Pakistan recently released the Indian Air Force wing commander Abhinandhan Vardhaman, giving a sense of relief to the masses in India. With talks of escalation between the two countries on the rise due to the Pulwama attack, many international powers have requested both India and Pakistan to back down and to de-escalate the situation in the Indian Subcontinent. The conflict eventually panned out to become a proportional representation (PR) exercise between the two Prime Ministers where Imran Khan got the seemingly better deal and support from across the world, but Narendra Modi is still the focal point to whom all the eyes across the world look up to.
Many praised Abhinandhan’s bravery in the face of such dire adversity. The fact that he used a MIG21 to shoot down an F16 was commended by many defence experts. But it also exposed a serious issue neglected by every government which is the declining voracity of the Indian Air force. In fact, in the dogfight against Pakistani Air Force, India had to lose a soldier to the other side due to its own technological incompetence. It is appalling to see that instead of fixing the problems at hand, the nation as a whole is trying to blame another nation for its failure. Though the Pulwama attack was unacceptable and there was a need to strike against terror, we also need to ensure the safety of our soldiers. After all, they are not mere puppets or tools employed solely for mass destruction. In fact, Wing Commander Abhinandhan’s capture is a time for the government and opposition political parties to resolve their differences and help the Indian armed forces to improve its standing and military power.
The political landscape of both Pakistan and India has definitely shaped the conflict into a political dogfight. Both Imran Khan and Narendra Modi are two-sides of the same coin. They are both populists and rely on conservative rhetoric to pan out to their respective voters. Pakistan especially needs to be highlighted, as it is a country that has faced decades of instability, fragile democracy, and dozens of dictatorial rulers. There is still a deep divide between the civilian government and the military in Pakistan which makes the actions of the Pakistani government hard to be accountable, many times. In India, there has been a surge in the conservative or Hindutva. A lot of the election strategies had been catered to appease the Hindu majority and the regime had been accused of atrocities against mostly Muslim minority. Modi has always projected himself tough against Pakistan, and this image is expected to get tougher with the upcoming elections. The recent Pulwama attack came at a time when any bold moves would directly result as votes in the ballot and for Imran, it was his first crisis since his incumbency, so a victory here would reinforce his government’s legitimacy.
In this conjecture, Abhinandhan was a mere pawn who came to light soon after he landed in Pakistan. Pakistan, who saw this as an opportunity to grab the PR limelight, also believed this would nullify the failures of its defence forces against a foreign intrusion. The fact that an F16 was shot down by a MIG21 was put down by the American and Pakistani media and the entire focus shifted to Wing Commander Abhinandhan. The New York Post downplayed the entire incident by calling out Indian weapons and artillery as vintage, though these claims have some iota of truth in them. The completely biased account panned by the western media shows how the US defense corporate firms desperately need to gain more access into India by globally projecting the US machines as world-class. Russia is too not far behind Putin’s approval to setup AK203 plant in Amethi and this shows how Russia still values India as an important and strategic ally.
And in this war frenzy, the most important aspect that has captured attention is that despite the hate rhetoric between India and Pakistan, most of the citizens of both the nations desire for peace. In India, after the reports emerged that an Air Force officer was captured, many people prayed for his safe return, explicating that people always desire for peace despite the hate rhetoric and battle cries of the politically motivated or moved.
Picture Courtesy- Newslaundry