New Delhi: When Imran Khan stood up to speak to a joint session of the Pakistani Parliament today to declare his decision to release IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, he might have felt the burden of international pressure and the fear of a looming war weighing down on his shoulders.
The strength of the multi-pronged diplomatic and non-diplomatic attack that the Indian government unleashed on Pakistan was just enough to force the Pakistani Prime Minister to release our pilot.
What we must understand is that the sudden decision of Imran Khan was not a result of any commitment to peace from their side. It was only because of India’s top leadership’s deft manoeuvrings and strong stance since the escalation began.
Narendra Modi, from day one, took a strong stand against Pakistan. Never once did the Indian leadership sound jittery. It moved headstrong destroying Pakistan’s position on the world stage. International forums were used to expose Pakistan has a haven of terrorism. Even, traditional friends of Pakistan deserted the country. Their ‘all-weather friend’ China too failed to come to their rescue.
After India struck Balakot in Pakistan and destroyed the biggest Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp, the world stood with India. The world accepted India’s right to defend itself, even if that meant breaching the international border.
Though Pakistan retaliated by an airstrike, it was foiled effectively by Indian Air Force.
When Pakistan captured Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, they believed that they had the perfect bargaining card.
Abhinandan’s visuals in Pakistani custody were released over social media and a cry for his quick release spread like wildfire in India. Just when the opposition thought they got a stick to hit Narendra Modi’s government, Pakistan did a volte-face and decided to release the pilot.
This is where Narendra Modi’s diplomatic skills come to the fore. Without ever backing down for a dialogue, Modi raised the heat on Pakistan.
On one side Pakistan’s hand was tied by the Geneva Convention. An already isolated Pakistan never had the guts to go against World opinion. Modi correctly judged this vulnerable position of Pakistan and acted accordingly.
The other strategy that India used was not diplomatic, It was military. When visuals of Abhinandan were running over social media, Indian Navy moved towards Karachi. An emergency like situation was declared in Karachi fearing an Indian attack.
The message was clear: Free Abhinandan or face an all-out war.
The Indian government also announced the first-ever press meet by the three services of Indian Military. This gave the impression that India was not going to back down until the officer was released.
The last act of Pakistan was to use its Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to bring India to the discussion table in exchange for Abhinandan Varthaman.
However, India snubbed the suggestion and demanded strongly that the officer is released unconditionally. This move thwarted any hopes that Pakistan might have had for a dialogue.
Before long the Pakistani Prime Minister declared his decision to release Abhinandan. Given the weak bargaining position of Pakistan, Imran Khan’s sudden decision is nothing but a face-saving move.
At least, the Pakistani Prime Minister was smart enough to use this moment of utter defeat to project himself as a harbinger of peace.
The release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is a huge victory for India. However, we must realise that this victory was made possible by the commitment and sharp moves made by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi.