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Q&A On Kashmir Crisis: 'Neither Side Has Any Interest In Provoking A War'

People stand next to the wreckage of an Indian Air Force's helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district. some 30 kilometers from Srinagar on February 27.
People stand next to the wreckage of an Indian Air Force's helicopter after it crashed in Budgam district. some 30 kilometers from Srinagar on February 27.

Pakistan says it shot down two Indian warplanes and captured one pilot on February 27, a day after India launched air strikes on what it described as a militant base in Pakistani territory.

India says its February 26 air strikes were retaliation for a militant attack in Indian-administered Kashmir that killed 40 Indian soldiers on February 14 -- an attack claimed by the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad.

RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz discussed the escalation of tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors with Karim Pakzad, an expert on India and Pakistan at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

RFE/RL: India's February 26 air strikes near Balakot, Pakistan, are widely seen as a major escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan. Do you think this escalation threatens to deteriorate into an all-out war? And if so, how real is the threat of a nuclear confrontation between these nuclear-armed neighbors?

Karim Pakzad: From a military perspective, I do not think that the two countries will go further. India has now crossed a red line by attacking a target on Pakistani soil. This has not happened since the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. Pakistan reacted this morning and it seems, according to images provided by both India and Pakistan, that Pakistan has shot down two Indian planes and captured at least one Indian pilot. But I think the situation will calm down now. Neither side has any interest in provoking a war.

RFE/RL: Do you think the domestic political situation in India has exacerbated tensions and contributed to the current crisis?

Pakzad: Regarding the political situation, India's government has been under pressure to respond to the terrorist attack of February 14 that was claimed by Jaish-e-Muhammad. Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, is facing legislative elections soon -- in April and May. Modi had to react to that attack [for the sake of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).]

Karim Pakzad (file photo)
Karim Pakzad (file photo)

RFE/RL: What about Pakistan's political situation? Do you think it has impacted and will continue to impact the situation in the days and weeks ahead?

Pakzad: For its part, Pakistan is facing a catastrophic economic situation on the one hand. Islamabad also is engaged in negotiations between representatives of the United States and Afghanistan's Taliban. So, Islamabad also has no interest in going too far.

RFE/RL: How do you see the regional security situation and international relations influencing the crisis between India and Pakistan?

Pakzad: From the perspective of regional security and international considerations, relations between Pakistan and the United States have improved recently. China will certainly support Pakistan as well. This means that India cannot go too far [with further military actions].

RFE/RL: India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence from British colonial rule in 1947 and the divided region of Kashmir has always been a source of tension. Relations improved briefly under Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's prime minister from 2013 to 2017. But that process stalled in 2016 following India's crackdown on Muslim protesters in Indian-administered Kashmir and renewed militant attacks on Indian forces that New Delhi blames on Pakistan. Has this latest confrontation brought an end to hopes for restoring rapprochement in the foreseeable future?

Pakzad: I think the Indian attack and the Pakistani response has put an end to the few years of relaxation, and even rapprochement, that we had seen between the two countries when Pakistan was under the government of Nawaz Sharif.