India-Pakistan Dogfight Pushes Nuclear Powers To The Brink Of Conflict

Download Audio
A Pakistani peace activist attends an anti-war rally in Karachi, Pakistan, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Muhammad Rizwan/AP)
A Pakistani peace activist attends an anti-war rally in Karachi, Pakistan, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Muhammad Rizwan/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

India and Pakistan — a spike in tension of two nuclear powers in Asia. Is what’s happening on the ground worse than the headlines?


Maria Abi-Habib, South Asia corespondent for The New York Times. (@Abihabib)

Adil Najam, dean of Boston University's Frederick G. Pardee School of Global Studies. (@adilnajam)

Aparna Pande, director of Hudson Institute’s Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia. (@Aparna_Pande)

From The Reading List

New York Times: "After India Loses Dogfight to Pakistan, Questions Arise About Its ‘Vintage’ Military" — "It was an inauspicious moment for a military the United States is banking on to help keep an expanding China in check.

"An Indian Air Force pilot found himself in a dogfight last week with a warplane from the Pakistani Air Force, and ended up a prisoner behind enemy lines for a brief time.

"The pilot made it home in one piece, however bruised and shaken, but the plane, an aging Soviet-era MiG-21, was less lucky.

"The aerial clash, the first by the South Asian rivals in nearly five decades, was a rare test for the Indian military — and it left observers a bit dumbfounded. While the challenges faced by the India’s armed forces are no secret, its loss of a plane last week to a country whose military is about half the size and receives a quarter of the funding was still telling."

Washington Post: "Are nuclear weapons keeping the India-Pakistan crisis from escalating — or making it more dangerous?" — "The world has been on edge watching India and Pakistan’s latest crisis. For the first time since 1971, India bombed mainland Pakistan. The strike was retaliation after a Pakistan-based terrorist group supported a suicide bombing in the disputed territory of Kashmir that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers.

"Unlike in 1971, however, India and Pakistan now have sizable nuclear arsenals. Before Pakistan released a captured Indian pilot who had ejected over its territory, some observers worried that the crisis could have escalated into a nuclear conflict. Others, however, would likely credit nuclear weapons with getting both countries to step back from the brink.

"Which is it? The crisis is just the latest chapter in a long-running debate about the consequences of nuclear weapons."

NDTV:  "'All Options Open If There's Another Terror Attack From Pakistan': Sources" — "The military phase of the strike back against Pakistan-based terror is over and efforts are now on to step up diplomatic pressure on Islamabad. A fresh initiative is on by the permanent members of UN Security Council to blacklist Jaish-e Mohammed chief Masood Azhar and India is directing all its efforts in that direction. Also, if there's another terrorist attack from Pakistan, all options are on the table, sources said.

"The comments from sources came as Pakistan claimed that India has kept up its attempts to use force and that an Indian submarine had entered its waters.

"Rubbishing Islamabad's claims, sources said Pakistan was trying to 'deviate attention' by suggesting that India is continuing to threaten them. Pakistan's claim today that they shot down a Sukhoi, is a 'total lie,' a source said."

Sunday Guardian: "Opinion: Pakistani military’s credibility problem with its own people" — "A major consequence of India’s punitive air strike on a terrorist camp inside Pakistan, in retaliation for the 14 February terrorist attack at Pulwama, would be to erode the credibility of Pakistan’s military with the Pakistani people.

"In the early hours of 26 February, Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets targeted terror camps at Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Islamabad’s initial response was to deny that Indian planes had been inside Pakistani territory for “more than a few seconds” or that any casualties had occurred.

"Subsequently, the Pakistani Defence Minister claimed at a press conference that the reason the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) did not respond to IAF’s entry into Pakistani air space was that 'it was dark.' "

Hindustan Times: "Opinion: Pakistan’s moment of international isolation has arrived" — "The ceremonial handover by Pakistan of a captured Indian Air Force pilot might make for good television, but Pakistan’s increasing global isolation is the story that has greater significance. Talking heads on television in both countries claim victory for their side on an almost daily basis. Amid this noise, and well after the current heat dissipates, it is Pakistan’s loss of friends abroad that will have strategic consequences.

"The day Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned, Pakistan failed to attend a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), of which it is a founding member, for the first time ever. This was Pakistan’s way to protest the refusal by OIC foreign ministers to rescind their invitation to India’s foreign minister to address the conference in Abu Dhabi.

"That India’s external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, addressed the 57-member body of majority-Muslim countries while Pakistan was absent speaks volumes about the state of Pakistan’s ties even with traditional allies. The host, United Arab Emirates (UAE), had only recently helped bail Pakistan out of its economic difficulties. But it chose India over Pakistan as the preferred guest at the OIC meeting within a couple of weeks after the Pulwama terror attack and just a few days after the Indian air strike inside Pakistan."

Reuters: "U.S. tries to safeguard Afghan peace push from India-Pakistan crisis" — "The United States is trying to prevent simmering tensions between India and Pakistan from impacting a third country: Afghanistan, where a fragile peace push is underway to try to end more than 17 years of war with Taliban insurgents.

"U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has been publicly focused on lowering tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals since a Feb. 14 suicide car bomb in an Indian-controlled area of Kashmir triggered the first Indian air strikes inside of Pakistan since a 1971 war.

"Senior U.S. officials told Reuters that as the United States spoke with senior Pakistani officials, emphasizing the need to lower the risk of conflict with India, Islamabad privately offered warnings on Afghanistan."

Gretchen Voss produced this hour for broadcast.

This program aired on March 5, 2019.



More from On Point

Listen Live