The recent jaw across the line of control (Loc) in Kashmir should have awakened the world to the terrible consequences, had the two nuclear armed antagonists, by default or by design, ended up in mutually assured destruction. (MAD). The brinkman-ship between India & Pakistan that was lately witnessed could easily have spun out of control.

The skirmishes were triggered by the suicide attack at Pulwama in the Indian held Kashmir (IHK). A 20 year old Kashmiri youth Adil Ahmed Dar, rammed his vehicle, laden with 350 kg of high explosives, into the convoy of 2500 para-military force killing 40 personnel of the CRPF. (Central Reserve Police Force).

Within minutes of the carnage, India claimed that the youth belonged to Pakistan-based terror group Jaish---Mohammad, indirectly implicating Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, immediately repudiated any involvement, directly or indirectly, by Pakistan. He further pointed out that to indulge in such a mischief, on the eve of the official visit by an honoured guest, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, would have tantamounted to stark stupidity. He assured India that if any actionable intelligence were provided, indicating involvement of any Pakistani individual/Organization, the Govt. of Pakistan will fully cooperate and duly punish the culprit(s)

Instead, of providing any evidence, India decided to carry out a “surgical strike” (an abortive one) by its air force in the dead of the night at Balakot well inside Pakistan. Pakistan retaliated soon after; resulting in shooting down of two Indian fighter aircraft which had crossed the LoC. Luckily better sense prevailed and no further incident of any major consequence took place.

India had belatedly sent a dossier-supposedly of evidence- which Pakistan was studying. In the meantime, several questions come to one’s mind regarding the gory attack at Pulwama.

Reportedly in 2016, IHK Govt. had claimed that during the anti-militancy operations, young Dar was nabbed alive while two of his armed companions were killed. It was also alleged that he belonged to Hizbal—Mujahedeen, the home grown militant organization. Later, in a video recording, Dar was shown to confess that he was a member of the Pakistani based Jaish--Mohammed! How had he shifted from Hizbal-Mujahedeen to Jaish--Mohammad while in custody? Had he escaped to mount such a hideous attack? How did he get hold of such a huge amount of high explosives? Last, but certainty not the least, how did he manage to get close to the military convoy? A Kashmiri friend of mine who visits his family & friends in the IHK, every now and then, told me that not a soul is allowed to move anywhere near, till a military convoy safely reaches its destination!

One may never get to know the true answers to these questions- nor to any counter-claims by the other side. However, one thing is irrefutable- the terrible atrocities committed by the Indian armed forces against the un-armed Kashmiris, resulting in death, blinding eye injuries by pellet guns and custodial torture & killings –almost on daily basis, have totally alienated the Kashmiris especially its youth. As Dar’s parents stated their son took up Arms after being humiliated and beaten up by the Indian armed force personnel, time and again, while going to school UNO’s Human Rights Commission Report had also documented such observations.

Therefore, the Indian claim that Pakistan is stoking the unrest or aiding and abetting militancy in Kashmir, doesn’t hold much water. Surely, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri youth, old men and even women turning up regularly to bury their dead – in defiance of the curfew and braving bullets-- could not possibly be because of any prompting by Pakistan.

The fact is that Kashmiris are fed up with the forcible occupation of their land by over half a million Indian soldiers-- the highest concentration of force per capita anywhere in the world! As the time goes by, more and more Kashmiri youth are bound to take up arms-like Wani & Dar. The sooner India is made to realize the futility of suppressing the genuine aspirations of the Kashmiri people and pay heed to the right of self-determination embodied in U.N. resolutions, the sooner India may be persuaded to come to the negotiating table (As the mighty USA has recently done, after 17 years of futile war in Afghanistan). It would be better for all concerned.

The knee-jerk reaction of blaming & threatening Pakistan for Pulwama, Uri, Pathankot (and any further such attacks that are bound to happen), would sooner or later lead to an all-out war between the two nuclear armed neighbours – with catastrophic results for the region & the rest of the world.

Kashmir is now no longer the sole domain of India or Pakistan or for that matter the Kashmiris. The region & indeed the rest of the world has stake in it. They no longer can afford to be silent spectators and let the two nuclear armed neighbours be the cause of un-imaginable disaster for the region & the rest of the world.

The powers that be must seize this opportunity to help resolve this potentially the most dangerous dispute through negotiations-involving all the stake holders. Any further procrastination to resolve the issue would spell disaster for all.

India had belatedly sent a dossier-supposedly of evidence- which Pakistan was studying. In the meantime, several questions come to one’s mind regarding the gory attack at Pulwama.

The writer is the former Air Marshall of Pakistan.