This was inevitable. Warmongering in India had reached a fever pitch, and with the elections around the corner the government had to do something, anything to make it seem like they were responding. Since February 14, Pakistanis have been waiting to see what manner of fictitious “surgical strike” will be launched this time.

As expected this one was as ineffectual and token as the last; but in the eyes of the Indian media it morphed into an exaggerated fantasy complete with impossible numbers of causalities and claims not backed by any evidence. Bloodthirsty and baying for more, the Indian media circus continues to roll on; and under its wheels it seems to have crushed Indian journalists, liberals and any critic pleading for sanity and restraint. It is business as usual in an aggressively intolerant India

For Pakistan the equation is different. The original “surgical strike” was an artillery barrage and a small arms incursion targeting check posts along the Line Of Control (LOC), which was painted as a daring raid carried out by helicopters – a claim that was later contradicted by the government itself. Operationally it was nothing more than a limited but escalated border incursion, the kind that has been happening on and off along the border for decades. While it tested Pakistan’s patience, the government decided against retaliation in kind in the interests of peace.

This incursion is different. Although the Indian aircraft ventured only a few miles inside Pakistan, bombed an empty hilltop and hastily left once Pakistani jets were scrambled, it does represent an escalation of another kind. This is the first time Pakistani airspace has been violated since 1971, and the territory targeted is in a province other than Azad Kashmir. It would be no stretch of imagination to construe this as an act of war.

This presents a complex challenge for the Pakistani state; it has been quite admirably stoic in the face of Indian provocations and has remained sagacious enough to urge de-escalation – this will be a test for its commitment to those morals.

While the government, as well as the media, has refrained from paying back Indian jingoism in their own coin, the government has stated that it will strike back. Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the director general (DG) of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) has said that “the response will come at a point and time of our choosing” – a stern and determined statement that needs to be taken seriously.

The world had hoped that India would not start a war for political gain; now it has done so there is no telling where this escalates to. India will only have itself to blame.