Calling Nuclear Bluff on Balakot: India’s ‘Choreographed’ Corporal Punishment to Pakistan


By Adnan Qaiser September 2019

While the history of South Asia is written in blood; it is also inked in phony prides and misplaced jingoism.

At predawn on 26 February 2019, India carried out its second surgical strike in Pakistan.[1] The attack, similar to the one India had conducted on 29 September 2016,[2] struck Pakistan like a bolt from the blue. Strangely, Pakistan did not retaliate with a matching response despite vowing in the past to not only give a corresponding, but multifarious response;[3] it just fired a few ‘stand-off weapons’ at open spaces next to Indian Army’s deployment in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) without crossing the Line of Control (LoC). Such an insipid response not only surprised many but was also dismaying for the people of Pakistan, who had demanded a comparable counterpunch. Most strikingly, Pakistan’s tepid reaction invalidated the nuclear game theory between India and Pakistan.

There had been a longstanding assumption that any sub-conventional (terrorist) attack in India, allegedly by Pakistan based jihadists, would compel India to punish Pakistan either through a major conventional attack or by carrying-out surgical strikes inside Pakistani territory employing its Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) – also called as proactive operations or limited war concept.[4] Pakistan, on the other hand, had vowed to use its tactical nuclear weapon[5] called Nasr (Hatf-IX) against any such aggression, to the extent of using the 60km range nuclear weapon inside Pakistan’s own territory.[6] Such a response would compel India to carry-out a theatre nuclear strike against Pakistan in line with its declared nuclear doctrine of January 2003.[7]

Fortunately, no such thing happened. Why?

There could be one out of two reasons. Either Pakistan’s powerful military, said to be the sixth largest armies in the world with a nuclear overhang,[8] has already accepted Indian hegemony in the region and keeps absorbing India’s repeated ‘corporal punishments’ – including subversive attacks by India’s proxies in Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province and its erstwhile tribal areas – taking them as a new normal between the two countries.[9]

However, having had a career in the Pakistan Army, and having some idea of its strategic thought, one can reject such assumption outright. An authority on South Asia, C. Christine Fair had noted in her 2014’s scholarship titled Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War: “Pakistan will suffer any number of military defeats … but will not acquiesce to India. This, for the Pakistan Army is genuine and total defeat.”[10]

In all probability, Pakistan did not forcefully retaliate against India, because it had been a choreographed and controlled military encounter under the close watch of world powers, namely the U.S., China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Pakistan remains obliged to these four countries. While Pakistan cannot afford Washington’s displeasure (considering its superpower status), Beijing has salvaged Islamabad a number of times internationally. Moreover, Riyadh had doled-out a US$6 billion Economic Rescue Package to Pakistan on 23 October 2018,[11] besides planning to invest nearly US$20 billion in Pakistan,[12] most probably in exchange for nuclear know-how transfer for Saudi Arabia’s two (out of a total of 16 planned) nuclear reactors at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.[13] Abu Dhabi also gave a crucial economic lifeline to Pakistan worth US$3 billion to improve Islamabad’s liquidity deposits and come out of economic dire-straits on 22 January 2019.[14]   

The idea was to allow Indian people and its frenzied media vent-out their anger that resulted from India’s loss of 40 paramilitary troops at Pulwama in the IHK on 14 February 2019 without escalating the use of force disproportionately.[15] Notably, the attack was not designed to harm any Pakistani individual or destroy any property or. And it did not!

Pakistan was ‘made’ to endure such mortification because of one, Pakistan’s extremely precarious economic situation,[16] for which the country had been seeking a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (that approval arrived on 3 July 2019).[17] Secondly, having been ‘grey-listed’ since 28 June 2018 for lack of anti money-laundering and counter financial terrorism (AML/CFT) protocols,[18] Pakistan was under a threat of getting blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).[19] Lastly, with the international community having no stomach for any terrorist attack by a non-state (jihadist) group, Pakistan was already under intense pressure to sanction Masood Azhar, the head of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM),[20] under UN Security Council Resolution 1267 (Pulwama attack was claimed by JeM).[21]

In my December 2013’s analysis on the U.S. operation in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden, entitled A Reluctant Accomplice: Dissection of OBL’s Abbottabad Commission Report, I had concluded that despite Pakistan denying having any prior knowledge of the said operation, it was fully onboard.[22] The deduction was further corroborated when a leaked copy of Abbottabad Commission Report got published in Al-Jazeera carrying no less than 15 out of 46 findings (indirectly) confirming it a joint U.S.-Pakistan operation.[23] India’s surgical strike at Balakot, likewise, will most probably come out one day as an operation carried out with Pakistan’s full knowledge and concurrence – no matter under acute foreign pressure.


First, let’s recapitulate the events.

While Pakistan rejected any connection[24] or JeM’s links to the Pulwama attack,[25] India’s foreign secretary V.K. Gokhale shocked the world at a press conference on 26 February 2019, claiming India’s Air Force striking Jaish-e-Muhammad’s “biggest training camp in Balakot” in which “a large number of JeM terrorists … including [its] top commanders … were killed.”[26] However, in his narrative twist to show the world that India had not declared a war on Pakistan, Mr. Gokhale hastily clarified, “the strike avoided civil casualties;” they were “pre-emptive” in nature and aimed only at “non-military targets.”[27] 

The operation began in the backdrop of Indian Army carrying-out massive defensive and offensive buildup at the LoC under Operation Zafran.[28] At 3:45 a.m. on 26 February 2019 Indian Air Force’s (IAF) five out of a total of 12 Mirage 2000 fighter aircrafts crossed into Pakistani territory to attack, what India claimed was a JeM’s terror-training camp under its secret operation code named Operation Bandar (monkey) and dropped five Spice 2000 smart-bombs[29] (India carries special significance for monkeys; in Hindu holy book Ramayana, Lord Rama’s right-hand lieutenant Hanuman, having monkey-shaped features, sneaked into Lanka and destroyed the capital city of Ravana, the devil).[30]

Indian operation was supported by its indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System’s (AEW&C) plane named Netra. IAF had also kept its team of Garud commandos on stand-by for any kind of emergent situation. IAF’s five pilots who undertook the mission were later awarded Vayu Sena Medal for Gallantry for their acts of bravery on India’s Independence Day on 15 August 2019.[31]

While Pakistan denied any damage caused by the attack, India’s Northern Army commander, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh claimed India’s strike as “a major achievement wherein [Indian] aircrafts went deep into enemy territory and struck terror [at terrorists’] launch pads and camps.”[32] Asserting deft use of technology and stealth, Indian air chief, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, also averred that striking “non-military target with precision at night, deep inside Pakistan demonstrate[ed] our [India’s] ability to hit the perpetrators of violence in our country, wherever they may be.”[33]


Pakistan’s initial response had been its customary denial. Similar to denying India’s surgical strikes taking place inside Pakistan on 29 September 2016,[34] Pakistan’s director general, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major-General Asif Ghafoor informed the media about a few Indian planes violating the LoC from the Muzaffarabad sector. Without sounding alarmed, offended or even disturbed at India trampling Pakistan’s state sovereignty and its territorial integrity since the 1971 war, the director general claimed: “Facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force [the Indian jets] released

payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot.”[35]

While Pakistan’s military threatened India to “wait for our response;”[36] its foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi pledged the response to come “at a time and place of [Pakistan’s] choosing.”[37]

Incredibly, none arrived, whatsoever!

2a. Threatening Fire and Fury – Pakistan’s Pre-attack Stance

Surprisingly, this was the same director general, who, until recently, had been threatening India with fire-and-brimstone on behalf of his Army. Under the directive of Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan to his armed forces to respond “decisively and comprehensively” to any Indian aggression,[38] the military spokesperson had warned the enemy in his press conference on 22 February 2019: “We do not wish to go to war. But please be assured, should you initiate any aggression, you shall never be able to surprise us. We shall, for sure, surprise you.” Continuing with his threat, the director general boasted: “We shall dominate the escalation ladder. We shall have superior force ratio at decisive points. Never think that we shall fall short of capacity.” Underlining the coherence among Pakistan’s civil and military leadership and Pakistan’s nuclear capability the DG further affirmed: “We have singleness of conception – from the prime minister to the common citizen, including all political parties and other segments of society – from our chiefs down to the soldiers. We have the will and determination. We are ready to respond to full spectrum threat.”[39]

Sensing India cooking up some mischief, Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa had also warned India “not [to] mess with Pakistan,” with any kind of misadventure.[40]

2b. A Timid Rejoinder – Post Attack

Sadly, the rhetoric fizzled out after the Indian attack. Pakistan immediately changed its tack and softened its tone. Its monthly ‘corps commanders’ conference’ held on 7 March 2019 issued a watered-down and frail statement: “Pakistan is on the positive trajectory of peace, stability and progress. No one can make us budge through use or threat of use of force.” Worried about Kashmiri jihadists taking up arms once again, the military leadership underlined to the world that “policy and the right of use of force shall remain the prerogative of the state alone.”[41]

In all probability, some behind the scenes international power play forced Pakistan to temper its stance and stop from reacting to the Indian bellicosity and aggression in view of Pakistan’s geopolitical compulsions and severe economic constraints. However, by not physically crossing into the Indian territory (to give a matching response), Pakistan not only disturbed the strategic equilibrium and balance of power in South Asia, but also made India more belligerent, cantankerous and confrontational. India’s revocation of disputed Jammu and Kashmir’s “special status” – that had been granted under Articles 370 and 35(A) of the Indian constitution since 14 May 1954  – with one stroke of presidential pen on 5 August 2019 is one such example.[42]

2c. Military Counterpunch

Pakistan’s military response on 27 February 2019, thus, had been astonishingly tapered and restrained. Using stand-off weapons, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighter jets fired 11 H-4 1,000kg precision-guided glide bombs at three different locations inside IHK without crossing the LoC (for some strange reason this response did not headline in the Pakistani media).[43] PAF carefully aimed its bombs at open places next to Indian Army’s deployment, essentially demonstrating its capability, but without harming the adversary – which, most likely, had been part of the ‘deal.’  At one such attack site next to Indian Army’s brigade headquarters in Nowshera in Rajouri sector, Indian media had confirmed presence of Lt Gen. Ranbir Singh, Commander, Northern Army and Lt Gen. Paramjit Singh, Commander, 16 Corps, who had stepped out just “minutes before” the bombs fell.[44]

Pakistani jets also lured in an Indian pilot into Pakistani territory during a dogfight. Jamming its avionics and communication, PAF downed the Indian plane and captured its pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman after he ejected in Pakistan administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).[45] However, as video clips of the bloodied pilot appeared on social media, Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan unilaterally ordered his release on 1 March 2019 as a peace gesture.[46]

2d. India’s Escalation to Pakistan’s Unilateral Peace Overtures

Astounded by Pakistan’s battering at the hands of archrival India without responding in kind, many military and foreign policy experts warned Pakistan against taking one-sided steps to deescalate tensions without India reciprocating. In a roundtable organized by the Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI), an Islamabad-based think tank titled Escalation Management and Control between India and Pakistan on 2 March 2019, several speakers criticized Pakistan’s repeated peace overtures to India,[47] which they saw as a “sign of weakness.”[48]

Unsurprisingly, in its excitement of having scored a military victory over a humbled and subdued Pakistan, India surpassed the initial understanding, or deal, if your will, and planned to fire six missiles at different locations in Pakistan.[49] While foreign minister Qureshi went to town forewarning India’s second attack anytime between 16 and 20 April 2019,[50] Pakistan conveyed a stone cold warning to India (through their mutual special communication channels) of responding with its own missile strike “three times over.”[51] Viewing the threat as credible, Pakistan closed down its eastern airspace for any air traffic and convened its National Command Authority’s meeting that directs Pakistan’s nuclear policy. U.S. and Britain, reportedly, intervened to restrain India from carrying out such madness.[52]

2e. Eastern Airspace Closure

In the face of Mr. Modi’s pronouncement of Balakot strike as a “real pilot project,”[53] an apprehensive Pakistan about a repeat Indian attack closed down 9 out of its 11 airspace routes for any commercial flight since 26 February 2019.[54] While the airspace closure caused substantial airline losses to India, Pakistan also incurred a loss of Rs.8.5 billion (US$53 million approx.) as admitted by its federal minister for aviation, Ghulam Sarwar Khan.[55] However, in another unilateral step, Pakistan opened its airspace on 16 July 2019,[56] which it had determinedly kept shut for five straight months,[57] demanding India’s de-escalation and removal of Indian fighter jets from forward airfields.[58]

2f. Balakot Site Visit

Pakistan took one and a half month to open-up the attacked site at Jabba, Balakot to foreign journalists as well as to the ambassadors and defence attachés of other countries.[59] While India claimed to have struck three places – i.e. joint training camps of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and Hizbu-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) at Balakot, Muzaffarabad and Chakothi[60] in an air assault that lasted for 21 minutes[61] – Pakistan denied any damage to the property, maintaining that the Indian aircrafts “hastily escaped” after dropping-off their “payload in open” near Balakot within few minutes.

However, Pakistan’s repeated refusal to allow physical access to the site by the international media[62] – which Al-Jazeera called “mysterious[63] – gave weight to the India’s allegation about JeM’s Madrassa having some connection to jihadist activities.[64]

2g. A Distraught and Baffled Civil-Military Leadership

Having broken the status quo, Balakot attack brought a sea-change in India’s political and military outlook towards Pakistan. However, the country’s army chief (unconvincingly) keeps hailing Pakistan’s retaliation as a “befitting response.”[65]

Pakistan’s civil leadership, on the other hand, continues to lament, what is described as a ‘new-normal’ between India and Pakistan. At a seminar titled Strategic Stability in South Asia: Emerging Challenges organised by the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS), foreign minister Qureshi admitted Pakistan’s corporal punishment at the hands of India: “The recent belligerence displayed against Pakistan and the assumption that Pakistan could be subject to punitive strikes at will is a clear manifestation of threats to stability in the region.” The foreign minister, however, did not elaborate how his country is going to counter, what had been termed as the ‘new normal’ between India and Pakistan. He skirted the issue by just stating: “As a peace-loving country, Pakistan is committed to peaceful and normal relations in its neighbourhood. However, we would also like to make it absolutely clear that we are equally determined to frustrate any attempt to create a so-called new normal.”[66] 

Pakistan’s position on Balakot attack remained similar to the denial stance it took at India’s surgical strikes across LoC on 29 September 2016. While Pakistan rejected any Indian Army’s intrusion into its territory at that time,[67] Nitin A. Gokhale illustrated minute to minute details of the operation – when India claimed to have avenged the Uri terrorist attack[68] – in his 2017’s book: Securing India the Modi Way: Pathankot, Surgical Strikes and More.[69] 

2h. Unobstructed Indian Attack

Similar to the disconcerting U.S. raid at Abbottabad to kill Osama bin Laden in May 2011, when Pakistan claimed it was caught unawares, India’s Balakot airstrike too brings much worry and dismay. Incredibly, Indian fighter jets faced absolutely no resistance entering into Pakistan’s so-called impregnable defences and returned to their bases safely. From an ordinary Pakistani’s point of view it is deeply disturbing to see Indian jets penetrating unchallenged into an area where even spy-drones have been shot-down a number of times right at the LoC. Upon shooting down India’s second drone on 1 January 2019, Pakistan’s military spokesperson had tweeted: “Not even a quadcopter will be allowed to cross [the] LoC, In Shaa Allah [God willing].”[70] 

However, not a single round of shot was fired from Pakistan’s side; no anti-aircraft gun blazed; no surface to air missile got launched; and no radar could timely scramble a PAF’s combat air response. A retired Pakistani air marshal told a popular television news-show that PAF gets alerted about any oncoming IAF attack “thirty-minutes prior to its execution.”[71] Yet, it is puzzling how come India’s brazen intrusion into Pakistan’s sovereign territory did not generate a response from Pakistan’s integrated air defence systems (IADS). Beyond belief, Pakistan’s robust intelligence apparatus; its army, air force and Special Plans Division’s (SPD) early warning, surveillance and air defence systems; or even Pakistan’s satellite feeds could not detect or warn Pakistan on an Indian operation underway at Pakistan’s soil. Such a blatant Indian incursion into Pakistan signifies that either Pakistan’s anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) weapon systems had broken down or Pakistan intentionally looked the other way – no matter under duress.

While Pakistani officials belonging to its nuclear SPD and foreign office naïvely denied the failure of nuclear deterrence during the Balakot confrontation,[72] I have a firm view that setting a new precedent, Pakistan’s response to India  trampling down Pakistan’s state sovereignty and territorial integrity for the first time since 1971 war had been inadequate, dithering and dangerously restrained during which India achieved four objectives:

(1) India tested waters to gauge Pakistan’s national resolve, including its civil and military leadership’s determination, to strike back in a meaningful and forceful manner after India’s breach into Pakistan’s sovereign territory

(2) India validated its Cold Start Doctrine or proactive operations

(3) Giving a swift ‘corporal punishment’ to Pakistan, Mr. Modi’s government vented out Indian population and its hysterical media’s anger at Pulwama attack (including earlier attacks at Pathankot and Uri on 2 January 2016 and 18 September 2016, respectively)

(4) Tearing-down the myth of Pakistan’s Full Spectrum Deterrence’s (FSD) invincibility and its red lines/nuclear threshold, India effectively called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff[73]


Despite Indian media’s claim of Indian bombs killing 350 terrorists and creating four big craters at the JeM’s Madrassa’s rooftop,[74] there had been conflicting reports about the damage done to the building through satellite imagery.

Citing high-resolution satellite images produced by Planet Labs Inc., a San Francisco-based private satellite operator, Reuters reported on 11 April 2019 “that a religious school in northeastern Pakistan appears to be still standing days after India claimed its warplanes had hit what it called a training camp on the site, killing a large number of militants. There are no discernible holes in the roofs of buildings, no signs of scorching, blown-out walls, displaced trees around the madrassah or other signs of an aerial attack.”[75]

Although, some reports carrying photographs of building burnt marks and crater holes on Madrassa’s rooftop appeared in the media,[76] independent satellite imagery negated any such claim.[77] Moreover, Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems made 2000lbs (907kg) air-to-surface guided SPICE bombs had the destruction power to totally obliterate the building compound from the face of the Earth. 

The satellite imagery reports further give credence to the author’s view that India’s Balakot attack – and Pakistan Air Force’s missile demonstration the next day – had been a carefully choreographed and calculated military confrontation in which causing harm to either side remained strictly prohibited.


Evaluating Pakistan’s incapacity to retaliate in a meaningful manner – either due to Pakistan’s lack of will or under international pressure – India’s demonstration of a new-normal for the world, in general, and Pakistan, in particular came out when Prime Minister Modi gave a “free hand” to his Army, Navy and Air Force to carryout target-specific proactive – and not reactive – attacks not only in Azad Kashmir but anywhere inside Pakistani territory. However, under the notion of Pakistan and its citizens as part of Akhand Bharat (Greater Hindustan or un-Partitioned India),[78] Mr. Modi directed his forces “not to harm any Pakistani civilian.”[79] 

Reuters further reported on 18 March 2019 about India’s national security adviser (NSA), Ajit Doval giving an earful to Pakistan’s head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt. Gen. Asim Munir. During a phone-talk, the NSA not only notified the director general about India’s no pulling back from its new “counterterrorism” campaign, but also underlined his country’s resolve to fight militant groups that “freely operated from Pakistani soil,” with possibility of escalation.[80]

Lauding India for “calling Pakistan’s nuclear bluff,” eminent Indian journalist Shekhar Gupta wrote in The Print on 26 February 2019:

“Pakistan and the global community will have to keep the redefined red lines in mind. There will be an Indian military response to terror strikes coming from Pakistan. India has dropped three self-imposed limitations of the past: One, keeping conflicts of Kashmir within and not expanding to the “mainland” (Pakistan outside of what it occupies of Kashmir). Two, within Kashmir, the sanctity of the LoC/international border. And three, pro-active use of air power. If Pakistan so wishes to use it, Indian action has left it with plenty of scope for plausible deniability. It can say just a shallow penetration took place, even claim its fighters chased the IAF away. It has sufficient control over its territory and media access to control the narrative and say nothing was damaged, nobody was killed. As with the post-Uri surgical strikes. Kargil showed [Pakistan] can even bury its uniformed dead in secret.”[81]

India’s new strategy towards Pakistan is more akin to compellence. Theorized by the American economist Thomas C. Schelling (Nobel Prize winner for economics in 2005) in his brilliant scholarship Arms and Influence (1966), compellence is the ability of one state to coerce another country into ‘doing’ a desired thing under threat of punishment. Compellence, however, must not be confused with deterrence; which is designed to ‘discourage’ an adversary from taking any step by threatening severe repercussions and unacceptable penalty.[82]

India’s newfound geopolitical fierceness toward Pakistan lies behind the counsel George Perkovich and Toby Dalton gave in their 2016’s book Not War, Not Peace: Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism. The authors had posited five choices to India to counter Pakistani jihadists:

1) Conduct army-centric incursions such as Cold Start or proactive operations;

2) Carry-out limited airstrikes against designated targets;

3) Foment insurgency and disorder in Pakistan;

4) Innovate nuclear doctrine to complement precision-strike capability; and

5) Adopt a non-violent compellence strategy.[83]


American academic John Arquilla once noted that “in today’s global information age, victory may sometimes depend not on whose army wins, but on whose story wins;” and for any story to win, it needs to be fed to the population like doctor’s prescription.[84]

Inciting the public emotions, Mr. Modi exploited the incidents of Pulwama and Balakot to their full extent for his second-term election victory in May 2019. However, in its demonstration of hyper-nationalism, Indian media too didn’t lag behind in blowing-up the two events out of proportion. In a Target Rating Points (TRP) competitive industry, media’s loud shrieks played a major role in making Indian population more jingoistic and war-mongering (sadly, without reckoning what it entails in a nuclear environment).

Even Indian film industry (Bollywood) stayed at the forefront propagating the slogans of ‘A New India’ and ‘NARA,’ abbreviating ‘national ambition’ and ‘regional aspiration’[85] through its nationalistic films such as: Uri: The Surgical Strike; PM Narendra Modi (a biopic); India’s Most Wanted (hunting terrorists); The Accidental Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh); The Tashkent Files (on Indo-Pakistan agreement after the War of 1965); Mission Mangal (on India’s Mars mission set forth on 5 November 2013); Satellite Soldier (adventures of an Indian soldier); Salute Siachen (on Indo-Pakistan conflict at Siachen Glacier ongoing since April 1984); Romeo Akbar Walter (An operative of Indian intelligence Research and Analysis Wing’s injection into Pakistan’s establishment during the 1971 war); 72 Hours: Martyr Who Never Die; and D-Day (on India-claimed terrorist Dawood Ibrahim in 2013) to name but a few.


Since Indo-Pakistan hostilities did not escalate into a full-blown war, as had been long anticipated, some international powers like the U.S., China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE must have closely monitored and managed the conflict. However, eminent international media brought the world’s attention towards a potential nuclear confrontation.

The Washington Post, for instance headlined on 26 February 2019: “The India-Pakistan relationship is facing the most serious escalation in decades.”[86]

“This is where a nuclear exchange is most likely (It’s not North Korea),” warned an editorial in The New York Times on 7 March 2019. Drawing attention toward “dangerous consequences,” Times continued to alert the world: “Tensions have cooled between India and Pakistan after a terrorist attack, but their nuclear arsenals mean unthinkable consequences are always possible. The two countries have crossed into dangerous territory, with India attacking Pakistan and engaging in aerial duels. The next confrontation, or the one after that, could be far more unthinkable.”[87]

The Wall Street Journal on the other hand forewarned on 7 March 2019 about India and Pakistan “flirting with nuclear disaster.”[88] 


The ‘deal,’ ostensibly, had promised Pakistan, India’s softened stance to resume their composite dialogue, stagnated since August 2014 when Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India had defied India’s request and invited Kashmiri Hurriyat (separatist) leaders at Pakistan’s national day reception.[89]

However, despite Prime Minister Khan reaching out to his Indian counterpart repeatedly for the resumption of a dialogue process – even after suffering Balakot’s mortification[90] – Prime Minister Modi’s government shunned any talks proposal,[91] emphasising the need for an “atmosphere free from the shadow of terror and violence.”[92] Even Islamabad’s vote to New Delhi, securing a UN Security Council’s non-permanent seat at the 55-member Asia-Pacific Group in June 2019 failed in generating reciprocity from an obstinate and conceited India.[93]

Despite Pakistan’s repeated overtures by bending over backwards to obtain some kind of concession from India, none came forth from the Modi government,[94] except a courtesy handshake between the two prime ministers at Bishkek at the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s  summit in Kyrgyzstan on 13 June 2019. A visibly flustered foreign minister Qureshi tried to find face-saving grace behind saying, “We need neither to run after anyone nor to demonstrate stubbornness. Pakistan’s approach is very realistic and well thought-out.”[95]

It now stands clear that President Trump’s mediation offer between India and Pakistan to the visiting Pakistani prime minister on 22 July 2019 was meant for post annexation of the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir into the union of India.[96] Mr. Modi must have solicited President Trump to intervene – and tame – a raging Pakistan after Bharatya Janata Party’s (BJP) leader fulfils one of his election promises to a country on path toward becoming a Hindu Rashtra (state).

India’s Balakot attack, essentially molesting Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, drew muted international response. Since the majority of the world still looks towards the American leadership, U.S. national security advisor, John Bolton’s approval of India’s “right to self-defence” after his phone conversation with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on 16 February 2019 shows Washington’s complete blessings behind Pakistan’s punishment.[97]

A distraught Pakistan, however, tried to suck in American intervention into its fray with India by giving a veiled threat of pulling back from the Afghan peace process, in which Pakistan played a major role. Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, stated on 5 March 2019: “Our attention is going to be where we feel there is a military threat to us,” which she clarified as an ongoing threat from India.[98]

Resonating similar opinion about South Asia’s peace contingent to region’s strategic stability, Pakistan’s chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff committee, General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, reiterated at his talk at Air Force War College on 25 August 2019: “These challenges demand a collective approach to promote security in the region and beyond. Partnerships based on cooperation will facilitate peaceful conflict resolution.”[99] 

The contours of the Balakot airstrike ‘deal’ became vividly clear when Indian leadership immediately denied any further escalation or being against Pakistani people, except the jihadist militants and their alleged sponsors – namely Pakistan Army and its premiere intelligence agency, the ISI.  That’s why India stopped bragging about killing 350 Pakistanis in the attack. Speaking at a women’s rally in Ahmadabad, India’s former foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj acknowledged that no Pakistani soldier or citizen had died in the Balakot airstrike. Claiming the airstrikes to have been taken only in “self-defence,” Ms. Sawaraj admitted: “When we carried out air strike across the border after the Pulwama terror attack, we had told the international community that we took that step in self-defence only.”[100]


However, while addressing an election rally on 14 April 2019, Mr. Modi claimed of not falling prey to Pakistan’s nuclear blackmail and called its nuclear bluff by carrying out airstrikes in Pakistan. “We have nuclear of nuclear bombs (the mother of nuclear bombs). I decided to tell them, do whatever you want to do (but we will retaliate),” Mr. Modi asserted.[101] Considering the seriousness – and all likelihood – of a nuclear showdown between the two countries, it is not only unfortunate, but alarming too seeing Indian media joining Mr. Modi’s irresponsible rhetoric of calling Pakistan’s “nuclear bluff.”[102]

In his 2013’s book Avoiding Armageddon, Bruce Riedel had found “South Asians … tend to wallow in their history and nurse their traditional animosities … Indians and Pakistanis share the dubious distinction of being nuclear weapons states … hav[ing] an awesome power to destroy. They urgently need to ensure that their actions never lead to Armageddon.”[103]

Although there had been little ambiguity about India’s departure from its nuclear “no first use” (NFU) policy through several caveats that India had instituted in its revised nuclear doctrine of January 2003, India’s defence minister, Rajnath Singh, laid bare India’s intentions of abandoning NFU.[104] Speaking at Pokhran, where India had detonated its five (covertly produced) nuclear devices in May 1998, Mr. Singh represented his country’s perverse strategic thought by chillingly stating: “Till today, our nuclear policy is ‘no first use … [however] what happens in the future depends on the circumstances.”[105] The statement clearly demonstrated a xenophobic India in haste of getting global power recognition; never mind, even by detonating a few nuclear bombs and perishing millions of innocent lives.

However, in my 2016’s paper entitled South Asia’s Nuclear Apartheid, I had not only enumerated India’s nuclear discrepancies, but had also forecasted Pakistan’s possible response to any Indian miscalculation.[106] Disagreeing with the notion of strategic stability in South Asia, I had fundamentally highlighted that any Indian aggression would compel Pakistan to launch a massive punitive nuclear strike instead of a ‘demonstration shot’ or ‘gradual use’ of nuclear weapons. The world has seen Pakistan ratcheting up its nuclear capability. While Prime Minister Khan has forewarned the international community about ‘nuclear shadows hovering over South Asia;’[107] its military has intensified “night training launch” of surface to surface nuclear missiles.[108]


No matter how much India – and its new strategic partners – make a song and dance of Pakistani jihadists (Kashmiri freedom fighters), the home-truth is that Pulwama will not be the last attack on Indian soil. Before that we had witnessed several such attacks, like at: Kashmir Legislative Assembly (1 October 2001);[110] Indian Parliament (13 December 2001);[111] Mumbai (26 November 2008);[112] Pathankot (2 January 2016);[113] and Uri (18 September 2016).[114]

I will discuss Kashmir’s annexation into the Union of India in a subsequent paper. However, in my 2016’s article entitled Kashmir Bleeds: A Proxy Battleground and Nuclear Flashpoint in South Asia, it had been clearly warned that as (the disputed region of) Kashmir continues to haemorrhage, the world would not be able to stop 1/3rd of Kashmiri population residing in Pakistan from physically fighting the ‘Kashmir cause,’ for the liberation of their brothers and sisters from the Indian stranglehold.[115]

As one man’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter, the world has yet to agree on a universally acceptable definition of terrorism. Despite Pakistan vowing not to allow jihadists unleash violence in Kashmir,[116] experts already see Kashmir getting inflamed once again by militancy.[117] As credible reports emerge out of Kashmir on Indian forces barbarity and torture, it would be impossible to control the distress and rage of an ordinary Pakistani whose heart beats with every Kashmiri.[118] In my TV talk-show discussion on 4 April 2019 I had highlighted, “Kashmir runs in the bloodstreams of every Pakistani. Even if the world carries out dialysis of each and every Pakistani, it still cannot wean-away Kashmir out of their veins.”[119]

Furthermore, Pakistan’s jihadist phenomenon needs proper understanding. In my 2017’s paper titled Pakistan’s Jihadist Cauldron: Between National Interest and Liability,[120] I had tried to put across Pakistan’s dilemma regarding ‘supporting’ the jihadist groups in the past[121] to now ‘eliminating’ these non-state actors.[122] Even before the arrival of FATF’s stipulations to check covert terror-funding in the country, Pakistan had made a policy decision on 13 January 2002 to proscribe and exterminate all militant organizations from its soil.[123] Following the ceasefire agreement signed between India and Pakistan in November 2003, Pakistan honoured its commitment and effectively stopped cross-border infiltration at the LoC.[124] However, using the alleged beheading of an Indian soldier in January 2013 as ploy, India reneged from the agreement, intensifying shelling at the LoC since then.[125] 

Pakistan has been making honest efforts to shed its historic baggage of the Afghan Jihad against the former Soviet Union. However, the world must be cognizant of two things. First, it must be borne in mind that the creation of mujahedeen had been a collective global undertaking during the Cold War, for which Pakistan cannot be singularly accused. Taking “responsibility” of the past policies, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had  courageously admitted in April 2009: “Let’s remember here … the people we are fighting today we funded them twenty years ago … and we did it because we were locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union.”[126]

Secondly, elimination of radical jihadists from the roots of an Islamic republic is an arduous and painstaking task. In my TV talk-show on 6 March 2019, I had cautioned that since “Rome was not built in one day; it cannot be dismantled in one day.” The extremist militant groups blended in Pakistan’s conservative societal milieu and entrenched in nearly 20,000 madrassas across the country[127] “carry the wherewithal to “inflame the whole country.”[128] While the world (justifiably) demands overnight jihadist purge from Pakistan, it is increasingly difficult to stop continuous radicalization of youth who find their motivation in India’s brutalization of human rights in Kashmir and its lynching of innocent Muslims in an increasingly Hinduized India.

Kashmir is Pakistan’s “jugular vein.”[129] As India tried to cut it off on 5 August 2019 by arbitrarily annexing the disputed region, it will not only bleed the whole subcontinent but may also lead to a nuclear inferno. On his state visit to India in March 2000, U.S. President Bill Clinton had not only called Indian subcontinent and the LoC as “the most dangerous place in the world today,” but had also noted Kashmir a (nuclear) “flashpoint.”[130] Censuring India for its irresponsible fondness with the nuclear weapons, Mr. Clinton had stated in a sterner tone: “In a nuclear standoff, nothing is [as] dangerous as thinking there is no danger.”[131] In his opinion-piece published in The New York Times on 30 April 2019, Prime Minister Khan has timely warned the world about a possible nuclear conflagration on Kashmir issue.[132] 


On Balakot, Pakistan had been coerced into facing humiliation, beyond doubt. However, having some understanding of Pakistan Army, one can state with confidence that owing to Pakistan’s domestic compulsions, its military acquiesced to the outside diktat, but just once. As history stands witnessed, there is no guarantee if Pakistan Army will do the bidding of its American, Chinese, Saudi or Emirati benefactors next time around.

One has always doubted China’s so-called unflinching support (sic) to Pakistan. Notwithstanding Sino-Pakistan’s “time-tested and all-weather friendship” – which is bragged about as higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the Arabian Sea, sweeter than honey, and, stronger than steel[133] – China has intelligently ensured its ‘silent rise’ by keeping Pakistan and India entangled into a perpetual conflict. In my 2018’s paper titled China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Pakistan’s ‘Chinanization’ or Colonization? – including my 11-part presentation at YouTube under ‘Dominance by Debt[134] – I had cautioned Pakistan against putting all its eggs in the Chinese basket.

While Pakistan has seen its fallacy about Muslim brotherhood and fraternity shattering before its eyes when Saudi Arabia and the UAE adopted ‘criminal silence’ over Kashmir in front of their economic interests with India; China has also deserted Pakistan a number of times in the past. Pakistan can never completely rely on Chinese support, when China may unexpectedly side with the international community under duress.

For instance, despite blocking[135] JeM chief, Masood Azhar’s listing as a global terrorist (when Pakistan demanded “solid evidence” for his involvement in the Pulwama attack),[136] Beijing ultimately conceded to the UN Security Council’s 1267 Sanctions Committee on 1 May 2019.[137] Moreover, China’s meaningful silence – if not endorsement – on Pakistan’s Balakot punishment demonstrated that Pakistan’s “iron brother[138] will not bat an eyelid before sacrificing its longstanding strategic relations with Pakistan in front of its larger geopolitical ambitions.

India and Pakistan’s hostility has made both sides accustomed to ‘manageable aggression,’ with some formal and informal lines of communication timely conveying their red lines to each other – though in different hues and shades. They understand each other’s language well and have prevented any escalation going out of the hand in the past. However, India misses to recognize that Pakistan’s present military leadership is battle-hardened. Expressing his satisfaction at coming up to the nation’s expectations and noting “counter-terrorism operations [have made] Pakistan Army battle hardened,” Pakistan’s army chief vowed on 30 August 2019 to “stay steadfast.”[139]

Having successfully crushed the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) in the former tribal areas,[140] as well as controlling unrest in Karachi and Baluchistan, the military is not only highly skilled in guerilla and urban warfare, but also means business. Domestically, it is steering Pakistan towards economic self-reliance by supporting Prime Minister Imran Khan behind the scenes. Aggrieved by the U.S. for abandoning Pakistan after using the country as a “frontline state” in the Afghan Jihad (against Soviet Union)[141] and exploiting a “major non-NATO ally” during the war on terror in Afghanistan,[142] Pakistan Army carries no love lost for America. According to a PEW Research Survey in 2012, Anti-Americanism stood at 74 percent in Pakistan;[143] imagine its magnitude today when disregarding Pakistan’s historic geostrategic sacrifices the U.S. has declared archrival India as America’s new “strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific.”[144] Furthermore, Washington’s tacit approval of Pakistan’s corporal punishment at Balakot and its silence on New Delhi’s arbitrary annexation of disputed Kashmir has further distanced the former allies of past seven decades.

As observed in my 2018’s paper The Hindutva Itch: India’s Perverse Strategic Thought, India’s dangerous hankering with trans-border pre-emptive and proactive operations must be checked. Seeking its lost Hindu grandeur, which remained subjugated under Muslim invaders and British colonial rule, India’s current proclivity toward ‘Hinduization’ of the society has already unleashed communal violence in the country. While Indian armed forces suffer from their chronic dichotomies and discrepancies, any meaningful response by an adversary can easily shatter their dangerous militaristic doctrines and hegemonic notions about fighting a two-front war. No one is stopping India from making its mark at world stage; however, no nation can become glorious by staying trapped in eternal conflicts and disputes with its neighbours or threatening them with nuclear strikes.[145]

In its rush to further galvanize Indian population behind radical Hinduism,[146] any Indian leadership’s future provocation may not end up as choreographed, calculated or controlled like Balakot. In his book Why America Loses Wars: Limited War and U.S. Strategy from the Korean War to the Present, Donald Stoker observes, “limited wars are forever wars.” The next Indo-Pakistan conflict may be started by India under its hubris and misconception about its glorious Hindu destiny;[147] but it will be finished by Pakistan. First shot of a bullet may be tempting and loud; it’s the last laugh that is always louder.

Having given a walkover at Balakot, while a foolhardy India may feel further emboldened to ritualize Pakistan’s corporal punishments much deeper into its territory, India must be mindful: Pakistan would not be the same as it was on 26 February 2019; nor would be the regional situation.

The world must, meanwhile, hold its breath, and behold.


[1] Joanna Slater, India strikes Pakistan in severe escalation of tensions between nuclear rivals, The Washington Post, 26 Feb 2019

[2] Indian army carried out surgical strikes across the Line of Control dismantling at least seven camps in PoK. A team of army commandos carried out the operation after getting a go ahead from the government. Manjeet Singh Negi, Surgical strikes in PoK: How Indian para commandos killed 50 terrorists, hit 7 camps, India Today, 29 Sept 2016

[3] Pulwama attack: Pakistan warns India against military action, BBC World, 19 Feb 2019

[4] Himanil Raina, Integrated Battle Groups Are India’s Response to Pakistan, The National Interest, 18 Nov 2018

[5] In the current environment, the introduction of tactical nuclear weapons by Pakistan in response to India’s limited war strategy is only a means of reinforcing deterrence and enhancing stability at the higher level of conflict by inducing instability at the lower levels. Mansoor Ahmed, Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons and Their Impact on Stability, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 30 June 2016

[6] Aditya Ramanathan and Kunaal Kini, Are Pakistan’s Battlefield Nuclear Weapons a Mirage?, The Diplomat,  7 May 2019

[7] Rajesh Rajagopalan, India’s Nuclear Doctrine Debate, Carnegie Endowment for Peace, Regional Insight, 30 Jun 2016

[8] Alfred Joyner, How Strong Is Pakistan’s Military?, Newsweek, 28 Nov 2019

[9] Syed Fazl-e-Haider, Trump’s Afghan Exit Plans Are Mired in the India-Pakistan Mess, Daily Beast, 28 Aug 2019

[10] C. Christine Fair, Fighting to the End: Pakistan Army’s Way of War, Oxford University Press (2014), p. 4; Also see: Ashley J. Tellis,  Frederic Grare,  C. Christine Fair, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War, Podcast, Carnegie endowment for International Peace, 4 Sept 2014

[11] Kamran Haider and Ismail Dilawar, Pakistan Secures $6 Billion Aid Package From Saudi Arabia, Bloomberg, 23 Oct 2018

[12] Joseph Hincks, Saudi Arabia Is Investing $20 Billion in Pakistan. Here’s What It’s Getting in Return, TIME, 19 Feb 2019

[13] Crown Prince launches project to build Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear research reactor, Arab News, 5 Nov 2018

[14] Ashfaq Ahmed, UAE provides $3billion lifeline to Pakistan, Gulf News, 22 Jan 2019

[15] Joanna Slater, Niha Masih and Ishfaq Naseem, At least 38 killed in deadliest attack on security forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir in 3 decades, The Washington Post, 14 Feb 2019

[16] Taha Siddiqui, Why Pakistan’s economy is sinking, Al-Jazeera, 28 Jun 2019

[17] James Mackenzie, IMF board approves $6 billion loan package for Pakistan, Reuters, 3 Jul 2019

[18] Anwar Iqbal, Pakistan placed on FATF ‘grey list’ despite diplomatic efforts to avert decision, Dawn News, 28 Jun 2018

[19] Anadolu Agency, Pakistan thwarts India’s FATF blacklist move but danger still lurks, Dawn News, 20 Jun 2019

[20] Asad Hashim, Profile: What is Jaish-e-Muhammad? Al-Jazeera, 1 May 2019

[21] Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), a Pakistan-based group, has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing on 14 February in Indian-administered Kashmir. Pulwama attack: What is militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad?, BBC News, 15 Feb 2019

[22] Adnan Qaiser A Reluctant Accomplice: Dissection of OBL’s Abbottabad Commission Report, Conference of Defence Associations Institute’s On Track magazine, Winter Edition 2013, Dec 2013, p. 54

[23] Document: Pakistan’s Bin Laden Dossier, Al Jazeera, 8 Jul 2013

[24] India’s dossier on Pulwama attack rejected, Dawn News, 28 Mar 2019

[25] India Blames Pakistan, Demands Action After Kashmir Attack, Radio Free Europe, 15 Feb 2019

[26] India claims to have struck ‘biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot’, Dawn News, 26 Feb 2019

[27] Statement by Foreign Secretary on 26 February 2019 on the Strike on JeM training camp at Balakot, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, 26 Feb 2019

[28] Operation Bandar involved about 5,000 personnel, and culminated in 12 Mirage-2000 aircraft crossing the Line of Control and striking Balakot. Snehesh Alex Philip, IAF’s Balakot strike was codenamed Operation Bandar, Army’s operation was named Zafran, The Print, 21 Jun 2019

[29] The air strike by the Indian Air Force (IAF) on a terrorist training camp in Balakot, Pakistan, was code-named ‘Operation Bandar’. Operation Bandar, code name of Balakot strike, The Hindu, 21 Jun 2019

[30] Anindita Basu, Ramayana, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 30 Aug 2016

[31] Independence Day awards: 5 IAF pilots who carried out Balakot air strikes to get gallantry award, Hindustan Times, 14 Aug 2019

[32] Balakot airstrike was a major achievement: Northern Army commander, The Economic Times, 20 May 2019

[33] Technology on India’s side in Balakot operation: IAF chief B S Dhanoa, Live Mint, 16 Apr 2019

[34] Surgical strikes: Pakistan rejects India’s claims, Al-Jazeera, 29 Sept 2016

[35] Indian aircraft violate LoC, scramble back after PAF’s timely response: ISPR, Dawn News, 26 Feb 2019

[36] ‘Time for India to wait for our response’: ISPR DG debunks New Delhi’s claims on LoC violation, Dawn News, 26 Feb 2019

[37] Sanaullah Khan, Pakistan will respond to uncalled-for Indian aggression at time, place of its choosing: NSC, Dawn News, 26 Feb 2019

[38] Sohail Chaudhry, PM authorises military to respond decisively to any Indian misadventure, The Express Tribune, 21 Feb 2019

[39] ‘Don’t mess with Pakistan’: army warns India, The Express Tribune, 22 Feb 2019

[40] Baqir Sajjad Syed, Army chief warns India against ‘misadventure’, Dawn News, 23 Feb 2019

[41] Press Release, 219th Corps Commanders’ Conference presided by General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) held today at GHQ, Directorate General, Inter-Services Public Relations, No PR-49/2019-ISPR, 7 Mar 2019

[42] By Jeffrey Gettleman, Suhasini Raj, Kai Schultz and Hari Kumar, India Revokes Kashmir’s Special Status, Raising Fears of Unrest, The New York Times, 5 Aug 2019

[43] How Pakistan failed to do a Balakot-type strike on India on February 27, The Economic Times, 27 Mar 2019

[44] Snehesh Alex Philip, Indian Army commanders left Brigade HQ ‘minutes before’ PAF bomb fell in compound, The Print, 27 Feb 2019

[45] 2 Indian aircraft violating Pakistani airspace shot down; pilot arrested, Dawn News, 27 Feb 2019

[46] Pakistan frees captured Indian pilot Abhinandan in peace gesture, Dawn News, 1 Mar 2019

[47] All wars are miscalculated, no one knows where they lead: PM Khan, Dawn News, 27 Feb 2019

[48] Baqir Sajjad Syed, Unilateral efforts to de-escalate tensions won’t help: experts, Dawn News, 2 Mar 2019

[49] Reuters, How Pakistan, India pulled back from brink of war,, Dawn News, 18 Mar 2019

[50] India planning ‘military action’ against Pakistan this month, says foreign minister, Dawn News, 7 Apr 2019

[51] Meher Bokhari, India plotted dangerous attack with Israeli help, Dawn News, 5 Mar 2019

[52] Aamir Ghauri, US pulled back India after Pak threat to hit back, The News, 5 Mar 2019

[53] Anindita Sanyal, “Real Pilot Project”: PM Modi’s Cryptic Remark After Pak Promise Of Release, NDTV, 28 Feb 2019

[54] Pakistan extends airspace ban for India, The News, 18 Jun 2019

[55] Airspace closure caused over Rs8bn loss: minister, The News, 20 Jul 2019

[56] Pakistan reopens airspace after India standoff, BBC News, 16 July 2019

[57] Pakistan extends airspace ban along eastern border, Dawn News, 13 Jul 2019

[58] Jamal Shahid, Pakistan not to open airspace until India de-escalates: official, Dawn News, 12 Jul 2019

[59] Foreign journalists given access to madressah near site of Balakot strike, Dawn News, 10 Apr 2019

[60] Terrorist training camps of Jaish, Lashkar & Hizbul Mujahideen were hit in Balakot in strikes that lasted 21 minutes. Snehesh Alex Philip, These are the 3 locations in Pakistan that were bombed by Indian Air Force, The Print, 27 Feb 2019

[61] Snehesh Alex Philip, IAF’s Balakot strike lasted 21 mins, used 1,000 kg Israeli bombs fed with GPS coordinates, The Print, 26 Feb 2019

[62] In Islamabad, the military’s press wing has twice called off visits to the site for weather and organisational reasons and an official said no visit would be possible for a few days more due to security issues. Saad Sayeed, Reuters Team Prevented From Climbing Hill to Madrasa Site in Balakot a Third Time, The Wire, 8 Mar 2019

[63] Asad Hashim, At raid site, no casualties and a mysterious school, Al-Jazeera, 28 Feb 2019

[64] Jaish-e-Mohammed’s Mohammad Salim alias Ustad Ghauri, the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, was the operational head of the Markaz Syed Ahmed Saheed Training Camp, which was wiped out by the bombs dropped by multiple Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage 2000 aircraft. 42 trained Jaish suicide bombers lived at Balakot terror camp that IAF destroyed, India Today, 26 Feb 2019

[65] Muhammad Anis, COAS hails befitting response during stand-off with India, The News, 13 Jun 2019

[66] Pakistan’s plan of action is to project itself as pro-peace. Syeda Mamoona Rubab, Battle of narratives, The Friday Times, 12 Apr 2019

[67] News Report, Surgical strikes: Pakistan rejects India’s claims, Al-Jazeera, 29 Sept 2016

[68] Leopard urine, airdropping commandos and more: This is how Uri attack was avenged by Indian Army, India Today, 28 Sept 2018

[69] Nitin A. Gokhale, Securing India The Modi Way: Pathankot, Surgical Strikes and More, Bloomsbury Publishing, 29 Nov 2017

[70] Pakistan Army shoots down Indian spy drone over LoC, The Express Tribune, 1 Jan 2019

[71] Air Marshal (Ret’d) Wajih-ud-Din Sheikh commenting at ‘Dunya Kamran Khan Ke Saath’ (Urdu), Dunya TV, 27 Feb 2019

[72] Deterrence didn’t fail during stand-off with India: officials, Dawn News, 1 Jun 2019

[73] Sannia Abdullah, Pakistan’s Full-Spectrum Deterrence: Trends And Trajectories, South Asian Voices, 13 Dec 2018

[74] 350 terrorists killed in LoC air strike, claims India, Khaleej Times, 26 Feb 2019

[75] Reuters, Images show Balakot buildings intact at scene of Indian attack, Dawn News, 7 Mar 2019

[76] Vasudevan Mukunth, Boom or Bust: What Science Tells Us About What Went Down in Balakot, The Wire, 10 Mar 2019

[77] Nathan Ruser, Did Balakot Airstrikes Hit Their Target? Satellite Imagery Raises Doubts, The Wire, 1 Mar 2019

[78] “Akhand Bharat” or Undivided India envisions Pakistan and Bangladesh as part of India. It has been one of the main goals of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Hindu-nationalist organisation that is also the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which stormed to power for a second term in India’s general election in May. The banners carry the comments of Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut. Akhand Bharat banners appear near Pak Parliament, India Today, 7 Aug 2019

[79] India ready for another strike against Pakistan: report, The News, 5 Apr 2019

[80] No going back for India. Reuters, How Pakistan, India pulled back from brink of war, Dawn News, 18 Mar 2019

[81] Shekhar Gupta, India has called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff again, but Modi cannot become complacentThe Print, 26 February 2019

[82] Thomas C. Schelling, Arms and Influence, Yale University Press (1966)

[83] George Perkovich and Toby Dalton, Not War, Not Peace: Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross-Border Terrorism, Oxford University Press (2016), pp. 19-22

[84] The Emergence of Noopolitik: Toward An American Information Strategy, by John Arquilla, David Ronfeldt, RAND Corporation, 1999

[85] Jimmy Jacob, “Nara”: PM Modi’s New Slogan To Take India Ahead After Massive Poll Win, NDTV, 25 May 2019

[86] Joanna Slater and Pamela Constable, The India-Pakistan relationship is facing the most serious escalation in decades. Here’s how it got to this point, The Washington Post, 26 Feb 2019

[87] Threat of nuclear war can’t be ruled out until Kashmir issue is solved: NYT, Dawn News, 8 Mar 2019

[88] Sadanand Dhume, India and Pakistan Are Flirting With Nuclear Disaster, The Wall Street Journal, 7 Mar 2019

[89] Allison Berland and Michael Kugelman, Is There Any Hope for India-Pakistan Relations? Foreign Policy, 2 Sept 2014

[90] Syed Irfan Raza, PM again offers talks to India on Kashmir, terrorism, Dawn News, 8 Jun 2019

[91] India rejects Pak offer of peace talks, The News, 9 Jun 2019

[92] Naveed Siddiqui, Important to build an environment of trust, Modi says in letter to PM Imran, Dawn News, 20 Jun 2019

[93] Wajid Ali Syed, Pakistan supports India at UNSC polls, The News, 27 Jun 2019

[94] Reuters, No meeting planned between India, Pakistan PMs at regional summit: India foreign ministry, Dawn News, 6 Jun 2019

[95] PM, Modi have ‘courtesy’ interaction in Bishkek, Dawn News, 15 Jun 2019

[96] Trump offers to mediate Kashmir conflict for India and Pakistan, Al-Jazeera, 23 Jul 2019

[97] The discussion between the two national security advisers was during a phone call on 16 February, two days after the Pulwama terror attack. Nayanima Basu, Ajit Doval had discussed Balakot strike with US NSA John Bolton on 16 February, The Print, 26 Feb 2019

[98] Crisis with India can have unintended impact on Afghan peace process: Maleeha, The Express Tribune, 5 Mar 2019

[99] Regional peace not possible without resolution of Kashmir issue: Gen Hayat, The Express Tribune, 26 Aug 2019

[100] No Pakistani soldier, citizen killed in air strike: Sushma, Dawn News, 19 Apr 2019

[101] PM Modi Says He Called Pakistan’s Nuclear Bluff Because India Has the ‘Mother of Bombs’, News18, 18 Apr 2019

[102] Shekhar Gupta, India has called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff again, but Modi cannot become complacent, The Print, 26 Feb 2019

[103] Bruce Riedel,Avoiding Armageddon, Brookings Institution Press (2013), p. 203

[104] Steven Zhou, India’s hint at abandoning no-first-use nuclear policy seen as provocation in tense times, CBC News, 22 Aug 2019

[105] Ankit Panda, From ‘No First Use’ to ‘No, First Use?’, The Diplomat, 18 Aug 2019

[106] Adnan Qaiser, South Asia’s Nuclear Apartheid, Conference of Defence Associations Institute (Canada), 7 Dec 2016

[107] Shadow of nuclear war hovering over South Asia, warns PM Imran, The Express Tribune, 29 Aug 2019; The New York Times web-link:

[108] Pakistan successfully tests night launch of surface to surface ballistic missile Ghaznavi: ISPR, Dawn News, 29 Aug 2019

[109] Saeed Shah, Pakistan’s New Plight in Kashmir: What to Do About the Jihadists, The Wall Street Journal, 11 Aug 2019

[110] Praveen Swami, An Audacious Strike, Frontline, Volume 18, Issue 21, 13 to 26 Oct 2001

[111] Sanjeev Miglani, Reuters, 12 die in Indian parliament attack, The Guardian, 14 Dec 2001

[112] Soutik Biswas, Mumbai 26/11 attacks: Six corpses, a mobile phone call and one survivor, BBC News, 26 Nov 2008

[113] Pathankot attack: ‘All terrorists dead’, The Hindu, 3 Jan 2016

[114] Militants attack Indian army base in Kashmir ‘killing 17’, BBC News, 18 Sept 2016

[115] Adnan Qaiser, Kashmir Bleeds: A Proxy Battleground and Nuclear Flashpoint in South Asia Conference of Defence Associations Institute (Canada), 29 Sept 2016

[116] Militants attack Indian army base in Kashmir ‘killing 17’, BBC News, 18 Sept 2016

[117] AFP, Modi’s action a gamble, to ignite militancy: experts, The News, 8 Aug 2019

[118] Stories of torture following annexation by India emerge from occupied Kashmir, Dawn News, 30 Aug 2019; Also see: Sameer Hashmi, ‘Don’t beat us, just shoot us’: Kashmiris allege violent army crackdown, BBC News, Kashmir, 29 Aug 2019,

[119] Adnan Qaiser, TV talk-show participation in Pakistan Television’s program World Today, 4 April 2019, You Tube (Edited version); Full program:

[120] Adnan Qaiser, Pakistan’s Jihadist Cauldron: Between National Interest and Liability, Conference of Defence Associations Institute (Canada), 23 Aug 2017

[121] Musharraf admits Kashmir militants trained in Pakistan, BBC News, 5 Oct 2010

[122] Counter-terrorism forces kill over 226 LeJ terrorists, arrest 637 close associates of Malik Ishaq. Zahid Gishkori, LeJ’s entire leadership eliminated in Punjab, The News, 20 Jun 2016

[123] Julian West in New Delhi and Kamran Khan in Karachi, Musharraf announces crackdown on militants, The Telegraph, 13 Jan 2002

[124] Hari Kumar, Indian and Pakistani Forces Agree to Cease-Fire in Kashmir, The New York Times, 26 Nov 2003

[125] India says Pakistan ‘beheaded’ Kashmir soldier, BBC News, 9 Jan 2013

[126] US created Taliban and abandoned Pakistan, says Hillary, Dawn News, 25 Apr 2009

[127] Tim Craig, Pakistan is still trying to get a grip on its madrassa problem, The Washington Post, 16 Dec 2015

[128] Adnan Qaiser, TV talk-show participation in Pakistan Television World program World Today, 6 Mar 2019, YouTube (Edited version); Complete program:

[129] Zaib un Nisa Aziz, The pursuit of Kashmir, Herald, 2 Feb 2019; Also see: Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif calls Kashmir country’s “jugular vein”, India Today, 1 May 2014

[130] Peter Popham, ‘The world’s most dangerous place’ is already at war, The Independent, 18 Mar 2000

[131] Jane Perlez, U.S. and India, Trying to Reconcile, Hit Bump, The New York Times, 22 Mar 2000

[132] If the world does nothing to stop the Indian assault on Kashmir and its people, two nuclear-armed states will get ever closer to a direct military confrontation. Imran Khan: The World Can’t Ignore Kashmir. We Are All in Danger, The New York Times, 30 Aug 2019; Also see: Shadow of nuclear war hovering over South Asia, warns PM Imran, The Express Tribune, 30 Aug 2019

[133] Huma Sattar, China and Pakistan’s All-Weather Friendship, Heritage Foundation, 16 Mar 2015

[134] Adnan Qaiser, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Pakistan’s ‘Chinanization’ or Colonization?, Conference of Defence Associations Institute’s (Canada) On Track magazine, spring issue, 14 June 2018 – p. 12; Also see: CPEC: Dominance by Debt by Adnan Qaiser, An eleven-part presentation on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the larger context of China’s geopolitical, geo-strategic and geo-economic interests, Part-1: (1. Introduction and 2. Breakdown of Presentation), YouTube (720p)

[135] Pakistan’s Masood Azhar: China blocks bid to call militant terrorist, BBC News, 14 March 2019

[136] Share evidence against Masood Azhar acceptable to Pakistan’s courts: Qureshi, Dawn News, 1 Mar 2019

[137] Baqir Sajjad Syed, UNSC lists JeM chief as global terrorist , Dawn News, 2 May 2019

[138] Laurence Vandewalle, Pakistan and China: ‘Iron Brothers’ Forever? Directorate-General for External Policies, Policy Department, European Parliament, 18 Jun 2015

[139] Counter-terror ops have made army battle-hardened: COAS, The Express Tribune, 31 Aug 2019

[140] The Tehrik-i-Taliban is the largest militant organization in Pakistan that operates under the larger umbrella of the Pakistani Taliban. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford

[141] Bruce Riedel, Pakistan’s Role in the Afghanistan War’s Outcome, Brookings Institution, 20 May 2010; Also see: Alan Taylor, The Soviet War in Afghanistan, 1979 – 1989, The Atlantic, 4 Aug 2014

[142] David Rohde, U.S. Will Celebrate Pakistan As a ‘Major Non-NATO Ally’, The New York Times, 19 Mar 2004

[143] 74% Call America an Enemy, Pakistani Public Opinion Ever More Critical of U.S., PEW Research Survey, 27 June 2012

[144] Walter C. Ladwig III and Anit Mukherjee, The United States, India, and the Future of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, The National Bureau of Asian Research, 20 Jun 2019

[145] Adnan Qaiser, The Hindutva Itch: India’s Perverse Strategic Thought, South Asia Journal, 1 Sept 2018

[146] The Invention of an Ethnic (Hindu) Nationalism, Princeton University Press

[147] Donald Stoker, Why America Loses Wars: Limited War and U.S. Strategy from the Korean War to the Present, Cambridge University Press (2019)

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A Canadian of Pakistani origin, Adnan Qaiser began his professional career as a commissioned officer in the Pakistan Army, taking early release as a Major. Working at various command and staff positions he developed a thorough understanding of national politics, civil and military relations, intelligence establishment, regional geopolitics and the security and policy issues that surround them. Moving on to international diplomacy on his next career ladder, he fostered political, economic and cultural relations at bilateral and multilateral platforms, watching closely some of the most turbulent times in the South Asian, Far Eastern and Middle Eastern politics from a G7 perspective. Immigrating to Canada in 2001, he kept upgrading his education, while maintaining memberships and affiliations with various industry verticals for his professional development. Adnan has worked at key positions in public, private and not-for-profit organizations. Speaking many of the languages and having deep insight into the region he keeps publishing papers on South Asia (Pakistan and India), Afghanistan, United States, China, Middle East, religious extremism and radicalization. Adnan has been a regular commentator at Canadian and Pakistani televisions and occasionally gives online talks at YouTube. Having been associated with the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, Canada since 2009, Adnan has delivered talks at think-tanks like CDA Institute and Canadian International Council (CIC). Adnan holds a Level-II (Secret) security clearance from the Government of Canada. He Tweets @adnanqaiser01 and can be reached at: