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Under intense international pressure and as a signatory to the Geneva Convention, Pakistan had no choice but to expeditiously repatriate Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Warthaman.

Prime Minister Imran Khan tried to make a virtue out of necessity by couching this imperative as a ‘peace gesture’ to India to initiate talks. India called the bluff immediately saying its brave airman was not a bargaining chip.

While Khan was spouting peace, one of Pakistan’s parliamentarians was lauding the suicide bomber’s killing of 40 Indian soldiers in Pulwama on the floor of the House. Also, the foreign affairs minister publicly admitted that the head of the terrorist organisation that claimed the Pulwama attack was in Pakistan suffering from an illness.

So this terrorist outfit claims the attack; a government minister says the head of that outfit is in Pakistan; a parliamentarian justifies the attack; India submits a dossier on the attack – yet Khan says action will be taken only after India offers credible, ‘actionable’ evidence that Pakistan was involved.

Against these developments, Khan terming Wing Commander Abhinandan’s repatriation a ‘peace gesture’ is hollow and an absolute travesty.

It is no surprise that Pakistan stands in such severe isolation from the entire international community like never before, bereft as it is of any semblance of credibility in its long effete political leadership. Amidst all this, even the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) invited India to attend its meeting. Pakistan dropped out simply because India was invited, further betraying its recalcitrant mindset.

It has never found itself so utterly abandoned and cornered ever before. Long seen as an ‘important coalition partner in the fight against terror’, western powers, particularly the United States, failed to acknowledge that it has been a crucible of world terror with terrorism as state policy while dealing with its immediate neighbours.

Despite feigning ignorance about Osama bin Laden living in Pakistan for a decade until US troops took him out, Pakistan continued to receive US largesse until very recently, when the Trump administration began tightening the screws.

The Indian leadership is determined to keep the pressure on Pakistan working at several levels – diplomatic, economic and military. India has clearly got the world on its side. Even if China appears tentative, it severely risks Pakistan’s opprobrium rubbing off on itself if it continues with its intransigence in blocking the Security Council from censuring the Pakistan-based terror kingpin.

If Imran Khan thought his ‘peace gesture’ would wash, it won’t – except with a small bunch of vocal anti-Modi administration agenda-driven so-called liberals in India. But their keyboard-driven casuistry is inconsequential to have any influence on the international community’s developing consensus against Pakistan.

And for those who see the Wing Commander’s capture and release as something that has put India – specifically Prime Minister Narendra Modi – on the back foot, it is no more than a random, rising delivery that puts a well-set, in-form batsman on the back foot in the middle of a swashbuckling innings.

It’s a mere blip.

First appeared in The Indian Weekender dated 1 March 2019.