Thursday’s suicide attack on Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Pulwama, 20 km from Srinagar, has been the deadliest so far in which 40 CRPF soldiers were reportedly killed while scores were injured. It is a sad incident as poor soldiers were killed while complying with the flawed policies of their political and security bosses. Government of Pakistan has expressed grave concern over the incident, but ‘rejected any insinuation by elements in the Indian government and media circles that seek to link the attack to the State of Pakistan without investigations’.As expected, Prime Minister Modi adopted a threatening tone towards Pakistan. Other Indian leaders have also been equally caustic towards Pakistan. Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley after the National Security Council meeting, presided over by PM Modi, announced that India has withdrawn the Most Favored Nation (MFN) status granted to Pakistan. Indian media has gone berserk and seems to be hell-bent to force their leaders to attack Pakistan. This is a dangerous trend promoted by the Indian media, especially the electronic media, whose anchorpersons have acquired the status of demigods and consider their words as the cardinal truth. It is being claimed that Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has accepted the responsibility of the suicide attack conducted through an explosive laden vehicle. The attacker reportedly hailed from the area which the Indian commentators view as growing influence of the JeM in the occupied valley. If this is true that the Kashmiri youth are now attracted towards taking ultimate steps to register their protest, it should ring alarm bells for the Indian leaders who have been feeding the population on misconstrued fallacies of ‘Kashmir Bharat ka Atoot Ang hai’ (Kashmir is an integral part of India). This mindset should change now as both India and Pakistan have suffered a lot due to this flawed approach which has only added poverty to both the countries, a shameful distinction for the two nuclear powers.Pulwama incident has come at a crucial time of Indian politics when in a couple of months, India will be heading for the parliamentary electionsLet us look at the scenarios that India faces now in IHK. If Kashmir is the integral part of India then why fourth generation Kashmiris are agitating? Obviously, India has limited choices in Kashmir: a) they have to kill all the Kashmiris, b) make them good Indians, c) talk to Pakistan and resolve the dispute to the mutual satisfaction of the two countries and the Kashmiris. So far India has failed to kill all the Kashmiris as now reverse is happening with lethal suicide attacks which may grow if the Indian security forces continue to resort to brutal tactics to gag their voices. Secondly, so far India has failed to make Kashmiris good Indians. In fact, opposite is happening due to the atrocities being committed by the security forces, especially after the use of pellet guns which have completely or partially blinded hundreds of Kashmiris, mostly the youth. Forced disappearances and ‘half widows’ (women who don’t know whether their husbands are alive or dead) are major factors contributing to Kashmiris’ alienation from India, a fact which is now even acknowledged by pro-Indian Kashmiri politicians such as Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.In such a scenario, PM Modi’s threats to Pakistan would only aggravate the situation with heavy costs. In the absence of a smooth dialogue mechanism, any miscalculation can have unintended consequences. Objective Indian analysts, at the cost of being labeled as traitors, have counseled Modi government to ‘talk to Pakistan and the separatists’. They have also advised not to browbeat Pakistan as they have failed to control the situation in the occupied valley. In Pakistan, while taking Indian government’s threats seriously, there is a level of confidence within the State apparatus because of the ground situation in IHK where there is complete alienation. Indian attempts to pressurize Pakistan through the use of Afghan territory and support to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have by and large been neutralized while neighbours of Afghanistan have joined Pakistan to stabilize the region through dialogue. Major protagonists – US and Taliban – are also engaged in a meaningful dialogue. Therefore, instead of isolating Pakistan, India should find itself isolated in the region. It may play a spoiler’s role through some Afghan factions, but all major stakeholders have realized what the stakes are. It has also failed in isolating Pakistan despite sabotaging the SAARC summit. Pakistan responded to the Indian boycott by hosting the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) summit in Islamabad.Pulwama incident has come at a crucial time of Indian politics when in a couple of months, India will be heading for the parliamentary elections. PM Modi’s sagging popularity badly needs steroids to repair the damage, especially on purchase of Rafael aircraft from France with new incriminating evidence. Pulwama incident, while tragic, cannot be made a pretext to malign Pakistan, especially when India itself is displaying intransigence by not talking to Pakistan. It has become fashionable in the Indian politics to drag Pakistan in the electioneering to portray a macho image of the contestants, particularly leaders belonging to the Hindutva stream. Surprisingly, while India remains a major factor in Pakistan’s security calculus, it is a non-issue in any of the contesting parties’ election campaigns.India also lacks a Kashmir policy. When raised by Pakistan at the international forums, India maintains that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. When Pakistan raises the issue bilaterally, it tells Pakistan that Kashmir is an internal matter of India. Amazingly, when demanded within India to resolve the issue, the standard response comes that it is a matter between the Centre and the State. Hence the whole issue gets bogged down to nowhere. Now the bogey of ‘Pakistan-sponsored terrorism’ has become a useful alibi to justify atrocities against the agitating Kashmiris whose fourth generation refuses to be recognized as Indians. Invariably, all Kashmiri funerals become a platform to renew allegiance to Pakistan, which may be a dreaded scenario for any Indian leader to tread for a political solution. But there is no escape. Being nuclear neighbours, both India and Pakistan should realise that they cannot browbeat each other or enter into conventional conflagration. The viable option is a negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute to satisfy the aspirations of the Kashmiri people through peaceful means. Perhaps Musharraf’s formula may serve as a starting point.The writer is a former ambassadorPublished in Daily Times, February 16th 2019.