House in a traditional chariot.
The two leaders were escorted by the presidential guard on their way from the PM House to the President House.
President Alvi received the Saudi crown prince upon his arrival at the President House. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry were also present when the Saudi crown prince and the prime minister arrived at the President House.
An assortment of lawmakers under Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani's leadership called upon Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Monday at the PM House, according to a press release issued by Senate Secretariat.
Sanjrani hailed the crown prince's plan to make a multi-billion-dollar investment in Pakistan, and termed it "a reflection of the international community's faith in Pakistan".
"In addition to mutual assistance and partnership, these investments will also pave way for regional development," the Senate chairman said. "Saudi Arabia's Vision 2020 is the vision of peace, economic growth and prosperity. This visit [of the crown prince] will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the two countries' relations."
Sanjrani hailed the timing of Saudi Arabia's decision to invest in the country, noting that "the situation has changed in Pakistan. The atmosphere for investment and trade is extremely conducive now."
The Senate chair acknowledged the kingdom's "time-tested friendship", adding that the Arab country "has always helped Pakistan in trying times".
Sanjrani said that "both the countries share the same point of view on various political and security issues" and "are in agreement at a multitude of fora".
The chairman of the upper house of the parliament suggested that further efforts be made to boost bilateral trade, make the joint business council active and increase participation in business exhibitions.
During the meeting, Sanjrani also mentioned the Pakistani community based in Saudi Arabia, and credited them for acting as a "bridge between the two nations".
Sanjrani was accompanied by senators Azam Swati, Mushahidullah Khan, Raja Zafarul Haq, Shibli Faraz as well as NA Speaker Asad Qaiser, NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan.
The Saudi crown prince had arrived in Pakistan on Sunday amid heightened security and arrangements in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.