India vs Pakistan score reads 1-1. Can we make it win-win?
India and Pakistan are bound together by their undying love for cricket, Punjabi/Bollywood music, and a taste for shared culture.
Cordial neighbours, bitter rivals, benevolent brothers, arch-enemies, cricketing foes, close allies and a lot more. Separated at birth by the infamous Radcliffe Line, India and Pakistan have had an extremely complicated and volatile love-hate relationship since their independence in 1947. That was also the year the two fought their first war over the princely state of Kashmir, whose then-ruler Maharaja Hari Singh had initially refused to join either of the two new nations citing the interest of Kashmiris. Following the end of that war in late 1948, the Karachi Agreement of 1949 redrew the India-Pakistan borders in Kashmir as per a Cease-Fire Line, which was later designated as the Line of Control (LoC) by the Simla Agreement in 1972.
Almost three-quarters of a century, numerous armed conflicts including four wars (three over Kashmir), blow-hot-blow-cold cricket diplomacy and a handful of conciliatory initiatives such as the Samjhauta Express train link and the Sada-e-Sarhad bus service later, the state of Kashmir continues to define and dictate relations between the two nuclear-armed nations. After the Pulwama suicide attack in mid-February that saw the death of over 40 Indian paramilitary personnel, the latest in a long list of conflicts between the neighbours is being played out right now at various fora and platforms - on-ground at the LoC, aerially via intermittent air-to-air combat, between the Indian and Pakistani diplomatic and administrative bastions, and even in the respective countries' newsrooms.
The conflict further flared up with India firing the first salvo on February 26, claiming to have bombed three alleged terror camps of Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in retaliation for the February 14 suicide attack, for which JeM had claimed responsibility. Pakistan maintains that no such camps existed at the locations bombed by the Indian fighter jets, but saw the act as a violation of its sovereign airspace as well as eco-terrorism (it accuses India of felling a handful of trees in its airstrikes, perhaps in a gesture aimed at ridiculing its neighbour's claims of using precision-guided bombs).
Nevertheless, in a tit-for-tat response, Pakistani fighter jets returned the favour by crossing over the LoC in what the smaller neighbour says was a demonstration of its "right, will and capability for self-defence." India, however, claims that it was a planned attack on its military installations, foiled only by the quick action of its own Air Force. In the ensuing milieu, India maintains an ageing MiG-21 Bison chased and took down a much superior F-16 fighter jet belonging to its neighbour's air force, a claim that Pakistan denies. What is confirmed, though, is that the pilot of the Indian MiG-21 was captured on the wrong side of the LoC when his plane went down after the dogfight.
Pakistan has since returned the pilot through the land border in Punjab in what it terms as a "peace gesture" while India maintains the repatriation was mandated by convention.
Either way, both the nations have initiated the violation of the other's airspace once over the past few days. If this was a sports series, the score-line would be an even-steven between the two cricket-crazy nations. Let the leaders on both sides of the border listen to their respective people and accept 1-1 as the ultimate series scorecard, awarding the trophy of this thriller to peace. From 1-1, let's move on to win-win for the two hugely capable and resourceful countries. The peoples of India and Pakistan are bound together by their undying love for cricket, besides Mughlai food, Punjabi/Bollywood music, and a taste for shared culture. Let's add 'love and respect for neighbours' as the defining force of the relationship between the two societies that together account for about one-fifth of humanity.