Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi boasted to a gathering of military officers in New Delhi on Tuesday that his country could defeat Pakistan in less than a week if war broke out, as it perpetually threatens to do in the disputed Kashmir province.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry denounced Modi’s “irresponsible and warmongering” remarks on Wednesday.
Modi chided Pakistan for complaining about Indian strikes against militants in Kashmir, essentially dismissing Islamabad’s objections as childish tantrums. The Pakistanis generally deny there are large militant camps in Kashmir. One of India’s strikes led to a February 2019 dogfight over the town of Balakot in Kashmir in which Pakistan shot down an Indian plane and captured the pilot, releasing him two days later.
The Pakistanis erected a statue of the pilot in November to commemorate shooting him down and holding him prisoner, to the great annoyance of India. Displayed alongside the statue in Karachi is a bill charging the pilot for the tea he drank while he was held captive.
“Pakistan lost three wars to India in the past. India’s military will need less than seven days to make Pakistan bite the dust,” Modi gloated, perhaps seeking a bit of rhetorical payback for Pakistan’s handling of the Indian pilot.
Modi’s critics accused him of rattling his saber to distract from ongoing political headaches over India’s recently-enacted Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which Modi defended at the event in New Delhi. Opponents decry the CAA as discriminatory against Muslims because it provides an easier path to citizenship for virtually every other group of immigrants. Modi argued the CAA was a well-intentioned effort to help religious minorities facing persecution in the Muslim countries surrounding India, including Pakistan.
“This was Gandhi’s wish and also the intention behind the Nehru-Liaquat pact,” he said, referring to India’s legendary political and spiritual leader Mohandas Gandhi and the Nehru-Liaquat bilateral agreement of 1950 between India and Pakistan.
The pact was supposed to protect both Hindu refugees fleeing the eastern Pakistani region that later became Bangladesh and Muslims refugees from West Bengal. Modi’s BJP party frequently refers to the Nehru-Liaquat pact when defending the CAA, which they argue was necessary because Pakistan failed to live up to its end of the 1950 agreement.
“It is our responsibility to give refuge to people who have been oppressed due to their faith. They have faced historical injustice… and to stop this and fulfill our old promise, we have brought the CAA,” Modi said on Tuesday.
None of these remarks were welcomed in Islamabad. On Wednesday, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry slammed Modi’s “irresponsible and warmongering” boasts about easily defeating Pakistan and accused him of having an “incurable obsession” with their country. The Pakistanis further accused Modi of using belligerent nationalist rhetoric to distract from protests against the CAA in his country.
“We urge the international community to take cognizance of the Indian leadership’s continuing belligerent rhetoric and aggressive measures, which pose a threat to regional peace and security,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Unable to leave well enough alone, the Pakistanis went on to taunt Modi over the Indian fighter pilot captured last February.
“Pakistan’s immediate and effective response to India’s Balakot misadventure, including the downing of Indian fighter aircraft and capture of Indian pilot last year, should suffice to underscore the will, capacity, and preparedness of our armed forces,” the Foreign Ministry said.