I have always been sceptical about the next war in the subcontinent. Since the Simla agreement of 1972, we have seen various stand-offs between India and Pakistan with darkening clouds hovering over the horizon. Ever since both the nations acquired nuclear weapons the prognosis of war became almost fatal. When Pakistan’s first elected Prime Minister (PM) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto opted for a nuclear programme and to have it come what may — the objective was to have effective deterrence for the defence of the country so that we don’t have to surrender again to an adversary – nuclear India — six times our size.Whether it was General Zia’s long tenure or General Pervez Musharraf’s – we have had periods of anxiety when war could have broken between the two countries. Since both were nuclear, western experts predicted a three minute boom to doom. However, as they say, everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die, both the countries have sustained their existence and animosity by violations on the Line of Control (LoC) and cross border terrorism. India being the largest democracy in the world — where elections are a serious affair with no interference from its generals who are essentially apolitical — politicians do not give up old habits of manipulations in polls especially those in power and threatened with defeat resort to engineering of a different kind then Pakistan, that is, by staging communal riots especially in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) where any intelligence agency can prop up terrorists, brand them made in Pakistan and stir war hysteria.The Pulwama incident in which a suicide bomber killed 40 Indian soldiers by ramming his vehicle loaded with explosives, though very tragic, seems to have come in as a handy opportunity for Modi Sarkar to kill so many birds with one stone as well as to take the forces of Hinduvta to the highest pitch of Hindu religious nationalism to repair the erosion of his vote bank. In the past too, the LoC was subjected to intermittent seasonal firing between the troops of the two countries. However, as soon as snow fell, guns too went cold only to resume business as usual when the ice melted and the movement of individuals became easy. Despite the fact that Pakistan is the worst victim of terrorism, with over 70,000 dead including tens of thousands of security personnel, its reputation as a collaborator with the extremists from the days of American jihad against the Soviet Union, seems to have become a permanent albatross in its neck.No doubt, Pakistan has come to acquire a questionable reputation for sponsoring cross border terrorism from General Pervez Musharraf’s time in support of the indigenous movement of Kashmiri people seeking the right of self-determination. Having helped through funding of madrassahs and extreme right leaders and in pursuit of what the generals called, “strategic depth” in Afghanistan that made us favour the Taliban. Despite the fact that Pakistan is the worst victim of terrorism, with over 70,000 dead including tens of thousands of security personnel, its reputation as a collaborator with the extremists from the days of American jihad against the Soviet Union, seems to have become a permanent albatross in its neck.The Mumbai incident of 2008, followed by the Pathan Kot terrorist acts with sure footprints leading to some of the notorious non-state actors-operating from Pakistan territory-did not do good to Pakistan’s image. Now we have a new government under PM Imran Khan, six months in power, embroiled head deep in economic problems with a silver lining that for the first time a civilian government, its PM is on the same page with the Establishment. As a matter of fact, the fountain of his strength is Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Indeed, without his initiatives, the PTI government could not have succeeded in collecting foreign funding. It was under his advice that Khan opened Kartharpur to facilitate the Sikh Yatris. In this vicious atmosphere, General Bajwa and his DGISPR have been pursuing a most sensible approach to defuse escalation of worsening relations between the two countries. The military and civil government are on the same page as manifested in Prime Minister Khan’s short, to the point address to the nation entailing a solid agenda to pull back the two nuclear countries from the edge of the precipice. Khan is right to ask Modi Sarkar as to what purpose would it serve Pakistan to stage Pulwama.By offering India an impartial investigation Pakistan has conveyed its sincerity of intent. India accused JeM of having a hand in the suicide bombing, Khan has got its HQ seized. It is opposed to letting its territory abused by terrorists. Ever since Prime Minister Modi had been blowing hot, Pakistani armed forces are ready to meet any eventuality. It could have easily responded to Indian air intrusions the first day but Islamabad showed restraint. However, DG ISPR did convey that Pakistan had the right to retaliate and it would surprise. Indeed, it did when PAF fighters shot down two Indian jets in the first air combat after 48 years. Pakistan established its capacity to retaliate and much more. Prime Minister Khan and DG ISPR are absolutely right in emphasising that wars-however meticulously planned– are always prone to miscalculations. In what is being described as a good speech, Khan conveyed to India ‘lets talk peace. If you want to fight, lets fight’, however, nobody would know where it would end-he did not say it-it implied the inevitability of nuclear warFlamboyancy of boastful claims notwithstanding, Khan did not respond to Prime Minister Modi the language he is using to ignite a fire without the capacity to extinguish it. In the given gravity of the situation world opinion is to seek peace through dialogue; the UN Secretary General, American President Trump, Chinese leadership, United Kingdom, European Community, Russia, Muslim Ummah and saner elements have called upon both India and Pakistan to show restraint, shun chauvinism and act sensibly in the greater interests of the people of the two countries. Pre-requisite to peace in the region as once said by Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband, is for India to pay attention to the elephant in its room-meaning thereby Kashmir as the cause of what Delhi calls terrorism in the eyes of the rest of world and fight for freedom as enshrined in the UN charter and its resolutions on Kashmir dispute. Prime Minister Modi can seek a permanent niche in the hall of fame by resolving the Kashmir issue according to the wishes of the people.Author is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalistPublished in Daily Times, March 2nd 2019.