The morning after retaliation scenario must have left a bitter taste on both sides.With two Indian planes down and One IAF pilot in Pakistan’s custody (whose release has since been ordered by PM Imran Khan), one must wonder as to what did the Indian bombing of Balakot, in KPK province, achieve? Threat of retaliation and counter retaliation is not over yet. It’s a gamble in which there are no winners and the biggest losers are the common people whose lives are a daily struggle; they have to battle against poverty, unemployment, diseases and socio-economic injustice at each step.It is no more a secret that Prime Minister Modi used Pulwama as an election plank and his “retaliation” was to make Pakistan an easy scapegoat to sell his brand of majoritism rooted in Hindutva supremacy and to kill the voices of reasoning through Machiavellian tactics. The manner Mr. Modi’s party celebrated the Balakot bombings further reinforced the concerns that “majoritism syndrome” has attained dangerous proportions in the Indian body politic for those forces whose survival hinges on caste and religious exploitation. Unfortunately, casteism is prevalent only in India which determines the social status of a human being on the basis of his/her birth in a particular “caste”. With a substantive Muslim population, the Hindu nationalists are likely to play the majority card in order to secure their electoral gains and in doing so making Pakistan a whipping boy. Linking Indian elections to Pakistan has acquired a new dimension in the India-Pakistan relationship with serious implications due to perennial hostility between the two countries. Indian attack on Balakot presumably on a “non-military” target and claims that three hundred people were killed as a result must have been a preconceived planning by the propaganda gurus of the Indian establishment to register a message with their constituents and create an atmosphere of fear and dominance upon the intended targets. But the situation on the ground may have disappointed the Indian policy makers that only a crow and half a dozen trees were perished in the attack. Had there been three hundred casualties it would have been a big moment of mourning at the burial grounds and, certainly, outpouring of popular emotions against India. The media would have loved to capture the scenes of those burials.With Pakistan’s retaliation it must have become clear by now to the policy makers in India that any kind of adventurism by their forces would receive a matching response. Prime Minister Imran Khan had made it clear in his first address after the Pulwama incident that Mr. Modi should make no mistake; if India would attack Pakistan, the latter would retaliate. So now India has to decide to up the ladder and contribute to the spiral of violence or allow things to cool down and resume the dialogue to stabilize the situation in the region. Imran Khan again resumed his talk offer to India after retaliation from Pakistan the day after Indian attack on Balakot with the warning that if India chose war then it would be in nobody’s control. Had Mr. Nehru been alive today, he would have granted Azadi to Kashmiris even without plebiscite just to honour his own pledge that “there cannot be a forced marriage”.The tit-for-tat retaliation also underlines the point that in a nuclearized environment such actions are not only immature display of prowess but has added a dangerous dimension into the security calculus of both the countries without realizing the horrific consequences. Instead of strengthening their nuclear postures through confidence building measures, which the two countries started soon after becoming nuclear but put on hold since Bombay incident, talk of war, even if limited, is a very dangerous scenario reflective of sheer ignorance about the cost of nuclear holocaust.Unfortunately, the jingoistic mindset is unaware of the fact that after becoming nuclear “war becomes out of question amongst the nuclear powers” although in the war-rooms they may conduct exercises and spend money on nuclear shelters. The US and former Soviet Union never had a direct confrontation despite playing proxies in the Cuban Missile crisis, Vietnam and Afghanistan wars or NATO versus Warsaw Pact competition during the thick of Cold War. That Hiroshima and Nagasaki have become “references of repentance” in the civilized world should serve as “Bible of Holocaust” for those holding the nuclear button. Even at the conventional level Indian policy makers are making wrong assumptions about their military adventure. Rhetoric apart, during the past four decades Pakistan has been in a semi state of war on its western frontiers which got serious after the withdrawal of the erstwhile Soviet troops and 9/11. After losing 70,000 citizens and security officials at the hands of terrorists, Pakistani troops are now battle hardened and have had the firsthand experience of asymmetrical warfare. That next door the world’s only super power could not defeat a ragtag Taliban militia while their cousins in Pakistan, Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP,) ran for their lives has given enough confidence to the armed forces in Pakistan to tackle the worst situation whether internal or external.It also reflects confidence in Pakistan that despite terrorist threat and Indian hobnobbing with the TTP and Baloch dissidents, Pakistan has embarked upon the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) mega project. It is a project which provides sound basis for Pakistan’s economic take off and create an economic corridor to the neighboring regions of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.While due to Indian intransigence South Asian route may take a while to materialize other regions are ready to accrue the benefits from CPEC. Saudi Arabia and UAE are the new beneficiaries of this project; other countries in the neighbourhood are positioning themselves to make use of this opportunity. Secondly, despite Indian attempts to spoil the show, talks between the Americans and Taliban are progressing smoothly. Pakistan’s facilitation has paved the way for durable peace on its western borders. Afghanistan’s other neighbours-Iran, China and Russia (due to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan)-are already onboard in their support to the US-Taliban talks and overall rapprochement in Afghanistan.Thirdly, the Pulwama tragedy should serve as a lesson to the Indian leadership and establishment as to why Kashmiri youth are taking the extreme steps. Indian state terrorism is now being challenged; each funeral becomes a rallying point for the Kashmiris to raise the slogan of “Azadi”. More importantly, India has lost Kashmir to the extent that even Pro-India Kashmiri politicians havestarted learning pro-Azadi idioms. One can say safely that if today Imran Khan gives a call for complete strike in the Indian Held Kashmir the response would be overwhelming. However, Mr. Modi, despite his macho image, cannot gather ten Kashmiris in Srinagar. The last point which became raison d’etre for the Indian attack on Balakot, and counter attack by Pakistan, has added a very dangerous dimension in an already volatile situation between the two countries. Prudence demands that a political solution should be found to the seven decades old Kashmir dispute. India cannot wish Pakistan and the Kashmiris away; Kashmiris don’t want forced Indian citizenship. Had Mr. Nehru been alive today he would have granted Azadi to Kashmiris even without plebiscite just to honour his own pledge that “there cannot be a forced marriage”. Former Soviet Union, being a super power, was not defeated by any power but it got fragmented into 15 countries because of “forced marriages”.The writer is a former ambassadorPublished in Daily Times, March 1st 2019.