India has avenged Uri across the Line of Control. The rationale for these violations was built on a perception that the Uri attack was Pakistan sponsored. By the time facts on what happened at Uri emerged, events had overtaken realities. India was desperate to divert international focus from the indigenous uprisings in IOK and Uri was an opportunity to be seized.

Juxtaposed with these interests were international concerns that warranted a message sent to Pakistan, this time through India. USA was complicit in building this hysteria. Fearing that she may be left behind, Hilary Clinton, as reported by the Indian press, chirped with her own conspiracy that, “We live in fear that they’re going to have a coup, that jihadists are going to take over the government, they’re going to get access to nuclear weapons, and you’ll have suicide nuclear bombers. So, this could not be a more threatening scenario”. Let us not ignore the reality that multi-directional challenges to Pakistan’s sovereignty are mounting each day and Pakistan has a very limited policy bandwidth to respond. The paucity of leadership in crises hurts.

For a long time in the future, the debate will focus on the political divides and rhetoric dividing India and Pakistan. This debate will help India eclipse ground realities to its advantage. As Maria Memon put it, it must have been a very awkward moment for the Indian DGMO to inform his Pakistani counter part of the supposed surgical strikes that never were.

India will keep insisting it carried our surgical strikes, but evade questions on details. Like Uri which was probably an accidental fire in a fuel dump, Indian media statements will keep hopping from heliborne forces to precision guided munitions. This will pacify war hysteria created by the Indian government and select sections of its media. It will also raise the morale of a war mongering India. This hype caters to India’s appetite for a regional hegemon, with astute use of clichés like political willpower, military prowess and hi-tech weaponry, imaging a powerful and responsible nation state.

Pakistan will continue to retort that it was a ceasefire violation under the 2004 Accord.  As sequence of events indicates, India lost the element of surprise. Raiding parties were intercepted on the Line of Control and No Man’s Land. Pakistan’s credibility will be enhanced by photographs of dead Indian soldiers, handing over of dead bodies and repatriation of an Indian soldier caught alive. Unlike India that has held back video footage, Pakistani media has shown clips of Indian posts being destroyed and soldiers being taken down by ground fire. Pakistan’s military response was immediate, accurate and lethal. The political response was patchy. This gives a lead to India in gearing its propaganda and shaping perceptions. For Pakistan, time is of essence.

Pakistan’s reaction was disjointed. The statement by the Defence Minister, notorious for his vitriolic statements, was muted and not worthy of statesmanship. His utterances of annihilating were unwanted. Prime Minister’s response fell short of conveying the desired message. Whether this was sheer incompetence or intentional is left to readers. In the final analysis, in realpolitik, it is the perception and not the reality that matters; particularly so when this great game is being played in the backdrop of a changing balance of power in the region.

The international community therefore seems willing to retract its words and resolutions on Kashmir and bend conscience for geopolitical gains. This is the reason why international reaction to the latest Kashmiri uprising and human right violations by Indian forces is insignificant. For this reason, whatever Pakistan says, will fall on deaf years. The old template of Cold War has shifted against Pakistan. Little did Pakistani policy makers realise that the hare hunting with hounds is unrealistic. On USA’s behest Pakistan, without a second thought, joined a mock jihad that ultimately became counterproductive. In the post-Soviet withdrawal, little did they realise, that agitating India with USA looking the other way achieved US objectives. Ultimately India joined the US grid in what has become Pakistan’s Long War.

Though there will be efforts to depict the latest escalations as traditional Indo-Pakistan sabre rattling, the underlying global interests in the situational context cannot be ignored. The sequences of events provide indicators to what is afoot. Pakistan’s successful counter terrorism operations from Karachi to Quetta have hurt regional and global interests of many powers. The icing on the cake was the arrest of Kulbhushan Yadav, a serving Indian naval officer controlling Indian covert operations in Pakistan. Indigenous Kashmiri uprisings after the martyrdom of Burhan Wani are being controlled through state repression. The events at Uri provided India a pretext to shift the focus from freedom to terrorism. Last but most important is CPEC. To presume that India and Afghanistan support terrorists in Pakistan without US consent is denying daylight. Pakistan is being pushed into a box and Uri is just a precursor. Uri was a false flag created for more sinister purposes.

Following Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech at the UNGA, US State Department issued a press release on 28 September 2016. This statement by NSC Spokesperson Ned Price on National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice’s Call with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval of India said:

“Ambassador Rice affirmed President Obama’s commitment to redouble our efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism throughout the world.  Highlighting the danger that cross-border terrorism poses to the region, Ambassador Rice reiterated our expectation that Pakistan take effective action to combat and delegitimize United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and their affiliates. In the context of the robust U.S.-India partnership, Ambassador Rice discussed our shared commitment with India to pursuing peace and regional stability and pledged to deepen collaboration on counterterrorism matters including on UN terrorist designations.”

Linked with what Hilary Clinton has been waffling, this statement is the go-ahead India needed to act against Pakistan. Surely Indian strategic planners must have evaluated all angles of escalation and its control. The US statement provided the pretext of counter terrorism and not anti-Pakistan strikes and so it was. Indian DGMO’s statement the very next day that, “During these counter terrorist operations significant casualties were caused to terrorists and those providing support to them. The operations aimed at neutralising terrorists have since ceased” echoes the US press release. But this course of action has inherent flaws.

For India, as indicated by Avinash Paliwal and Kamaldeep Singh of King’s College London, issues lie elsewhere. They contend that if the aim of this highly-celebrated “surgical strike” was to convince Pakistan to abort the use of cross-border terrorism, then this operation did nothing to alter that calculus. The return to a violent status quo at the LoC simply underlines that, despite its increasing material capacities, India is unable to address its “capability” crunch.

In the same press conference, the Indian DGMO talked of an effective multi-tiered counter-infiltration grid on the Indian side of the Line of Control. This is a 3 KM deep security zone with triple wire concertina fence covered by fire, electronic detectors, early warning systems, trip flares, sniffing dogs and round the clock patrolling. Aerial observation is done by drones. Infiltration through this highly protected zone reflects Indian incompetence to check cross border movements. Rather than question its field commanders, Pakistan is being held responsible for an act that has no tangible proof.

Pakistan Army has done well to respond in more than equal measure. Beyond, Pakistan needs to put its Policy Spectrum in order. This means a comprehensive strategic appraisal, bringing the foreign and defence ministries under fulltime ministers and pursuance of balanced policies.

There will be many more false flags and Pakistan must steer clear of such controversies. Meanwhile the political and moral support to the freedom struggle in Kashmir must continue. For the future, CPEC is a game changer and Pakistan must pursue its best interests.