My dear Muhammad Ali: "It is best to win without fighting," said the Chinese sage Sun Tzu. That's just what we've done. The late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto put it even better. He said that a politician's "fingers have to be nimble enough to insinuate under the bird and remove all the eggs, one by one, without the bird realising it." All India's eggs are gone. I'm not saying it, the Indians are, and no ordinary Indians but their most respected newspapers and publications, namely, Times of India, Hindustan Times and the magazine India Today. What remains to be decided is what to do with the eggs - fry them, poach them, scramble them or make an Indian Masala Omelette out of them. They are going to hate me even more for this - the truth always hurts - but what I am about to say here is in Indian words, not mine - repeat, Indian words not mine. They are the words of India's top newspapers and commentators, not your father Humayun Gauhar. They are recalling how the Chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff Committee Admiral Mike Mullen came to Pakistan to ask our army chief for a guarantee that we would not retaliate against Indian surgical strikes and how General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani showed him a photograph taken on December 13 of an Indian Mirage-2000 locked by a Pakistani F-16. "Next time, we'll bring it down," he told Mullen. To make sure that Mullen got the message and didn't think Kayani was bluffing, our jets started patrolling the skies in hot mode and a red-alert was issued throughout the country. Once again India and Pakistan stood eyeball-to-eyeball. Once again India blinked first. Its media and officials are admitting defeat without a shot being fired - a defeat in diplomacy. Said the Times of India: "While the de-escalation should soothe the tense nerves of the international community, it was being feared that Islamabad, by raising the bogey of war, may have edged out India's concerns. By feeding fears of an imminent conflict between two nuclear-armed rivals, it had ensured that the focus would shift towards conflict prevention. Indian security experts noted that Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made it a point to mention that, "our friends are persuading India against aggression." "While the government persisted with reminders to Islamabad about unkept promises, independent security experts said Pakistan may have got away with almost no cost at all. 'As of now, Pakistan has managed to divert attention from the Mumbai attacks to an India-Pak conflict', said K Subrahmanyam. "It was diplomacy by fear, and Pakistan played it effectively. As it allowed passions to run high and let known terrorists join in the show of national belligerence, it was also playing victim. As part of the script, its foreign secretary, it now turns out, even summoned the Indian high commissioner in Islamabad, Satyabrata Pal, on Friday to lecture him on the need for India to bring down tensions. "The US and China had on Friday asked India - in a clear sign of Pakistan's success - to engage in a dialogue with Pakistan. It's becoming increasingly evident that India has so far nothing to show for its diplomatic offensive in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks." Vir Sanghvi of the Hindustan Times wondered how things could have gone so wrong: "I am now coming round to the view that they've only gone wrong for us. They've gone very right for Pakistan. Islamabad has got exactly what it needs, and what it always wanted. "Consider what's happening today. The operation in the tribal areas has stalled. The Taliban have sworn to back the Pakistan army against India. Troops have been moved to the Indian border. The incoming Obama administration is talking about appointing a special envoy for India and Pakistan. "And forget about acting against those who organised the Bombay attacks. Pakistan isn't even willing to hand over Dawood Ibrahim or Masood Azhar [Note: They're not with us anyway, son]. Moreover, Washington seems largely content with this state of affairs. "I don't want to sound like a pessimist or a warmonger - especially since I have always applauded New Delhi's moderation and restraint - but it is beginning to seem to me that Pakistan has out-manoeuvred both India and America." Next speaks M K Bhadrakumar in Asia Times Online: "By gently holding out the threat to the US that the Afghan operations would grievously suffer unless Washington restrained Delhi from precipitating any tensions on the India-Pakistan border, Islamabad seems to have neatly pole-vaulted over Rice to appeal straight to the Pentagon, where there is abiding camaraderie towards the Pakistani generals. "With Pakistan's recalcitrance and Mullen's veiled threat of reopening the Kashmir file, a sense of frustration is gripping Delhi. Pakistan has ignored India's tough posturing. The faltering Indian security agencies, which have been in a state of appalling decline in recent years, seem to have failed to put together any hard evidence of a Pakistani involvement in the Mumbai attacks. "All indications are that Pakistan is not impressed by the Indian rhetoric. It seems to think Indian politicians are grandstanding in an election year. But, just in case Delhi may spring a surprise, Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has warned that the armed forces would give an equal response 'within few minutes' if India carried out any surgical military strikes. 'The armed forces are fully prepared to meet any eventuality, and the men are ready to sacrifice for their country', he reportedly said. "Just as we predicted, an all out war seems to have been averted and Indian media and officials are admitting defeat. "China, Saudi Arabia and Iran have come out strongly in the last couple of days which saw an intense diplomatic effort by all parties to make it clear to India that they not only remain unconvinced of Delhi's allegations, but also that any attack could have serious consequences for India and the region as a whole. "Pranab Mukherjee was made to do an embarrassing U-turn on India's previous stance previously, admitting that terrorism - a global issue and not a bilateral one - should be fought jointly. "The Indian officials have also been made to backtrack from their earlier claims of deploying troops along the border with Pakistan." The headline of India Today's story of December 27 reads: "India has informed Pakistan that it has not engaged in any sort of troop build-up along the frontier." The story says: "In response to the 'deadline' set by India and the threats from Sonia Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee, Pakistan had gone on a diplomatic counter-offensive, briefing world powers and countries in the region on the deteriorating relations with India and the steps taken by it to address Indian concerns. Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir met the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Britain, China, France and Russia. He also met ambassadors of Italy, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey soon after returning from France where he had gone for annual bilateral consultations. However, his most crucial meeting was with Indian High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal at the Foreign Office when he said that India should defuse the tension. "Mr Pal was accompanied by his deputy Manpreet Vohra. The Indian side was categorically told that any 'surgical strikes' would be considered a declaration of war. India was urged to respond to Pakistan's proposal for joint investigation into the Mumbai attacks. "According to sources, the Indian diplomats looked sombre when they came out of the meeting. "As things stand, the possibility of war has been averted for now, which is being seen as a massive diplomatic victory for Pakistan. "This of course does not mean that we should let our guard down. In addition to the diplomatic counter-offensive, it was Pakistan Army's seriousness that put India on the back foot." So there you have it, my dear petulant neighbours. I have received a lot of letters from you dripping in denial, self-delusion and wishful thinking laced liberally with obscenities and abuse and all sorts of charges against Pakistan while ignoring what I am saying. I must be hitting bull's eye every time, right in the middle of that sweet soft spot where it hurts most and leaves one blathering incoherently. Only two of you have had the guts to give me your names; the rest are hiding behind funny pseudonyms. I suppose some are inept outfits of your intelligence agencies. Only one letter has been sensible and realistic. As I said last week, stick to the point, for we are talking of India, not Pakistan. I suppose its only human to go off at tangents and descend into vulgarity if you have no defence yourself. Be that as it may, I wish you, my errant Indian neighbours, Season's Greetings and a Happy Islamic and Gregorian New Year. The writer is a senior political analyst E-mail: