Tensions eased last week in South Asia as the region’s two nuclear powers reined in their latest military skirmish, ostensibly over partitioned Kashmir.
On February 14th a Pakistani militant group, Jaesh-e-Muhammad (JeM), attacked and murdered around 40 Indian troops, within the Indian Line of Control.
India’s Air Force used F16 Fighter Jets to pummel a supposed Pakistan-backed terrorist base. Indian ministers and media reports calculated the terrorist death toll at around 250.
But Pakistan rejected the claim and say the attack merely caused a large crater in the countryside.
Schadenfreude never misses out in military diplomacy, and Pakistan’s government and generals enjoyed a week on the front foot as they duly showed reporters a freshly-smoked rural bomb crater, then joyously threatened to report India to international tribunals for environmental crime.
Soon after, unexpectedly, a captured Indian pilot was handed back to India by Pakistan. This was perhaps an attempt by under-fire Prime Minister, Imran Khan, to salvage a doveish reputation on the international stage.
This seemingly noble gesture might also serve as a shrewd political tactic, in order to paint India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, as an unbalanced hawk, shortly before the sub-continent goes to the polls in a General Election.
Nevertheless, if the latest opinion poll ratings are to go by, there is more probability that Elvis Presley will imminently replace Donald Trump as US President than the popular Indian PM Modi be beaten in a likely June poll.
Two days prior to the terrorist attacks, according to the Times of India, 85% of Indians fully expected PM Modi to be returned as head of government this summer. Moreover, 84% did not just expect him to win, they wish him to.
Indeed, Modi’s main opponent, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, seems to hemorrhage any vestiges of support by the monthly bucketload, polling at just 8.3%, making him about as popular as an Indian version of Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.
As the prospect of war recedes, the wider world can possibly breathe a sigh of relief.
Nevertheless, when the deputy foreign minister of a billion-person nuclearised superstate, VK Singh, issues the following statement to his political opponents in Congress, humanity can’t quite afford to be complacent:
In the next raids “opposition parties raising these questions can be tied under the jets…so they can see the targets [for themselves].”
Not quite the killer black-belt, devilish, insult we can expect from US President Trump or Korea’s Kim … but thank goodness other nuclear power leaders’ are at least beginning to consider using schadenfreude as a tool of military diplomacy.
For the rest of us, it certainly does ease the tension.