India's Chief of Armed Forces General Bipin Rawat has poked his tongue in a hornet's nest. Words from people in high positions carry meaning. In this case it has. General Rawat's expression of bravado has gone too far. He has reportedly said "We will call the (nuclear) bluff of Pakistan. If we will have to really confront the Pakistanis, and a task is given to us, we are not going to say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons. We will have to call their nuclear bluff." The General reportedly said the above at a press conference.

Pakistan is a sovereign country. Regardless how irresponsible its behavior may be Violating its border is not any wise soldier should be thinking of doing. During the Bangladesh war, on the Western Theater, India had opportunity to cross into Pakistan beyond the international border. It was General Sam Manekshaw who held back the soldiers. He knew that after the war India would be forced to give up the acquired territory. Then why spend materiel and lives? As a democracy India cannot ignore the opinion of the world. General Rawat must be familiar with General Manekshaw's technic and philosophy. Hinting to go inside Pakistani territory does not serve India well.

It is not a joke that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. India has nuclear weapons also. If Pakistan continues to believe that India has not attacked Pakistan only because Pakistan has nuclear weapons, there is nothing wrong in that belief. First of all the Indian Government has no intention of attacking Pakistan unless it is attacked. Secondly Pakistan does have nuclear weapons. The entire world, India included, recognizes this fact. Challenging the existence of something that is so obvious does not make any sense. Feeling insulted for this is even worse. Pakistan's Army Chief General Ghafoor Asif has replied to General Rawat's assertion "Very irresponsible statement by Indian Army Chief, not befitting his office. Amounts to invitation for nuclear encounter. If that is what they desire, they are welcome to test our resolve. The general's doubt would swiftly be removed, inshallah."

In no circumstance, a nuclear confrontation should be taken lightly between two neighbors whose borders are attached. The United States dropped a hydrogen bomb on Japan because it was an island. It could not do so to Germany without endangering France and Italy. The bombs that Pakistan and India have are much more powerful than the ones dropped on Japan. In an India Pakistan conflict if such a bomb is used then the damage will be done to both sides. One will be partially obliterated; the other will continue to suffer for years to come. That is why civilian leaders are so desperately trying to avoid war. In a way, nuclear weapons have made war "obsolete".

A soldier thinks in terms of attack and counterattack or win and lose. General Rawat's language could be excused in that sense. However, his statement has played into Pakistani hands very nicely. And that is the kind of pitfall the country must avoid. Bravado is fine. But it should not create a situation that would generate unnecessary problems or take the peace building process backward. Through a trade and cultural exchange both India and Pakistan are trying to build people to people contacts. Any inference of sabre rattling breaks the momentum. General Rawat's press statement in India and General Asif's rejoinder in tweets from Pakistan create a negative vibe between the two countries. There are forces within Pakistan who genuinely do not want any friendship with India. They are emboldened by the statement from the Indian side that says Indian soldiers will cross into Pakistan if they are ordered. For seven decades both India and Pakistan have remained engaged in a no -war- no- peace situation that occasionally spills into hot conflicts. It hampers development, hampers economy and creates uncertainty of all kinds. It is about time we learn to talk to each other in a different tone. Let the civilians do the talking.

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