, 9 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
I am trying not to get into the war of words between #India and #Pakistan over whether or not the Indian Air Force shot down a Pakistani F-16 in their recent confrontation. But since it keeps coming up on my timeline, some general observations (thread).
I learned from my first book on the Siachen war that nobody is a reliable witness. A lot of this is fog of war - tricks of memory, but also hierarchy – people will say what their bosses want to hear, aggrandise their own role, cover up for incompetence or simply get it wrong.
Among the most frustrating elements of writing up the Siachen war was that I found contradictions between men who had fought on the same side, sometimes even on the same day.
When I embarked on my last book (India-Pakistan post 1998 to the present), I started with that awareness than you can’t possibly know anything for sure, particularly in the India-Pakistan confrontation where so much ideology and politics is involved.
But I did want to go over events from 1998 onwards, many of which I had reported myself, and do so with the luxury of time, free of news pressures, to determine what was most likely. It also allows you to establish trends.
I’ve not done this for the F-16 row – personally I’m happy to wait until the dust settles. But I also think the F-16 row is blinding us to the bigger picture. Yes of course, it’s important to establish the details but please focus on trends.
Among these trends is 1) Pakistan’s support for/tolerance of anti-India militants continues to destabilise the region and indeed Pakistan itself 2) India, particularly post-Pulwama, has begun to rewrite the rules about how it will retaliate.
The previous post-1998 equilibrium was determined by Indian “strategic restraint”. We are now watching India and Pakistan trying to establish a new equilibrium, neither of whom are clear of the rules being followed by the other side.
Overall, while I acknowledge the importance of working out the truth of this F-16 encounter, I’m more worried about the trends. We should be paying far more attention to preventing war between India and Pakistan than to the minutiae of asssertions about the F-16. End of thread.
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